Don’t underestimate the comedian

Last week, I went to go see Jordan Peele’s Get Out. I knew a long time ago when I saw the trailer for it, it would amaze me. And when I finally did get around to seeing it in theatres, it didn’t disappoint. It blew me away, and was easily one of the best movie experiences that I’ve had in a while. I can’t remember the last time that an entire theatre clapped.

After Mahmoud (our managing editor) and I left the theatre, we spoke about it the entire way home. One of the biggest things that stood out to us was just how much of an impact the comedian can have on the world of cinema.

I think it’s fair to say that the comedian usually got perceived as the funny one who couldn’t really reach the same depths as those of drama actors or directors, who have devoted their time to making emotional films. At least, this is just the kind of stuff that I’ve heard from my friends and family. For example, I remember when I first watching Little Miss Sunshine and thought that Steve Carell would somehow botch his part, because, what? A funny guy taking on a serious role? Come on. That won’t happen. But, he shone. And he was easily one of my favourite performances of the film. He then went on to disturb audiences in Foxcatcher with a performance that proved just how great of an actor he really is.

Robin Williams is another great example of this. Sure, he was the funny man for the majority of his career, but he also creeped me right out in One Hour Photo and I fell in love with his character in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poet’s Society. Particularly in Good Will Hunting is where I really loved him. He had such a depth to his performance that gets me every time. I’ll admit that I still tear up when I think about how one of the therapy sessions with Damon was ad-libbed by Williams. (I’m talking about the scene where Williams’ character discloses that his wife used to fart herself awake in bed. Cue heavy, unscripted laughter from Damon.) But, this is exactly what I love. The perfect combination of comedy and drama to make for one unbelievable character.

Carrell and Williams are just two examples of many. But, Mahmoud and I went on to discuss the impact of the comedian. Just about every comedian that I’ve watched will work aspects of their own life into their skits. While the result is usually hilarious, we migrated into talking about comedians whose skits possess a more melancholic tone. Naturally, we wound up talking about Bo Burnham’s recent Netflix special, Make Happy. It’s here where I take a long inhale so I can brace myself for talking about this incredible special. Without giving too much away, Burnham successfully incorporated his typical songs (which included country stars pandering to their audience and people whose expectations for a mate are too high) with aspects of mental illness and existential questions like, “Are you happy?” I’ll admit that I’m not a comedy buff and haven’t seen hundreds of performances. But, of the ones I have seen, none stood out to me the way that Burnham’s did. I have never had to pause a performance to laugh and cry in the same time span.

Mahmoud mentioned to me that he believed comedians have this amazing power of being able to tell a heartbreaking story through comedy. It’s this power of theirs that also allows them to present something in a more dramatic way and stun audiences with incredible pieces—much like Get Out.

I never thought that Peele would direct something like this. I enjoyed his work (from what I had seen of it) but I never thought that this film would come from him. My own ignorance bothers me. It’s not that I underestimated him. It’s just that I never thought someone as funny as Peele would ever come out with something this heavy. Something this heartbreaking. It was just a surprise to me.

But, it shouldn’t have been. The comedian has the best of both worlds in being able to laugh about problems while also telling you about them honestly and knocking you on your ass because you never expected it from them.

If you haven’t seen the films I mentioned here but have the chance to check them out, I seriously would. You’ll know what I’m talking about.