Visual gags in comedies: US vs UK

Tony Zhou created this fantastic, 7-minute critique of the visual style of comedy in US films, as compared with UK films (especially the films of Edgar "Shaun of the Dead" Wright). Zhou makes a compelling case for the superiority of British sight-gags and visual comedy -- and the fundamental laziness of US directors in their use of visuals to get a laugh.

For further reading, Zhou recommends David Bordwell's Funny Framings as well as the hilarious Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal video.

(via Kottke)

Notable Replies

  1. That´s why I absolutely love Edgar Wright's movies.

  2. This isn't really US versus UK, so much as Edgar Wright (and one Monty Python clip) versus everyone else. Which is fine, but let's be honest about it. I'm not sure I accept the video's thesis, that all mainstream comedies are totally failing at visual gags, but it's a good video.

    The video puts forth that Wright's style is the best way to do some of the visual jokes...and while I am a HUGE fan of Edgar Wright, I think he's far from the only interesting approach to use. His limited sample size of films (mostly mainstream talkers from 2013 that WERE the results of improv, primarily from the greater 'Apatow' stable) weakens his argument. Films like Nebraska, Pitch Perfect, Silver Linings Playbook, Dark Shadows, Bridesmaids and Moonrise Kingdom all feature interesting visual storytelling and sight gags in the vein of what he's describing (or their own inventive styles). If overused, a lot of Edgar Wright's visual stylings would go from interesting to gimmickry, which would defeat the purpose, IMHO.

  3. No it's more of a Comedy directors using all their skills as a director to emphasis and create comedy vs stationary camera waiting for comedy to happen.

    The sheer lack of notable comedy directors is quite telling in this. Who the hell remembers who directed Anchor Man? Everyone knows the actors but there's no actual director style to it. It's just a guy who shot 12 hours worth of improv and edited together a movie out of it, and as shown there was enough crap on the editing room floor to make two movies out of.

  4. If you haven't seen the films of Jacques Tati, you should. Dialog is completely irrelevant in Mr. Hulot's Holiday, etc.

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