This year's best comic moments included howlingly hilarious moments of Quaalude abuse, unlikely romance and online shopping. Most, but not all, come from comedies. Click on for the scenes that left Empire's face looking a bit like a pug's this year.
JOKES OF THE YEAR
22 Jump Street.
22 Great Jokes.
DIRECTORS PHIL LORD AND CHRIS MILLER TALK US THROUGH EACH ONE
WORDS: CHRIS HEWITT
Our comedy of the year, 22 Jump Street was a glorious riff on sequels, a meta meditation on rom-coms with more than a touch of Brokeback about it, and a gag machine the likes of which has rarely been seen since Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker hung up their funny dog poo. It didn’t just provide our funniest movie moment of the year, it provided - well, would you look at that, what a coincidence - 22 of them.
1 The Benny Hill Joke
During the car/helmet chase, Jenko and Schmidt buzz around outside The Benjamin Hill Center For Film Studies. Naturally, they do it at full Benny Hill speed too. What the hell is a Benny Hill joke doing in the middle of all this meta madness? “That one’s for England!”, laughs Miller. “It was like an evolving thing. The way I remember it, which may not be accurate, is that we were working on storyboards for that sequence and there was a storyboard that was blocked out in a profile style and we said, ‘This looks like Benny Hill.’ In Clone High (Lord and Miller's ill-fated TV cartoon show), we had done a similar Benny Hill-style gag. We thought it would be funny to do an under-cranked Benny Hill shot. It took special effects because we had to speed them up.” “It was one of those things that we thought, 'This probably won’t go in the movie because nobody will get this, especially in the US,'” says Lord. “It’s too silly. Challenge accepted!”
2 ‘We’ve got Cate Blanchett with the budget!’
In which Jenko confuses the expression "Carte blanche" with the famous Australian actress "Cate Blanchett". You may have heard of her. “That was an Oren Uziel (screenwriter) draft of the movie,” says Miller. “There was even more Cate Blanchett-related humour in the movie at one point.” “We were trying to find a way for her to be in the movie at the end somehow,” adds Lord. “She was shooting a movie...” “And we failed to come up with a clever enough way to do it. At any rate, we’re trying to figure out ways to work with her in the future.”
3 The Meet Cute
In a film that riffs gaily on rom-coms, Jenko brilliantly meets his love interest, Wyatt Russell’s Zook, by banging their helmets against each other on the football field, at which point Jenko drops his Q-tip into The Zook’s sandwich. It’s a meat Q. A meet cute. That’s wordplay, bro.
“We thought audiences would not understand what that meant,” says Lord, “but it was really funny and played really well at the table read. Rodney Rothman wrote that bit and said, ‘Guys, I wrote something really irresponsible,’ and we said, ‘Let’s put it in’. On the day we were so sure it wasn’t going to work that we did a bunch of alternates. We tested this one, and it was by far our favourite. Audiences, shockingly, understand what that means.”
4 Jenko Forgets His Own Name
During that same sequence, the heroically stupid Jenko forgets his own name. FORGETS HIS OWN NAME. “It’s hard to remember your undercover name, especially when you’re lovestruck like that,” says Lord.
5 23 Jump Street is under construction
Obviously, the movie plays heavily with the idea of continuing the franchise (see the end credits for that), but we love the little nod to a 23 Jump Street at the very beginning, as Jenko and Schmidt notice that a new church is under construction at that very address. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” says Schmidt. “The construction company is Moritz Construction Company,” says Lord (the film is produced by Neal H. Moritz). “And underneath the sign it says, ‘It’s expensive, but it’s worth it’,” adds Miller. “And in the background is one of our producers, wearing a hard hat. That was for us, really.”
6 Channing Tatum’s Mexican accent
During the undercover sting that kicks off the movie, Jenko is forced to adopt the world’s worst Mexican accent, call himself Jeff, and recount the plot of Dora The Explorer. “Who had the idea he should do it like Borat?” asks Lord. “That was him!” cackles Miller. “He came in, and we’d been working with Jonah, who really wanted to play a cholo, and we thought that was really funny and worked on it a long time, and thought it would be funny to put Channing on the spot. He had just flown in from Jupiter Ascending and we handed him a script he hadn't even read, and we were in front of the chairman of Sony and a bunch of executives, and he did it that way. It was a weird choice that he made. It was hilarious. It's all him.”
7 The riffing on sequels begins
In which Nick Offerman’s Deputy Hardy, in a play on the first movie’s tongue-in-cheek condemnation of reboots, calls Schmidt and Jenko into his office and deconstructs the hell out of the very idea of sequels. “It’s always worse the second time around,” he deadpans. “We had hours of that stuff,” says Miller. “We would throw stuff at Offerman and Rodney Rothman was on set and would write stuff, and Offerman would go off on riffs. You could make a ten-minute cut of that scene that is just a long punch in the face to all sequels. But I think we got it as long as people are willing to go.”
8 White House Down… is down!
In that same scene, Jenko suggests that he and Schmidt could protect the White House and is instantly shot down – a clear nod to the failure of Tatum’s White House Down. “There was a longer run there as well,” says Lord, “where Offerman was like, ‘Yes, you tried your big character thing, you tried your over-the-top action thing, they didn’t work, nobody wants to see that, they just want to see the things that you did before.' Unfortunately that didn’t make it in.”
9 Ice Cube’s ice cube
In another riff on the excess of sequels, Schmidt and Jenko find that Captain Dickson’s bitching new HQ on Jump Street has been transformed with sequel spondoolicks. Including, they note, Dickson’s own office, which looks like a giant cube of ice. “Credit for that goes to Steve Saklad, our production designer,” says Miller. “That was his joke,” adds Lord. “It was a $100,000 joke, and everybody fought him all the way. ‘The whole thing’s going to be glass and there’s going to be a bunch of reflection problems for the cameras,’ but we thought it was funny and looked cool.” “But it was a disaster in every other respect,” continues Miller. “The sound department, it screwed them over! It was worth it for that one joke. Ice appreciated the joke, I think.” “He doesn’t mind being a fixture in popular culture,” says Lord.
10 Aren’t you a little old for college?
In a continuation of a riff from the first movie, Jenko and Schmidt - particularly Schmidt - are constantly called out by other students for being clearly way too old for college. In particular, Jillian Bell’s Mercedes hits Schmidt with a barrage of old man insults that bagged her a place on our Characters Of The Year list. “It was on the top of Jonah’s mind because he turned 30 this year,” says Lord. “We were riffing on the movie and he said, ‘One of the themes should be that these guys are wondering what they should do with their lives.” “The idea was that Jillian was just poking him about how old he is and how he’s always going to be alone,” adds Miller, “and it just so happens that Jillian is a world-class improviser. She’s one of the few people who can put Jonah Hill on his heels.”
In a scene where Schmidt is introduced to free expression by Patton Oswalt’s college professor, the undercover cop is asked to say the first thing that comes into his mind. Schmidt replies, ‘fiatoe’, which Oswalt points out is not a word. “That was an ad-lib,” says Miller. “There was a lot of ad-libbing in that scene. We asked Patton to come in because we were big fans of his. He's so quick. There’s a bit where he asks Channing to say the first three things on his mind, and he did, and then Patton went on a sort of improvised diatribe incorporating those things to prove why the drug war wasn't effective. It’s a brilliant piece of improv.” It’s actually available on the DVD. “There is a four-hour cut of this movie!” laughs Lord. “Not very good.”
12 Improv Versus Scripted Comedy
Right from the off, the movie plays with the notion of scripted comedy versus improvisation that reaches its head as Jenko yells out awful suggestions to an improv troupe. “It evolved along the way,” says Miller. “The beginning talks about how Jonah likes to riff and play in scenes. We thought it would be interesting if Jenko came to learn and appreciate the concept of improvisation. Sitting him down to the improv troupe was an idea we came up with on the day.” Lord adds, “We have a minute of him yelling bad improv suggestions. Because of that, we had to have him sit down next to them.” “It was Jonah’s idea,” says Miller. “We love that Channing’s character is mystified by the improvisation process.”
13 Plainview Red Herrings
A small gag, in which Jenko finds out that Rooster, the ruffian he’s tagged with the murder/drug deals they’re investigating, doesn’t have an incriminating tattoo after all. Instead, it’s a tattoo of a red herring, named after his home town team in Plainview. “That’s a Chris Miller drawing right there,” says Lord. “Sometimes with the logos and designs that are on prop boards and things, Phil and I like to draw them ourselves, because we’re obsessive that way,” admits Miller. “That’s our Hitchcock moment,” adds Lord.
14 The Trip
When Jenko and Schmidt inadvertently take loads of WHY-PHY (‘Work hard? Yes. Party hard? Yes.’), they trip major balls again, in a sequence that contrasts Jenko’s trip – cavorting in a live-action cartoon world – with Schmidt’s utter misery. “We didn’t think we would be able to push it any crazier than we did in the first movie,” says Miller, “so we thought we’d make it a big emotional storyline and more immersive. And so that’s a really hard thing for actors to be on a giant blue screen with puppeteers in blue spandex bodysuits, and have us say, ‘Now there’s an imaginary wall and you’re trying to push through it, and a rainbow is tickling you! Thankfully they went along for the ride.”
15 Jenko Rides The Lambo
A running gag throughout is Jenko’s foiled desire to drive a Lamborghini. But in the trip, he gets to ride a toy Lambo, so there’s that. “That literally happened at the last second,” says Lord. “We said the night before, can we get a Lamborghini for him to ride around on?’” Miller laughs. “A lot of this movie was thought of the night before.”
16 The Break-up
In a glorious play on break-ups, Schmidt and Jenko decide that they should "Investigate other people". “That was the heart of the movie, that scene,” says Miller. “We wanted to make this a real bromantic comedy with a capital ‘R’. Once we figured out the tone of that scene, it permeates through the rest of the movie.” “It’s such a clear expression of the movie,” adds Lord, “that it was hard for the rest of the movie to keep up with it.”
17 The Subtext Isn’t Subtext
Riffing on the language of rom-coms, 22 Jump Street doesn’t beat around the bush. Yes, Schmidt may have a love interest, but the real romance here is between its two leads. “The essential joke of the movie is that the guys don’t realise they’re in a romantic relationship,” says Lord, “but the rest of us do. Those characters, on some level, think they’re talking about something normal, but they’re talking about being in love.”
18 The Walk Of Shame
Schmidt takes the walk of shame twice in the movie, traipsing through the campus with his shoes in his hands, while several girls do the same. “Credit goes to Jonah, and his ability to get a lot of emotion from the look on his face,” says Lord.
19 I’m Your Best Nightmare
Jenko has all the action hero moves down, except the patter. When confronting The Ghost in the college library, he quips, ‘Remember me? I’m your best nightmare’, before quickly correcting his mistake. Too late. “That was improvised by Channing Tatum,” reveals Miller.
20 Something Cool!
In a play on the notion that all heroes must dispatch the bad guys while saying something cool, Lord and Miller have their heroes do just that. Literally. “Rodney Rothman wrote that,” says Lord. “We asked him to write something they say before they blow up the helicopter and that was his first response.”
21 The Credits
A bravura middle finger to the notion of post-credit stings, extended end credits and running franchises into the ground, the end credits posits ideas for the next 20 or so instalments of Jump Street, including Scuba Class, Medical School and an episode set in space. Each of which has its own poster, complete with appropriate tagline (Dance Academy is ‘"Pointe and shoot", for example). Curiously, the only idea that seems to be missing is a Men In Black reboot… “We really think of it as a pitch to the studio,” laughs Miller. “We’re going to create 23 Jump Street Studio, so we can make all those films simultaneously,” adds Lord. “It’ll be hard on Channing and Jonah, but we can make it work.” “We started putting it together at the last possible second,” says Lord. “We were literally in the mix at lunch, going, ‘What’s a good pun for this? What’s a good tagline for this poster?’ We’d be pitching sound guys. That's why the taglines get extra nerdy.”
22 The microwave noise
In the scene where Jenko finally realises that Schmidt has "fucked the Captain’s daughter!", his belated epiphany is underscored by a beautifully timed microwave ping. “That is Geoff Rubay, our sound designer, deciding he could make that even funnier,” says Miller. “He sometimes pitches sound jokes because he knows we like them and about a third of them make it into the movie. That was one of the ones we loved.”
If you thought gross-out had shat liberally all over its chips, Inbetweeners 2’s writer/directors Iain Morris and Damon Beesley were determined to prove you wrong. Top marks for the explosive moment where Neil (Blake Harrison) unleashes a torrent of piss into the face of Simon (Joe Thomas), but pride of place has to go to the moment where the hapless Will (Simon Bird) is pursued down a waterslide by... well, a poo. And is then hit in the face by said poo. And then vomits everywhere, causing onlookers and bystanders to run for cover as if he were the incredible melting man. Taking gross-out to operatic levels, Morris and Beesley stage the whole thing like a war movie, with Bird superb in the Sgt. Elias role.
Among the many surprises lining Paddington like the fur of his parka were the jokes. A warm, gorgeous reflection of the off-the-wall, very British sense of humour that suffuses all of Paul King’s work, from The Mighty Boosh to Bunny And The Bull, there were great visual gags (Matt King’s petty thief is pursued, literally, by bear) and jokes about London life (Matt Lucas’ kidnapped cabbie advising Nicole Kidman not to take the Westway at this time of night) and British life (a recorded message tells Hugh Bonneville that his phone call is ‘moderately’ important). But our favourite is the moment where Peter Capaldi’s cantankerous, nosey neighbour, Mr. Curry, first sees Kidman’s Millicent Clyde and falls head over heels in love to the strains of Lionel Richie’s 'Hello'. More Mr. Curry in the sequel, please.
Picking the funniest moment in What We Do In The Shadows is like picking your favourite 700-year-old child: really very hard indeed. A film that averaged a belly laugh a minute introduced Viago, Deacon, Vlad and Petyr, four spectacularly silly vampires, into a single Wellington dwelling, in the process exploring the folkloric hierarchy of the undead, the unquenchable bloodlust of the revenant and the need for someone just to do the bloody washing up. Ensuing hilarity included an encounter with a posse of werewolves, a bit where they all peek illicitly at YouTube sunsets and a surprisingly lax police inspection of their corpse-strewn house. Our winner, though, was Vlad (Jemaine Clement) and his sinister web browsing. “I’m going to stay in and do my dark bidding,” he tells Viago. “What are you bidding on?” replies his flatmate. “A table,” says Vlad, clicking on eBay.
For a man who has seemingly spent his entire career trying to avoid the cracking of a smile, the revelation - about 30 seconds in - that Leonardo DiCaprio was treating The Wolf Of Wall Street like a comedy was a startling one. As was the realisation that he was being bloody funny, and never more so than in the already classic quaaludes sequence, where Jordan Belfort has to manage the simple act of getting from his country club to his car. Only problem: no human being in history has been more off their tits than Belfort at that very moment. So, with ample assistance from Martin Scorsese, in turning a few steps into Mount Everest, DiCaprio delivers the greatest bit of physical comedy this year, as a limp Belfort stumbles, rolls and caterpillars himself into his car. The following scene, where he has the world’s most incoherent argument with fellow ‘ludeite, Jonah Hill, is equally hysterical.
For the most part, Dumb And Dumber To is the greatest reminder since Howard Kendall that you should never go back. There have been a couple of cracking gags - Harry and Lloyd setting off on a road trip, only to end up right back where they started due to an inability to read an envelope correctly - but out of nowhere and ploughs him into next week while our heroes, who have leapt out of their car just seconds before with seriously ringing ears, bounce around in the foreground, completely oblivious of his oblivion. It’s a simple gag - one that Peter Farrelly told us didn’t even work on paper - but is timed to perfection, and may well be the funniest gag largely a lot of charmless mugging. And then, just as Rob Riggle is about to shoot Harry and Lloyd, a train comes in either of the Dumb And Dumber movies. Next time you see it, look out for an Easter egg - as the train speeds past, you may be able to spot Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels hanging out of the driver’s car. How’s that for a noodle baker?
Charlie Day’s excitable high-pitched squeal can make him both an acquired taste and the Joe Pasquale of the movie world, but it all comes together beautifully in The Lego Movie when his character, Benny The 1980s Spaceman, is finally granted his wish: to build a spaceship. Or, as Benny chants over and over again, crashing his creation through all of Lord Business’ defences, “SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!”
The sex-cum-fight-cum-cum scene between Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistocles and Eva Green’s Artemisia, a no-nonsense warrior woman who tests her opponent’s mettle by mounting him like there was no tomorrow, probably wasn’t intended for this list, but it’s a classic of high camp, the never-knowingly-shy Green cavorting and snorting and growling for all she’s worth, while Stapleton does his level best to act like he’s a) not utterly terrified and b) capable of getting an erection.
This could have been a Drax moment (possibly his admission that he wasn’t listening to Peter Quill’s stirring speech on board the Milano near the end), a Groot moment (his big, beaming smile after brutally killing a group of Ronan’s soldiers), a Gamora moment (her refusal to succumb to Quill’s pelvic sorcery), a Rocket moment (his absolute horror that Quill still has the Orb after it destroys the Collector’s lair), or a Quill moment (the Jackson Pollock quip that made our lines of the year list). But instead, we’ve decided to shine the spotlight on a minor character, Moloka Dar. He’s the weedy little fellow who gets caught up in the attempt to kill Gamora on The Kyln, only for Drax to intervene, and take the knife Dar was going to use to do the deed. “That was my favourite knife,” mutters a forlorn Dar (British actor Alexis Rodney), bringing the house down. FUNNY UPDATE: we can assume that Dar is later killed in Ronan The Accuser’s cull of the Kyln. What fun!
Penguins Of Madagascar is a very silly film indeed. As an example of its silliness, its 92-minute running time sees the four flightless fowl dress up in German folk garb, only to take their lederhosen off because they were “really riding up their bundesligas”. A fine pun, you might think, but nothing compared to the running gag from Dave The Octopus (John Malkovich, seen above in his human disguise) about his tiny squid minions. All of Dave’s spineless subordinates have regular names, such as Nic, Drew or Barry, but whenever Dave orders them to do something, it all sounds rather... different: “Nic, Cage them!”, “Drew, Barry, more power!” Others, like “Elijah, would you get me a coffee?” and “Charlize, they’re on the machine!” are more of a stretch – but really, what a fantastic stretch.