A good comedy movie is one that you can watch time and time again. With each watch, you appreciate the jokes even more. Sometimes you notice something new that you didn’t spot the first time around. Even when you’ve heard the jokes a hundred times, they are still funny enough to make you giggle, and there’s nothing better than sharing them with a friend. But no matter how great these movies may be, you’ll often find something going on behind the scenes which is far more interesting – and sometimes, funnier.
Comedy is one of the most divisive areas of film. Some may think Adam Sandler is the be all and end all of comedy, while others think he is washed up and out of jokes. Eddie Murphy can divide audiences, and you can argue all night about whether he is funnier than Chris Rock. Meanwhile, the British efforts of James Cordon and Simon Pegg take comedy in completely different directions. But whether you’re watching Franco and Rogen because you’ll laugh, or because you need something to rant about in your blog, comedy films draw huge audiences.
We’ve collected some of the greatest little known facts about popular comedy movies here. Some will make you smile, some will make you cringe, but they are all fascinating insights into what goes on during filming. Plus, they are great little bits of information to share when you’re getting drunk with friends. Open up one of these conversation-starters and you’ll be hailed as a film buff.
15. The 40 Year Old Virgin – Steve Carell Really Did Get His Chest Waxed
The chest waxing scene The 40 Year Old Virgin is probably the funniest moment of the film. At the advice of his friends, Carell’s title character gets his very hairy chest worked on by a beauty therapist. The twist is that he really did get it done. Carell was caught on camera before filming the scene saying that he didn’t think it would hurt too much, and that he wasn’t afraid.
The screaming and outbursts that follow the wax strips being torn off indicate how wrong he was! His reaction was totally real, including the random swear words and mention of Kelly Clarkson. His cast mates and crew had to struggle to contain their laughter between takes as he genuinely experienced real pain. They left him with the patchwork that you see in the film. He even had to have cooling gel applied to his chest after the scene was wrapped in order to soothe his burning skin. Directly after filming, he described it as “just a dumb, dumb idea”.
It was done in one shot with five cameras to ensure that all of the action was caught. It was actually at Carrell’s insistence that the scene was real. He figured that it would be more funny than using special effects or faking it.
14. Borat – The Police Were Called 91 Times During Filming
Some sources estimate the number as a little lower, but whatever the real figures are, it’s clear that it happened a lot. A warrant was apparently issued for Sacha Baron Cohen’s arrest in New York. He was also asked to leave the state by police when he attempted to book a room in an upmarket hotel with his underwear hanging out. He was then detained by the Secret Service outside of the White House.
While he was never actually arrested during the production, other crew members were not so lucky. Executive producer Monica Levinson and production manager Dale Stern were both arrested. They took a phone, comforter, and clock from a hotel in New York which they intended to use as props, but they were caught. They spent the night in jail. They managed to get out, but not before Stern ate a list he had of the crew members’ names and phone numbers to protect them.
Legal action did not end when filming did. Since the movie was released in theatres, Baron Cohen has been sued by those who were unwittingly filmed as part of the jokes. They took offense at being made to look stupid – and they aired some unsavoury views without being aware that their words would make it into cinemas.
13. Zombieland – The Original Premise Was For A TV Show
You might have heard about the attempt to launch a TV webseries based on Zombieland. The pilot was aired on Amazon, but never made it to a full series after being dropped. What you may not realise is that the TV show, not the film, was the original idea.
The original concept was for a show that would feature one “Zombie Kill of the Week” per episode – which is why that gag made it into the film. One would have been acted out by a main character from the show every week. In fact, the script was first written as a television pilot. Heavy revision followed to make it into the full length feature we know now. Even then, it made it to the Blacklist in 2007 (the list of unmade screenplays which are the most liked).
It’s interesting that the eventual TV pilot never made it as a series – so perhaps it was a wise decision to make it as a movie first.
12. Shaun Of The Dead – Ed Reveals The Whole Plot Early On
Shaun of the Dead is one of those classic comedies that gets funnier the more you read into it. Fans of Simon Pegg’s TV series Spaced will spot plenty of in jokes, and there are visual gags throughout. What you may not realise is that if you were paying attention, you would have found out the whole plot of the movie early on.
After Shaun has been dumped by Liz, Ed consoles him with their plans for the evening. “We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing, bite at the King’s Head, couple at the Little Princess, and stagger back here and bang… back to the bar for shots”, he promises. The translation? They saw a woman named Mary in the garden who had been turned into a zombie, then fled to Shaun’s parents. While there, his stepfather Philip is bitten, so they head back to Liz’s place. There they meet David and Di, the couple. They have to stagger as they pretend to be zombies, finally making it to the pub where they start firing off shots at zombies with a gun. Pretty clever, eh? Part of the fun of watching this movie is looking out for the in jokes and references, and it is certainly full of them.
11. Get Him To The Greek – An Earthquake Took Place While They Were Filming
Get Him to the Greek gave plenty of great comedy moments, including the fake music videos put together for the truly awful musical antics of Russell Brand’s character, Aldous Snow, and his wife. If you already have the DVD and have not bothered to take a look at the gag reel, then you are missing out on some behind the scenes footage which is truly unique.
Halfway through filming one of the scenes, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake struck the set. The cameras were still rolling, so you can actually get to see the reactions of the cast and crew to being shaken up. Jonah Hill in particular just cannot stop screaming.
If you have the DVD you will want to give it a look – it’s pretty hard to find the footage online, as the studio tend to take down anything that gets posted. We can assure you that it is worth a watch, however – if only for the surreal idea of watching movie stars react to a real situation.
10. Zoolander – Blue Steel Was A Result Of Stiller’s Wife Mocking The Way He Looks In The Mirror
By this time we all know the “Blue Steel” look – made famous by Ben Stiller in Zoolander as the look of his model character. It has permeated pop culture, becoming a reference point for anyone who pulls a certain face in their selfies. But it all started as a teasing joke from a wife to her husband.
Christine Taylor is a fellow actor, and Stiller’s wife. She noticed that when he was looking at his hair in the mirror, he tended to suck in his cheeks in a very particular way. She pointed it out to him, and that is how the Blue Steel look was born. “I still do it and I don’t realise I’m doing it – she’ll point it out to me,” he admitted in a 2010 interview with The Guardian.
This is one of the reasons why the idea has become so popular – it’s relatable. Next time you see your significant other (or catch yourself) staring into the mirror, watch out for a little Blue Steel!
9. 21 Jump Street – Jonah Hill Lost More Than 40 Pounds For His Role
We could all see a transformation in Jonah Hill around the time of the release of 21 Jump Street. It was one of the more action packed roles he had taken on, and it turns out that he had to do a serious body transformation just to be physically capable of it.
Keeping up with Channing Tatum is no mean feat, and that was one of the driving inspirations behind his forty pound weight loss. He has been quoted as saying that he wanted to become more of a man, in relation to his career as well as his health. Taking on an action comedy role was certainly a step in the right direction, and his makeover turned heads. It’s astounding to compare images of him from around the time of Superbad with those around the release of this movie.
He had to maintain a healthy figure to prepare for the sequel, 22 Jump Street – which we will be coming back to a little later on in our list.
8. The Breakfast Club – The Original Idea Was To Release Sequels Every Ten Years
John Hughes had a vision for The Breakfast Club. He wanted to reconvene the cast every ten years, making a movie about how the characters’ lives had changed and moved on. It would have created a seminal series, with touchpoints for those in each generation that witnessed a new release. We would have been due the first sequel in 1995 – and by now we would be talking about the fourth movie in the series. Unfortunately, Hughes had a poor relationship with two members of the cast which ruled this possibility out.
Judd Nelson convinced some teens at the local high school that he was also a student, and pretended that his ID was fake when he bought them some beer. He was volatile on set, reportedly not making any friends amongst the rest of the cast and crew. After filming wrapped, Hughes swore that he would never work with Nelson again. But he was not the only one to cause a problem.
It’s well documented that Hughes fell out with Molly Ringwald in the late eighties, when she decided that she was done with the teen movie scene. It resulted in a fall from grace for her, as her relationship with the director was severed and film roles dried up. Thanks to these two incidents, it’s unfortunately true that we will never see The Breakfast Club recreated as intended.
7. Back To The Future – The Script Was Rejected 40 Times
For young writers, artists, and actors, rejection is an ever present fear. Being told not to give up and to weather those rejections is old advice by now. It’s also easier said than done. But it gets a little easier when you look at success stories like Back to the Future. Probably one of the most recognizable movies of all time, and certainly one of the biggest hits of the eighties, it would never have happened if the team behind it had not stayed motivated.
More than forty rejections came their way before they finally managed to get someone to pick it up. Every major studio turned it down – some of them doing so more than once. Whenever the management changed, Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale would be back with their script to try and get it considered. They were told that time travel movies did not make money, and that it was too sweet and nice. Perhaps it would be more suited to Disney? But when Disney took a look, they decided that it was too risqué thanks to the idea of Marty and his mother.
It was not until Zemeckis had success with Romancing the Stone that studios started to pay attention. When a bidding war began for his next movie, he put the script forward. The only director to have shown attention in the early days – Steven Spielberg – was rewarded by the writers when they asked him to direct. Thus, the movie we know and love was born.
6. Monty Python And The Holy Grail – The Coconut Hooves Joke Was Forced By Budget Restrictions
The Monty Python movies are classic comedy, through and through. They laid the foundation for many more recent comedies, and inspired a whole generation of filmmakers and actors. One of the key jokes of the Holy Grail film is the use of coconut halves banged together to make the sound of horses. It is even referenced in the script, and the knights are somehow made even more ridiculous by their lack of real horses.
The gag is a great one, but it actually only came about thanks to budget restrictions. There was no way that they could stretch to having real horses, which left them with a dilemma. Eventually they remembered the sound effect that radio shows used to use to mimic horses, and the joke was born. Changes were made to the script to accommodate the new idea, including having the knights mime horse riding to make it even funnier. It’s such a strong element of the film that it now seems ridiculous to imagine them filming with real horses.
5. Mean Girls – There Was An Eight Year Age Gap Between Lohan And McAdams
In Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams were cast as schoolgirls in the same class. Released in 2004, it followed a group of sixteen year olds going through high school. Of course, we always expect that the characters in teen movies will not match up to their real ages. It’s common for older actors and actresses to be cast, at least partially because it allows the filmmakers more freedom with what they can portray. But in this case, one of the main cast members was aged 18 – and another was actually 27.
Lohan was born in 1986. McAdams, on the other hand, was born in 1978. There are eight full years between them! That’s a huge age gap for two actresses who could pass for being the same age. But was Lohan ravaged by her lifestyle and old before her time, or was McAdams simply youthful and fresh faced to a standard that belied her years? We’ll leave that up to you.
4. The Big Lebowski – Buscemi’s Death Is The End Of A Three Film Joke
Steve Buscemi tends to star in a lot of Coen brothers movies, and he tends to die a lot in them too. This led to an ongoing joke that covered three films at one stage. The gag was that Buscemi gradually disappeared as each film went on.
This all started with Miller’s Crossing, where his whole body was seen on the ground after his character died. By the time that we got around to Fargo, the only thing left was his severed leg being fed into the wood chipper. His shrinking continued by the time we saw his death in The Big Lebowski. Here he was nothing but ashes, being scattered over the ocean and blown back across the other characters.
In case you were wondering, so far he has starred in six movies which were in some way worked on by the Coen brothers. Including the three above, the list also features The Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink, and Paris, je t’aime. The Hudsucker Proxy and Paris, je t’aime are the only ones in which he does not die.
3. This Is The End – More Of It Was Real Than You Thought
The premise of this film was to take “real” celebrities and throw them into an apocalypse situation. While it has been said that many of the performances are exaggerated or opposite versions of what the actors are really like, some of the film is more real than you might have thought. Take, for example, the scene between Michael Cera and Rihanna. He slaps her backside, and in return, she slaps him across the face. At first they tried doing dummy slaps, just like you would expect. The impact of the scene just wasn’t right, however, so finally Rihanna agreed that he really could slap her – so long as she really could slap him back. What she failed to mention was that she was going to be doing it harder each take.
A lot of the action is set in James Franco’s supposed apartment, which he decorated himself with paintings and art. In actual fact, the actor really did create the paintings shown in the background. In addition to this, their discussion regarding what they wanted to film for a Pineapple Express sequel is actually their real idea for the second movie. It seems that some comedy really does have to come from real life!
2. Yes Man – The Storyline Of The Film Was Based On A Real Story
Yes Man is one of those films where Jim Carrey brings his trademark silly style to a more grown up story. The idea is that his character has to say yes to everything he is asked to do. Plenty of hijinks of course ensue, including a series of increasingly unlikely situations. It is the kind of story that could never be based on real life because of how silly the events get. But actually, you may be surprised to learn that it is based on real events!
British author, journalist, and producer Danny Wallace spent six months saying yes to every question or proposal made to him and recorded the results. He then took these experiences and published them in a book, entitled Yes Man like the film. It was first published in 2005, three years before the film came out.
He actually has a cameo in the film, so look out for him in the last ten minutes. He stands in a bar holding a British pint glass, a nod to the fact that he actually lives in London.
1. 22 Jump Street – There Are So Many Meta References We Can’t Even List Them All Here
22 Jump Street followed on from the traditions of the first movie to deliver a script and plot line full of references to the TV show. It also started to get very meta, referencing the budget of the film and special effects in a lot of the scenes. In fact, if we were to list every single meta element of the script and plot, we would probably run out of space.
We’ll give you a few teasers here, starting with Ice Cube, who plays Captain Dickson. His wife says that she is “straight outta Compton” in one scene, which is the name of an album that Ice Cube performed on in 1988 with his group N.W.A. Then there is the description of his new glass office as being like a cube of ice.
Plus there are a lot of references to films that came out on the same day in North America. How to Train Your Dragon 2 also starred Jonah Hill, which is why his co-star Cate Blanchett is referenced in one scene (“I thought we had Cate Blanchett for the budget?”). Jenko can also be heard talking about a dragon in the opening chase scene.
Hill almost repeats a line from earlier movie The Watch when he says “It’s getting ink in my mouth!” – his line there substituted goo for ink. Seth Rogen’s glasses were broken in This is The End, and here he mentions that he just got new ones. They even reference Channing Tatum’s early role in Step Up when he picks up a girl and spins her around a few times while fighting the guards.
We could go on – but the list seems never-ending.
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