Is It Still Funny?

Tue, Sep 26th, 2017
Sun, Oct 8th, 2017

Hosted by Mark Caro

They say tragedy plus time equals comedy, but what does comedy plus time equal? Chicago film/entertainment writer Mark Caro will put supposedly timeless comedy to the test each week and then lead a post-screening discussion so we can all deliver the verdict: “Is It Still Funny?” Mark Caro reviewed movies, wrote columns, interviewed talented folk and covered the Oscars and various film festivals over more than 25 years at the Chicago Tribune. Now his work is appearing in the New York Times and other venues while he does fun things like this. See markcaro.com.

Pricing

General Admission tickets – $12

Music Box Member tickets – $10

Movies & Showtimes for
Is It Still Funny?

Wed, Oct 19th
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

7:30PM
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Wed, Nov 23rd
Dr. Strangelove

7:30PM
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Tue, Jan 3rd
Tootsie

7:00PM
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Tue, Feb 7th
His Girl Friday

7:30PM
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Tue, Mar 21st
Coming to America

7:00PM
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Wed, Apr 19th
Sleeper

7:30PM
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Mon, May 8th
Being There

7:00PM
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Tue, Jun 13th
Caddyshack

7:30PM
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Sun, Jul 16th
The Birdcage

7:00PM
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Sun, Aug 13th
Raising Arizona

7:00PM
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After Hours

A FILM BY: Martin Scorsese
WRITTEN BY: Joseph Minion
STARRING: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Teri Garr, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong

Griffin Dunne’s word processor (quaint!) visits Rosanna Arquette’s Henry Miller-loving mystery woman in Soho and experiences the longest, most nightmarish night of his life in this Martin Scorsese black comedy. The movie is unlike anything else on this master filmmaker’s resume: a brisk (a mere 97 minutes), dark New York story that tapped into ‘80s yuppie/romance paranoia a year before Jonathan Demme’s SOMETHING WILD explored thematically similar ground. And how about that supporting cast: Verna Bloom, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard and Cheech & Chong. AFTER HOURS fared better with critics than at the box office but now is regarded as a cult classic and is ready for its “Is It Still Funny?” close-up—in glorious 35MM.

Technical Information

Production Year: 1985
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 97 mins
Format: 35mm

Being There

A FILM BY: Hal Ashby
WRITTEN BY: Jerzy Kosinski (novel), Jerzy Kosinski (screenplay)
STARRING: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas

A simpleton gains power inside the White House. Crazy! But that’s the path taken by Peter Sellers’ Chance the gardener, who becomes known as Chauncey Gardiner in Hal Ashby’s satire based on Jerzy Kozinski’s novel of the same name. This isn’t a joke-a-minute comedy but rather an unsettling, humorous exploration of how one TV-addicted gardener’s banality comes to be widely embraced as wisdom. Far-fetched then? Now? Sellers received a best actor Oscar nomination, Melvyn Douglas won best supporting actor as the elderly businessman who nurtures Chance, and Shirley MacLaine is the businessman’s wife who tries to turn on Chance in a non-TV sort of way, even as the latter insists, “I like to watch.” BEING THERE is ranked 26th on the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest comedies list and is the namesake of an excellent Wilco album.

Technical Information

Production Year: 1979
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 130 mins
Format: 35mm

The Birdcage

A FILM BY: Mike Nichols
WRITTEN BY: Jean Poiret (play), Francis Veber (earlier screenplay)
STARRING: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria

Many people still remembered the 1978 French-Italian comedy hit LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and the 1983 stage musical — when Mike Nichols’ remake, written by his old comedy partner Elaine May, came out. But now it’s THE BIRDCAGE that has grown in reputation. First there are the performances: Robin Williams as gay club owner Armand and Nathan Lane as his flamboyant partner Albert, plus Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest as a conservative senator and his wife who, thanks to the engagement between their daughter and Armand’s son, are about to become the new in-laws. Then there’s the writing, which tackles the implications of embracing or covering up your sexual (as well as religious) identities, plus Nichols’ always-sure hand behind the camera. (Side note: Emmanuel Lubezki, who won three consecutive cinematography Oscars for GRAVITY, BIRDMAN, and THE REVENANT, shot this.) These culture-clash issues haven’t exactly dissipated over the past 21 years, so will THE BIRDCAGE feel more dated or fresh now? Let’s find out.

Technical Information

Production Year: 1996
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 117 mins
Format: 35mm

Caddyshack

A FILM BY: Harold Ramis
WRITTEN BY: Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis
STARRING: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray

It’s summer and thus time for golf, smart-dumb humor and CADDYSHACK. Harold Ramis, making his directorial debut from a script he wrote with Brian Doyle-Murray and Douglas Kenney, said he originally envisioned this as a comedy about teens working at a country club, but soon he realized it actually was about the wisecracking, troublemaking adults — namely Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight and Bill Murray (who improvised the bulk of his lines). Oh, and let’s not forget the gopher puppet. Some folks, including a bunch of reviewers upon its release, consider CADDYSHACK a dud. Others, including those who requested it at previous “Is It Still Funny?” screenings, think it’s one of the funniest comedies ever. (It’s ranked 71st on the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest comedies list.) Which way will you swing?

Technical Information

Production Year: 1980
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 98 mins
Format: 35mm

Coming to America

A FILM BY: John Landis
STARRING: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy

Did Eddie Murphy get any more Eddie Murphyish than this? At the height of his star power, he played pampered African Prince Akeem, seeking a new wife in New York City, plussoul singer Randy Watson (of the band Sexual Chocolate, don’t you know) and barbershop owner Clarence and old Jewish guy Saul. Let’s not forget pre-talk show Arsenio Hall as the prince’s sidekick, Semmi, as well as Rev. Brown, Morris the barber and “Extremely Ugly Girl.” (Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a boy getting a haircut, and James Earl Jones is the king.) This comedy was a huge hit, ranking third in the 1988 box-office race, and it received Oscar nominations for costume design and makeup. New York looks a lot different now, as does the national discourse on immigration. Sexual politics have changed a bit too. How will COMING TO AMERICA look now?

Technical Information

Production Year: 1988
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 116 mins
Format: DCP

Dr. Strangelove

A FILM BY: Stanley Kubrick
WRITTEN BY: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern
STARRING: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

With the election finally over, let’s all enjoy some light “Is It Still Funny?" escapism with Stanley Kubrick’s romp about efforts to avert an accidental nuclear holocaust. So far-fetched now, right? Um…well…OK, we’re in black comedy territory here with Peter Sellers’ President Merkin Muffley (that name!) leading the War Room efforts to call back nuke-carrying B-52 bombers en route to the Soviet Union and its doomsday machine. Sellers also plays British Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake and ominous ex-Nazi Dr. Strangelove while George C. Scott’s Gen. Buck Turgidson blusters, Sterling Hayden’s Jack D. Ripper warns of fluoridation, and Slim Pickens’ Major T.J. “King” Kong prepares for the ride of his life.

The American Film Institute ranked DR. STRANGELOVE No. 3 on its 100 greatest comedies list, and it was in the first group of films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation. Will this satire still decimate its target?

Technical Information

Production Year: 1964
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 95 mins
Format: DCP

His Girl Friday

A FILM BY: Howard Hawks
STARRING: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

You could argue that HIS GIRL FRIDAY is the quintessential screwball comedy, Cary Grant vehicle, journalism film, Chicago movie and “The Front Page” version. Rosalind Russell is pretty awesome in it too.  Charles Lederer’s screenplay pulls a gender switch on the original “Front Page,” turning Hildy Johnson into a female reporter (Russell) torn between settling down with a bland Ralph Bellamy lookalike (Ralph Bellamy) and chasing a wrongful-execution story for her editor/ex-husband Walter Burns (Grant). With THE FRONT PAGE currently on Broadway with Nathan Lane, John Slattery and John Goodman — and with political corruption and journalistic ethics still in the headlines — will HIS GIRL FRIDAY seem dated at all? The rapid-fire interplay between Grant and Russell certainly should be a tonic to audiences who associate older comedies with a leisurely pace. Ranked No. 19 on the American Film Institute’s all-time comedies list.

Technical Information

Production Year: 1940
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 92 mins
Format: DCP

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

A FILM BY: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
STARRING: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

The “Is It Still Funny?” concept will mean different things to different people with this one. Is it still funny if you’ve never seen it before? Is it still funny if you’ve seen it 23 times and have memorized every one of its endlessly quotable lines? What if you’re somewhere in between? The more overtly satirical LIFE OF BRIAN has its partisans, but for many Pythonites HOLY GRAIL represents the comedy holy grail.  The Black Knight, the killer bunny, “She turned me into a newt!”, the Knights Who Say Ni, the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” — it’s like your favorite band’s greatest hits. And when you see it on the big screen, you can read all of those faux Swedish opening-credits subtitles. Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretti nasty.

Technical Information

Production Year: 1975
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English
Run Time: 91 mins

Raising Arizona

A FILM BY: Joel Coen
WRITTEN BY: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman

Yes, it’s been 30 years since the Coen Brothers unveiled their wackadoodle approach to comedies with their second movie, the follow-up to the darkly funny crime tale BLOOD SIMPLE. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter star as H.I. (or “Hi”) and Ed, a married ex-con and ex-cop who respond to their infertility issues by stealing a baby from a newborn set of quintuplets, with Coen regulars John Goodman and Frances McDormand in colorful supporting roles. The plot gets as crazy as Barry Sonnenfeld’s camerawork. So does the dialogue; this is the movie that gave us “I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you got” and “Give me that baby, you warthog from hell!” A modest success upon its release, RAISING ARIZONA has since risen in stature (ranked No. 31 on the American Film Institute’s all-time-best-comedies list) and cult popularity. Let’s see how this rowdy baby has grown up.

Technical Information

Production Year: 1987
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 97 mins
Format: DCP

Richard Pryor: Live in Concert

A FILM BY: Jeff Margolis
WRITTEN BY: Richard Pryor
STARRING: Richard Pryor, Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Lee Pryor

In revisiting the towering stand-up comedy talent of the 20th century, do you look to his most successful Hollywood efforts, such as SILVER STREAK or STIR CRAZY, or do you go with the unfiltered Richard Pryor at the peak of his powers in LIVE IN CONCERT? We opted for the latter (at least this time). Showcasing his astounding verbal and physical skills, Pryor takes on sex, drugs, heart attacks and deer hunting in what Pauline Kael deemed “probably the greatest of all recorded-performance films.” Rolling Stone ranked it No. 1 among its 25 Best Stand-Up Specials and Movies, and it prompted Chris Rock to write: “This is what every comic is striving for, and we all fall very short.” This is a rare opportunity to catch this pioneering comedy concert film on the big screen.

Technical Information

Production Year: 1979
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 78 mins
Format: 35mm

Sleeper

A FILM BY: Woody Allen
WRITTEN BY: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
STARRING: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck

It’s time to put one of Woody Allen’s “early, funny ones” to the test. SLEEPER presents a zany 1973 vision of the future, with Allen playing a health-food store owner who’s cryogenically frozen and wakes up 200 years later in a police state. He winds up on the run with Diane Keaton’s socialite, the plot involves cloning, and there’s an orgasmatron. Allen has said this farce was inspired in part by Groucho Marx and Bob Hope, and it’s more slapstick heavy than his later films. Upon its release Roger Ebert wrote, “SLEEPER establishes Woody Allen as the best comic director and actor in America,” and the American Film Institute ranked it No. 80 on its all-time-best-comedies list. Does this satirical view of the 22nd century hold up? For that matter, does Woody?

Technical Information

Production Year: 1973
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 89 mins
Format: 35mm

Tootsie

A FILM BY: Sydney Pollack
STARRING: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Charles Durning, Bill Murray

This had all the makings of a disaster given the revolving door of writers and directors involved in its many years of development. Yet with Dustin Hoffman in a dress and Sydney Pollack behind the camera, TOOTSIE became a comedy classic, garnering 10 Oscar nominations (including a Best Picture nod plus a supporting actress win for Jessica Lange), the No. 2 ranking (after SOME LIKE IT HOT) on the American Film Institute’s all-time top-comedies list and preservation by the National Film Registry. Now that we have 34 more years of gender-role explorations under our belts, how does this tale of an arrogant actor who gets in touch with his female side hold up? Is It Still Funny? The very ‘80s soundtrack may be…

Technical Information

Production Year: 1982
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 116 mins
Format: DCP

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