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Funny Movie Characters


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Question:  What makes for some funny movie characters?  Let me illuminate...

I love comedy.  LOVE IT!  But it's also the hardest damn thing in the world.  If you've ever told a joke you know that it's tricky.  You have to deliver it just right otherwise your friends will look at you funny.  Imagine doing that over the course of a TV series or a feature film!  So what are the magic ingredients that help craft a great comedic protagonist?

Below are a few questions and answers.  As always, if you have questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

How does the actor need to portray him?

  • Find the truth
  • Make quirky behavior come from a psychological need, not because its written as quirky.
  • Never play the funny
  • Play the opposite
  • Playing the funny becomes obvious and the audience tunes out.
  • Highest stakes possible..that's what makes it funny.
  • Getting worked up over what essentially is a minor problem is funny.

Can comic characters have an arc?

  • Most comic protagonists don't arc. That's what makes them funny. They don't learn from their mistakes.
  • Not much of an arc: Ferris Beuller, Alvy (Annie Hall), The Geek (16 Candles), Bugs Bunny, Bill Murray, Groucho Marx
  • Big arc: Michael Dorsey (Tootsie), Tom Hanks (Big), Jack Lemmon (The Apartment)

Therefore, 2 types of comedic stories. Farces (Animal House, Stripes, Airplane) and tales (The Apartment, Election, Big).

What is the main source of antagonism for a comic protagonist?

  • Bumbling characters are their own worst enemy (Inspector Closeau, Michael Dorsey, The Geek, The Jerk)
  • Smart Ass characters fight the world (Bugs Bunny, Groucho, Ferris)
  • Wimpy guys/boy-men usually fight off A) bullies who are manlier than them or B) The establishment which is riddled with bullies (Animal House, Blues Brothers, SuperBad)

What do you think?  Drop your comment below...

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