Inside holiday humor via the tube


Folks have lots of time off this time of year. Indoor time, mostly, wondering when the days will actually seem longer.

Sure, there are plenty of mediocre bowl games to watch, like the Tombstone Pizza Bowl; the Spaghetti-O’s Bowl; the Chips Ahoy Bowl; the L’il Friskies Bowl; the Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Bowl; the Xarelto Bowl; and the Hormel Chili Bowl.

Think those sound far-fetched? Look at the sports TV listings.

Instead, how about watching (i.e., streaming) some funny movies to help pass the time until the days lighten up?

So here, as a public service, is this alleged humorist’s list of …

(ARGUABLY) THE 10 FUNNIEST MOVIES EVER, in no particular order

•“Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.” Brilliant sketches. It’s hard to pick the best, but Terry Jones’ exploding fat guy still cracks me up, as does the puckish big anti-contraception production number, “Every Sperm is Sacred.”
• “Animal House.” John Belushi’s Bluto is iconic, as is Doug Kenney’s satirical script about Faber College. (Great line from Dean Wormer: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”) This ex-frat guy can attest to the script’s authenticity.
• “This Is Spinal Tap.” Christopher Guest’s brilliant mockumentary trashes the idea of all Brit musicians being intelligent. The Stonehenge scene is a classic, as is Guest’s dimbulb character with the amplifier that goes up to 11.
• “Monty Python and The Holy Grail.” This flawless, unremittingly funny 1975 film has a script as good as its cast. High points include John Cleese’s dismembered black knight (“It’s only a flesh wound.”) and his French oddball (“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”)
• “The In-Laws.” Please, only the original with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk. Sample dialogue: “My BMW has flames!”
• “My Favorite Year.” Peter O’Toole’s sodden Errol Flynn steals this movie parody of Sid Caesar’s old comedy show, but Joseph Bologna as the wiseass King Kaiser (Caesar) also is superb.
• “Airplane!” This fast-paced funny takeoff on formula disaster films has at least 100 gags, and most are funny. Plus, fine comic performances from folks like Peter Graves (“Do you like gladiator movies, son?”)
• “Waiting For Guffman.” Another first-rate Guest mockumentary debunking another stereotype, that gay people all have theatrical talent. Guest’s Corky St. Clair character proves otherwise.
• “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Yes, there’s a trend here. The brilliant Python troupe came up with what is probably the most sacrilegious film ever. In fact, it wouldn’t have gotten produced if Beatle George Harrison hadn’t financed it. Idle’s crucifixion finale, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” is the most-played song at British funerals.
• “The Blues Brothers.” Arguably director Landes’ masterpiece. Hard to go wrong with brilliant co-stars like Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. (They’re on a mission from God.) Or deadpan lines like, “The new Oldsmobiles are in early this year” after the boys trash a mall. Landes’ timing on sight gags is masterful.
But wait! There’s more media fun!

Most of these are available for streaming:
• “Monty Python” (Any season. Intelligent, offbeat and wildly innovative, this BBC masterwork still holds up after 40-plus years).
• “SCTV” (Ultra-talented cast, superb showbiz parodies).
• “Police Squad!” (Only six episodes produced. From “Airplane!” creators).
• “The Larry Sanders Show” (Rip Torn’s Artie also was, like star Garry Shandling, tremendous)
• “Seinfeld” (first six seasons).
• “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (first three seasons).
• “The Colbert Report” (every show for seven years was first-rate).
• “Extras” (Ricky Gervais’ BBC showbiz gem featured guest stars like David Bowie and Kate Winslet).
• “Kids in the Hall” (some classic sketches).
• “Veep” (Great writing to go with Julia-Louis Dreyfus’ excellent lead performance).
That should hold you for the holidays. Happy MMXIX!

Bill Mann of Port Townsend has written the humor column for USA Today and was a TV columnist for three major dailies.


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