Stand Up Specials And The Unintentional Death Of Blockbuster Comedy

Written by Patrick Alexander

The year was 2008. Millions of teenagers flocked to the cinema in the prime of adolescent sophistication with $10 bills and red vines in hand. In a 3 year span, they had witnessed the greatest comedy blockbuster run of their time. Call it youthful exuberance; call it an anomaly; call it what you want; just don’t call it Shirley. From 2006-2008, Hollywood had solved the comedy algorithm dishing out hits and home-runs like Alex Rodriguez in his prime. Personal opinions aside, take a look:

2006: Talladega Nights, Night at the Museum (underrated), Beer Fest, Little Miss Sunshine, The Break-Up [1], Grandma’s Boy, Accepted, Nacho Libre, Clerks II and Borat!  

2007: Knocked Up, Superbad, Hot Fuzz, Juno, Hot Rod, Rush Hour 3, and Blades of Glory (shut up critic).

2008: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, Semi-Pro, Burn After Reading, and Kung-Fu Panda [2].

However, little did anyone know, that run concluded an era when the comedy blockbuster mattered. After 2008, the pulse of the comedy blockbuster went dark. The wrong stars got together, in the wrong roles or at the wrong time. Decade long runs of chemistry and collaborative brilliance were traded in for experimentation and solo projects. Comedy sequels and remakes became the norm as studios shifted focus from creating laughs to cashing cheques. Sadly, the real issue might’ve been that the best comedic actors got old. The comedy blockbuster lost its mojo and burned its fans like citizens of ancient Rome. And from its ashes rose the conquistador we call, “Stand-Up Comedy Specials.”

comedy2

Now, the stand-up comedy special was nothing new. From Eddie Murphy’s ‘RAW to Chris Rock’s ‘Bring the Painto Dave Chappelle’s Killin’ Them Softly‘, stand up specials were always a readily available plan-B to the critically acclaimed recommendations dished out by your local Blockbuster clerk. Only stand-up specials had never screened in theaters nationwide or sold copies like ‘Titanic’, and therefore, couldn’t carve out an appropriate slice of the pie. The closest to relevance stand-up comedy ever made it was the HBO Comedy Half Hour series of the mid-90s. In August 2012, that all changed. After 5 years spent figuring out their streaming service, Netflix cracked open Pandora’s Box with it’s debut stand-up special, ‘Bill Burr: You People Are All the Same’. The comedy landscape would never be the same.

Following 2008, a half-decade of delivering only a couple solid comedy hits per year had fans losing trust. After dozens of whiffs with underwhelming numbers, the studios began to cede ground to its online and on-demand competitors. Watching Adam Sandler half-ass a smug grin, on a weekend trip to the theater for the comely price of $25+tax, just wasn’t enough for the American people anymore. The opportunity cost of going to the local cinema became too high; the options available became more expansive; the viewing public grew to be more efficient about their time. Overall, a myriad of outside factors contributed to the downfall of blockbuster comedy, but the greatest death knell of all came from the studios themselves – sequels.

In hindsight, it seems simple to speculate that we didn’t need two (possibly 3?) ‘Grown Ups films or four movies about fuckbuddies in the same year, but at the time who would’ve known? Oh yeah, anyone with a pulse. As comedians and comedy writers shifted away from handing over their top-tier material to screenplays for pennies on the dollar, Hollywood turned to its tried and true formula: running it back. One ‘Dirty Grandpa‘, two ‘Teds‘, three ‘Hangovers‘, four Will Ferrell comebacks nobody asked for, and 5 years later…well this is our hell.

To be fair, this hell was not created completely by studios. It was aided by Father Time and Uncle Greed. Guys like Owen Wilson & Ben Stiller started pursuing indie passion projects. Guys like Vince Vaughn & Simon Pegg started cashing cheques as leads in films they couldn’t carry. Guys like Will Ferrell & Adam Sandler became tired versions of their past selves real quick, going through the big-budget production motions. All in all, the stars of yesteryear got old and nobody truly rose to the forefront in their place. The new wave of blockbuster comedians never materialized. God bless Andy Samberg & Ed Helms for trying, but two guys does not a next generation make.

comedy

Meanwhile, as the comedy blockbuster sphere started acting more erratic than your average day on the NASDAQ, the millennials of the world slowly shifted their collective attentions to the screens right in front of them. Capitalizing on the streaming boom from 2013-present day, Netflix took over, launching Burr, Mike Birbiglia, Jim Jeffries, Chelseas Peretti, Iliza Schleshinger, Tom Segura and dozens of other comedians into the mainstream. Coupled with Comedy Central’s introduction of Aziz Ansari, Anthony Jeselnik, and Amy Schumer, it was enough for stand up comedy specials to become a regular part of our comedy diet. In under a decade, the stand up special transformed from plate-filling sides to the main course.[3] In essence, our tastes for how we ingest comedy changed.

The average American became filthier given more access to all the grimy, deranged[4] shit on the internet. We love to get dirty, but nobody to know about it which makes stand up comedy such a natural fit for the current climate. As a younger man’s genre, the millennial generation embraced the well-developed, levity-ridden, open dialogue stand-up brings on controversial topics such as race, abortion, sexual assault, and even the raunchier part of our daily lives. You know, the stuff you shouldn’t talk about in public.

Stand-up comedians write jokes that no Hollywood studio in their wildest dreams could green light. Try to imagine a comedy coming out this summer, starring David Spade and Melissa McCarthy, about rape. You can’t. It would be the most merciless beheading of actors, directors, writers, producers, studio, and everybody involved on down to the key grip 4, in film history. Stand-up might have been raised in that dirty niche under the noses of high society, but nowadays it’s your rich Uncle’s favorite house guest.

And just when Hollywood thought they’d earned our trust back with a balanced, more original 2016[5] filled with a few budding comedic actors, Netflix delivered “The Block“…aka Dave Chappelle. Game, set, match. With comedy legends Louis C.K., Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sarah Silverman all slated for potential 2017 releases, stand up comedy specials have become appointment viewing. Combined with the paltry options of comedy blockbusters due out this year [6], stand-up specials ain’t giving the trophy back.

In an age of constant newness, the consistent discovery and evolution of new comedians with fresh material runs through the arc of open mic-er to stand-up regular to instant streaming special. A system set up to unleash a steady stream of hungry newcomers and thankful lifelong comics finally getting a fair shot. It’s automated for infinite future success and a winning formula developed over decades of stand-ups fighting for their right to air time. Comedians getting the pay off they deserve. Finally, something we can all agree on.

 

[1] and Jennifer Aniston’s backside! 
[2] Put some respect on it.
[3] Thanks, vegans. 
[4] read: funny.
[5] The Nice Guys, Deadpool, Popstar, Ghostbusters (women edition), Everybody Wants Some!!, Keanu.
[6] Baywatch, Fist Fight, Chips?…oh dear God, that’s…that’s Pitch Perfect 3’s music.

The JumpCut UK Film Awards Show

It’s been months in the making, but finally we can bring you the results and the full show of the first annual JumpCut UK Film Awards; an awards show put together by film fans, for film fans. If you’re tired of The Oscars, this is the perfect awards show for you.

The show is just a bit of fun, as you’ll see, but at the heart of it is an attempt to celebrate some of the films, filmmakers and performers who were perhaps overlooked by the big awards ceremonies. If you don’t fancy watching the show however, here is a quick rundown of the results. Stop reading now if you don’t want to spoil the surprise.

technical

Best Trailer: Star Wars The Force Awakens
The Guilty Pleasure Award: San Andreas
Best Breakthrough Actor/Actress: Alicia Vikander
Worst Acting Performance: Adam Sandler (Pixels)
Best Soundtrack/Score: Whiplash
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars The Force Awakens
Best Alternative Film: The Lobster
Worst Sequel/Reboot: Terminator Genisys
Best Support Actress: Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Best Support Actor: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Best Horror: It Follows
Best Comedy: Spy
Best Sci-Fi: Ex Machina
Best Action: Mad Max Fury Road
Best Drama: Whiplash
Worst Film: Pixels
Best Editing: Birdman
Best Original Story: Ex Machina
Best Adaptation: The Martian
Best Cinematography: Sicario
Best Lead Actress: Charlize Theron (Mad Max Fury Road)
Best Lead Actor: Miles Teller (Whiplash)
Best Director: George Miller (Mad Max Fury Road)
The Best Film of 2015: Whiplash

Thanks to everyone who helped out, from the nomination process, to the final voting and of course to all the presenters. We’ll be back with an even better awards show for 2016 this time next year, but in the meantime, enjoy the show and let’s hope for some great films this year again!

The JumpCut UK Film Awards 2015: The Nominees

After weeks of agonising over the films of 2015, our esteemed panel have finally submitted their picks for the first annual JumpCut UK Film Awards. The votes have been counted and the nominees are…


actors
Best Support Actress
Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
Kristen Stewart (Clouds Of Sils Maria)
Marion Cotillard (Macbeth)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Best Support Actor
Benicio del Toro (Sicario)
Idris Elba (Beasts Of No Nation)
JK Simmons (Whiplash)
Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)
Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
Best Lead Actress
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Emily Blunt (Sicario)
Olivia Cooke (Me And Earl And The Dying Girl)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
Best Lead Actor
Abraham Attah (Beasts Of No Nation)
Jason Segel (The End Of The Tour)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Miles Teller (Whiplash)
Best Breakthrough Actor/Actress
Abraham Attah
Alicia Vikander
Daisy Ridley
O’Shea Jackson Jr
Taron Egerton
Worst Acting Performance
Adam Sandler (Pixels)
Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys)
Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades Of Grey)
Johnny Depp (Mortdecai)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World)

 

technical

Best Director
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ridley Scott (The Martian)
Best Original Story
Ex Machina
Inside Out
The Gift
The Lobster
Whiplash
Best Adaptation
American Sniper
Macbeth
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
Steve Jobs
The Martian
Best Cinematography
American Sniper
Macbeth
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
The Martian

 

Best Editing
Birdman
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Whiplash
Best Soundtrack/Score
Dope
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Whiplash
Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Martian

genre

Best Action Film
American Sniper
Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Best Comedy Film
Inside Out
Spy
The Lobster
The Night Before
Trainwreck
Best Drama Film
Carol
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
Straight Outta Compton
Whiplash
White God
Best Horror Film
Crimson Peak
Insidious: Chapter 3
It Follows
The Gift
Best Sci-Fi Film
Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Martian

 

Best Documentary, Foreign, Indie or Short Film
Cobain: Montage Of Heck
The End Of The Tour
Kung Fury
The Lobster
World Of Tomorrow
Worst Sequel/Reboot
Fantastic Four
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Taken 3
Terminator Genisys
Vacation
Worst Film
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Pan
Paul Blart 2
Pixels
Vacation
Best Film
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
The Martian
Whiplash

miscellaneous

The “Guilty Pleasure” Award
American Ultra
Focus
San Andreas
Ted 2
The Interview

 

 

 

 



So there you have it – 24 categories with lots of films and individuals to celebrate. We will be opening up the voting to the public for the following categories: Best Breakthrough Actor/Actress, Worst Film and Best Trailer, and you can cast your vote here (voting closes 31st December). The rest of the categories will be decided by the JumpCut UK team, our official partners and a handful of expert guests, with all the winners announced on our special YouTube Awards Show at the end of January. 

Watch This Space: August 10 – 16

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

Guy Ritchie makes his directing return this week with ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’, and it certainly looks like it will be a successful return. Action-comedy is a genre that’s difficult to get right, but with Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Armie Hammer and Hugh Grant involved, it looks like this latest effort could be a hit. Expect laughs and thrills in equal measure. 

Audiences in America have been able to enjoy ‘Trainwreck’ for a while now, and we brought UK readers an exclusive review a few weeks back. Now the time has come for audiences here to see Amy Schumer’s big break on the silver screen, in what could be the comedy film of the summer.

Finally, we issue a public warning NOT to waste your time and money on another Adam Sandler led pile of crap. There can be no doubt that ‘Pixels’ is just another in a long line of flops from the moronic actor in his hunt for the next inflated pay cheque.

ON TELEVISION

Wednesday 21:00 GMT: Tune in to ITV2 to see the cult comedy ‘21 Jump Street’. The sequel may only have been slightly better than average, but the original will have you laughing out loud. 

Thursday 21:00 GMT: See how the ‘Alien’ franchise came to pass with modern prequel ‘Prometheus’ on Film4. You don’t need to have seen any of the original ‘Alien’ films in order to enjoy this, so we recommend this as your weekly dose of mind-boggling Sci-Fi, directed by Ridley Scott. If you like this film, you’ll be pleased to know that a second film has been announced.  

Friday 21:00 GMT: Our second recommended comedy of the week comes in the form of ‘Bridesmaids’ on Film4. We said that ’21 Jump Street’ is funny, but this is on a whole different level. One of our favourite comedies here at JumpCut UK, ‘Bridesmaids’ is utterly brilliant and well worth staying in on a Friday night for. 

Saturday 18:15 GMT: Our family film for the weekend is slightly more action-driven than normal, but it’s still a great film to sit down and enjoy together. ‘Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’ is the third film in the iconic Indiana Jones series (don’t worry, you don’t have to have seen the others). Indiana Jones is as good as film characters get, and that is official after he came top in Empire magazine’s list. Sit back and enjoy on BBC 1

Sunday 21:00 GMT: The 9pm Sunday slot has some fantastic films vying for our attention this week. ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Casino Royale’ are on BBC3 and ITV2 respectively, but we’re going to recommend that you watch the Oscar-winning, war drama ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ on Channel4. The film follows the search for Osama Bin Laden, and is as dark as you would expect. This is the film that catapulted Jessica Chastain to Hollywood stardom and it’s easy to see why.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Adventureland: It was a mixed week for Fox Studios last week, after the disastrous reaction to the ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot, but luckily the release of a ‘Deadpool’ trailer managed to salvage some street-cred. Ryan Reynolds may be best known for his infamous ‘Green Lantern’ role, but let’s not hold that against him, because it looks like he’s going to smash it this time around. He’s also pretty great in a supporting role in the underrated, comedy-drama ‘Adventureland’.

American Hustle: Jennifer Lawrence turns 24 on Saturday, and we can’t believe the catalogue of great acting roles she has already put together in such a short space of time. Amongst J-Law’s array of fantastic performances, the one which most stands out has to be her portrayal of the unpredictable, volatile Rosalyn Rosenfeld in ‘American Hustle’. With an all-star cast, top director and a multitude of Academy Award nominations, this film gives a perfect balance of crime and comedy.

Starred Up: You may have missed it, but last week also saw the release of the global trailer for upcoming action film ‘Hitman Agent 47’. Rupert Friend takes the lead role in this video game adaptation, and whilst we aren’t exactly sold on this one, we really enjoyed Friend’s role in prison drama ‘Starred Up’. Gritty as hell, with an equal serving of tense action scenes and poignant, emotional moments, this Brit flick is one of our favourite films from 2014. With rising star Jack O’Connell taking centre stage, and a strong supporting cast, it’s hard to pick fault with this choice.

Gone Girl: We literally cannot avoid talk of Batfleck lately – not that we would want to – and last week was no different. Rumour has it, a select few from the upper echelons of the Warner Bros. society were treated to a work-in-progress screening of ‘Batman v Superman’. Ben Affleck’s performance has been heralded as “the definitive Batman” by these big-wigs, but for now we recommend taking a look at him in action in last year’s dark and twisted ‘Gone Girl’; a film not to be missed, most notably for the stunning performance of Rosamund Pike.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal