#ThinkpieceThursday – Mamma Mia: We Need To Laugh!

mama-mia-meryl-streep-etbscreenwritingOkay, I confess.  I LOVED Mamma Mia.  I am not a big Abba fan, although I like their music well enough.  I admit the movie premise is a bit thin but the casting is wonderful.  Everyone on board seems to be having a fantastically fun and silly time. I needed a good laugh that day and got one.

As the US moves into deeper financial straights, I wonder if audiences aren’t headed toward a Depression Era mentality?

The 1930’s filled movie houses across the country with silly comedies.  It was one of the few ways audiences could forget their troubles.  One of my favorite films around that era is Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941).

In the film, John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a wealthy young Hollywood director who has had a string of successful but light-weight comedies.  He wants to direct a more sober masterpiece: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Yes, this is the film that inspired the Cohen Brothers’ film).

Sullivan describes his serious opus as an exploration of the plight of the destitute and downtrodden. Not surprisingly, he is pressured by studio bosses to make another, more lucrative comedy instead. Sullivan refuses and goes on the road to research his film incognito, dressed as a homeless vagrant.

What he discovers is that humor is what saves us when time are tough.  As times get tougher around the world, audience are going to need to laugh.  Maybe you should dust off those comedy scripts you’ve got in the drawer.  Now might be the time to sell something silly but inspired.

Also, if you’ve got a serious piece maybe you can take to the next level and make it a black comedy.  Dr. Strangelove started out as a drama.  Seeing the absurdity in the horror of nuclear war, Stanley Kubrick decided to turn it into a black comedy instead.  It is considered a classic while the competing drama (on the same subject) Fail Safe, never got as much traction or acclaim.

Check out both films as a master class in comedy.

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