No matter what new movie you see this weekend, your supporting cast will be stockpiled with some comic chops. On one side of things, we have Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s latest movie that employs stand-up comedians like Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. to comprise his array of characters. On the other, we have The To Do List, which fills its scenes with sketch comics like Saturday Night Live‘s Bill Hader and Andy Samberg and Derrick Comedy star (now best known for community) Donald Glover.
Sketch comedy is, by no means, a new phenomenon. The medium has enjoyed a long, highly successful history in the Western World, with the likes of Abbott and Costello, Carol Burnett, and the Monty Python troupe inventing and reinventing the form. But recent years have seen a revival of the sketch, with the Internet supplying new grounds for budding comedians to release their work.
As such, we have a younger wave of sketch comics. We have Hader, Samberg, and Glover (whose Derrick Comedy pals also appear in the To Do List, briefly). The new generation has upped the ante on the energy and absurdity of the form, allowing for a particularly wacky connotation (and a particularly wacky, and particularly raunchy, film in The To Do List).
The more mature, more “slow paced” style of stand-up can be found sewn into the identity of Allen’s Blue Jasmine. A former stand-up himself, Allen embraces the conflation of humor and sorrow inherent in his stars’ work, most notably C.K.’s, to offer a particularly poignant dramedy.
C.K.’s celebrated routines involve marriage, divorce, depression, and the shortcomings of the human mind. All of these are inhabited by his character, a potential love interest to second billing Sally Hawkins. Over in The To Do List, the comedy comes more directly from the characters’ on-the-surface eccentricities. Hader is a washed up manchild. Samberg is a grungy, deliberately idiotic rock star. Glover is an affable dufus. Funny voices, funny faces, and funny lines — the bread and butter of their sketch comedy stylings.
Neither form is superior to the other, with the maudlin, psychonanalytical touch of Allen and C.K., and the biting edge of Clay perhaps carrying more weight but the sketch comedy works of Hader, Samberg, and Glover operating with severe rewatch value (and quotability). As a matter of fact, we need both kinds of comedy. The kind that makes us thing, moan, weep, and the kind that makes us laugh so hard our heads hurt. With the viable players Clay, Hader, C.K., Glover, and Samberg all still powering strong through their comedic realms and exploring new ones, we’re pretty well off in both regards.