Let me give you a list of what the makers of 8 Crazy Nights
thinks is funny:
1. An old man having seizures
2. Drunk driving
3. Drunk homeless people
5. Prison sex
6. Projectile snot
7. A woman with three breasts nursing her triplets
8. An old man sliding down a hill in a tipped-over port-a-potty
and freezing into a "poopsicle"
10. Jon Lovitz
I am not against violating sacred cows. One of my favorite
SNL sketches is the Jerry Seinfeld-hosted game show "Comedy
Killers," in which Adam Sandler chooses "Cancer"
as a category. Obviously, Sandler missed the whole point of
the sketch: The sketch is funny not because it jokes about
cancer, but because it jokes about joking about cancer. But
the people at Happy Madison productions just don't get how
something like, say, molestation can be funny. Molestation
is not funny in and of itself, but the idea of making jokes
about molestation is. The humor is not in the act, but in
the absurdity of making comedy out of the act.
In 8 Crazy Nights, a kid who plays basketball at the
YMCA is mocked for his poor shooting ability because his uncle
molested him. And that's as far as the joke goes. To contrast,
in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, the "Uncle
Fucker" song is played at the fever pitch of a musical,
mocking the very notion that almost anything can be played
for laughs if 1) The audience is lowbrow enough, and 2) It
pitches a style so that the substance is irrelevant. "Uncle
Fucker" is funny to Cartman because of the extended musical
fart sequence, even though Terence mocks Phillip for "fuck(ing)
your uncle yesterday." We're not laughing at Uncle Fucking,
per se, but the fact that Cartman is laughing at a song
that says "uncle fucker." The "Uncle Fucker"
rap video is hilarious because it correctly denotes that the
song can be about anything as long as it exudes a certain
image. That's why the movie is so damn funny: South Park
viciously derides not only the Sandlerites, but those
who censor language itself but refuse to "protect"
kids from the meaning of that language. And the MPAA made
the point in how it treated the movie: It nearly gave it an
NC-17 for language and sexual images, but allowed brutal bloodshed
with nary a word.
Sandler didn't used to be like this. I have never thought
he was funny, but at least his early films like Billy Madison
and Happy Gilmore were kindhearted while mixing
in the tackling and whatnot. This is angrier, more cynical
"humor." Sandler must be more conscious of himself,
given that Paul Thomas Anderson and Tom Green have both critiqued
him specifically, and I think he's grown angry and confused:
He mistakenly believes that he and "Jackass" are
playing on the same turf. 8 Crazy Nights is gross without
being metacognitive, which is more offensive than Saddam and
Satan having anal sex. As Trey Parker said in response to
his battle with the MPAA, "Once we can laugh at farts,
poop, and boogers without taboo, then they will no longer
be funny, and we can move on to higher level subjects."
I sincerely hope that Adam Sandler takes that to heart. An
old man having a seizure is no longer taboo in his films;
it's not funny, so maybe he can parlay his Punch Drunk
Love success into something on a bit higher level.