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Film / Funny People

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2009 Dramedy written and directed by Judd Apatow and starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen.

Sandler, a famous and popular comedian and star of numerous successful lowbrow comedies, plays George Simmons, a famous and popular comedian and star of numerous successful lowbrow comedies. George is diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia, the treatment of which promises only a low chance of success. Looking back on his life and finding it empty and lonely, realizing that he's somehow managed to drive away pretty much every meaningful human connection he ever had, Simmons decides to get back to his roots and return to the stand-up comedy circuit where he started. At his first gig, where he gives a dark, depressing routine, he crosses paths with Ira Wright (Rogen), a fumbling, shy and nervous up-and-comer who is on stage immediately after Simmons and manages to get a few laughs riffing on Simmons' mood-killing gloominess.

Recognising something in Wright, Simmons offers him a job writing jokes for a corporate gig, which becomes a gig as Simmons' P.A. Ira thus becomes the first and only person George tells about his illness, and he begins to try and encourage George to come out of his shell and rebuild connections, including mending bridges with 'the one that got away' — his ex-girlfriend Laura (Leslie Mann) who is now married to an Australian businessman named Clark (Eric Bana).

Just when George has resigned himself to the inevitable, an unexpected development gives him further cause to re-evaluate his life and what he thought he knew about it — and he decides that it's time to get back together with Laura...

Funny People contains the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: George's doctor is, at first, a little annoyed that he and Ira compare him to Hans Gruber. When George runs into him at a bar after discovering that he's cured, the doctor greets him with an enthusiastic "Yippi-Ki-Ay, motherfucker!"
  • Adam Westing: Adam Sandler is technically playing a version of himself, except more cynical and self-absorbed.
  • And Then What?: Eminem proposes this in a vulgar yet true way after George finds out he is cured.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Eminem to George at the party celebrating George's disease going into remission.
    Eminem: So now that you got this second chance, man, what do you want?
    George: I kinda don't want anything.
    Eminem: So then what are we celebrating?
  • Artifact Title: Sure, the film's about funny people... for the first act of the film. Then they stop being funny and be dramatic, or in one person's case, a jerkass.
  • As Himself: Several comedians make Cameo appearances as themselves, a couple of whom exaggerate themselves more than others, most notably Ray Romano and Eminem.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Laura attempts this in an effort to goad her husband. It fluctuates wildly, with shades of Standard English, Cockney, Scottish, Jamaican, and some Australian towards the end. Could also double as a Funny Moment.
  • The Bro Code: It appears that Jason Schwartzman's character and Seth Rogen's character have some version of this when it comes to giving Ira only a finite period of time with a crush before Schwartzman's character swoops in.
  • Call-Back: During one of George's stand-up routines he mentions his father putting peanut butter on his genitals for his dog to lick up. After the Halfway Plot Switch we are treated to the "Peanut butter game", a far less Squicky version of the same practice.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Every comedian in the film's routine has shades of this to some extent or another.
  • Composite Character: Ira is essentially Nick Carraway with some of Klipspringer thrown in.
  • Creator Breakdown: An in-universe example. The most notable example is George's first stand-up gig after learning about his illness — naturally, his dark and joyless material doesn't get many laughs, nor does he care — but it informs all of them that we see. Ira's own gigs aren't entirely free of this either.
  • Deadpan Snarker: George and most of the other comedians who appear, although it's deconstructed in a way; it's made fairly clear that they all tend to use jokes as a substitute for actually forging meaningful connections with other people, or at least as a way to avoid expressing their feelings.
  • Deconstruction: George Simmons is this for Adam Sandler's characters. Like most of Sandler's other characters, George is a hedonistic, jerkish Manchild with poor social skills. But this film paints George's behavior in a more serious light, portraying his selfish and condescending behavior as toxic and driving many people away who want to bond with him. Ira points out, during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, that George will never find happiness no matter what good things happen to him, as he is nothing but a pathetic, self-pitying jerk who doesn't even understand what happiness even is. Eventually, George is faced with a Jerkass Realization, making amends with Ira at the supermarket.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After having enough of George's behavior towards him, Ira gives George "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Ira is less than impressed with George's joke about having the former kill him.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Oddly, one which appears at the end to establish Character Development. After their blowout in which George fires Ira, Ira goes back to work at his grocery store job. George shows up one day to try and make amends, but instead of actually apologizing or trying to mend bridges, starts by launching into one of his over-the-top routines. Ira just patiently waits for him to finish and then, in a polite-but-not-overly-impressed tone, asks George what he wants, embarrassing and humbling George. It demonstrates that Ira is no longer an Extreme Doormat and that, since George fired him, Ira clearly feels no need to blow smoke up his ass or act as a Yes-Man by unnecessarily indulging his antics.
  • Extreme Doormat: Ira is definitely this. He tries to get better at the end.
  • First World Problems:
    • George accuses Ira of this when Ira tells him that he got into standup comedy to cope with his parents' divorce when he was a kid, saying that at least he didn't have to be funny to prevent his father from hitting him.
    • Leo calls out Ira for his constant complaints about working at the supermarket deli, pointing out the job is much less arduous and dangerous than things like coal mining.
  • Flanderization: George himself, in the first half of the movie, was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold that despite certain stuff he said or how he treated Ira, still cared enough to hire Ira as his assistant, which is thoughtful, considering that Ira himself is pretty much a Butt-Monkey when it comes to his humour. He also felt really bad for what he did to Laura, which was a minor part of the first half, and becomes a major part of the second half in which George is flanderized into a Jerkass.
  • Foreshadowing: The aforementioned crash is, according to Word of God, a symbolic precursor of the failure of George's attempt to be with Laura.
  • Genre Shift: From a comedy to a drama back to a comedy.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: When it's revealed that George is cured of his illness, the movie soon shifts to a Days of Our Lives-style romantic dramedy as George starts to rekindle his love for Laura, despite objections from both Ira and, later, Laura's husband.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Ira and Leo as aspiring comedians look down on their roommate Mark for headlining a sitcom as lowbrow and cringey as "Yo Teach", only for Leo to immediately accept a recurring role when he's offered one.
  • Insult Backfire: In addition to being a Lame Comeback, George calling Ira unfunny also backfires when Ira immediately retorts that he's perfectly okay with that if it means he's less like George.
  • Jerkass: George in the latter half of the movie. He's called out for this by Ira towards the end.
  • Jerkass Realization:
    • After Ira tells George off for his selfishness, George sees the error of his ways and apologizes to Ira for mistreating him.
    • In a sense, Clark is hit by this after beating the crap out of George for trying to sabotage his family by getting back with Laura. After a brief moment of cool-down and processing the events with Buddhism clarity, he believes that all of those events were brought upon his family by his own negative behavior and infidelity. All hostilities end afterwards and George leaves peacefully.
  • Kavorka Man: George, his celebrity status makes him pretty popular with the ladies.
  • Lame Comeback: George's comeback to Ira's What the Hell, Hero? (see below), that Ira isn't funny, is just as pathetic and inadequate as it sounds.
  • Lonely at the Top: George, although it's established that it's more than fame that has caused this.
  • Mythology Gag: Ira spies on Laura and Clark at the airport, which recalls Nick spying on Daisy and Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, which the film is loosely based on. Unlike Nick, Ira gets caught for it.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Ira's roommates' assessment of Aubrey Plaza's character Daisy: "She's mousy!" "Yeah, a mouse I wanna stick my dick in!"
  • Nice Guy: Ira is a bit impulsive but otherwise very sensitive and well-meaning.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ira does this when he follows Laura to the airport. When Clark and Laura reunite and forgive each other, Ira tries to sneak away but is spotted by Clark, thus having Laura be forced to tell how she slept with George and thus having an angered Clark beat the living crap out of George. All thanks to Ira simply trying to fix things.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Aziz Ansari claims that Randy is his impression of the rapper Soulja Boy if he were a standup comedian.
  • Oh, Crap!: The look on George's face when Laura begins to make plans to leave her husband is beyond priceless.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Eminem's cameo is equal parts hilarious and insightful.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Ira gives one to George (see below), but it actually seems to have a positive effect at the very end.
  • Recycled In Space: The Great Gatsby In Stand-Up Comedy! Minus the murder! is a common interpretation of the film.
  • Sad Clown: George, of course. Ira has shades of it, but George thinks his reasons for thinking so are pathetic.
  • Shout-Out: Possibly. The final shot in the movie (both in look and context) is nearly identical to the final shot in Catch Me If You Can, which was also shot by Janusz Kaminski.
  • Show Within a Show: Jason Schwartzman's character acts in "Yo Teach". There's also all of the movies that Simmons has been in, which show up here and there. A few of them include:
    • Re-Do: A cross between 17 Again and Little Man, with Sandler's head CGI'd onto a baby's body. Justin Long co-stars.
    • My Best Friend Is a Robot: This one is about... take a guess. Owen Wilson co-stars.
    • Mistake: A Rom Com co-starring Elizabeth Banks.
    • Mer-Man: Splash but with Sandler as the main character, again co-starring Banks.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: Ira sees his day job in a supermarket deli as one of these. His co-worker, an ex-convict who feels lucky just to have a shot at an honest living, sees it in a much better light. At the end of the movie, after being fired by George Ira returns to the deli job but appears to be approaching it from a more optimistic frame of mind since, if nothing else, he no longer has to deal with George being a prima donna.
  • Spin-Off: Judd Apatow bought a pitch for a Randy movie. The script is yet to be written.
  • Stylistic Suck: The majority of the shows within the show.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Annoyingly enough, at least one trailer shows George getting the news that his illness is gone. Some summaries give away the same plot point. Of course, given the length of the movie and the Halfway Plot Switch...
  • Toxic Friend Influence: George is this to Ira.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Had Eminem not asked George And Then What?, he probably wouldn't be chasing after Laura. Ira also does this too, but see Nice Job Breaking It, Hero for that one.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In a way, after Ira, completely fed up with George when he fired him, completely deconstructed the other man and informed him that even if he had everything he ever wanted, George would still not be happy because he's a bitter, selfish, self-loathing shell of a man who doesn't seem to know what happiness even is, never mind be able to find or provoke it in other people.
    • Leo also chews out Ira over the phone for not bringing him along to perform with George Simmons.
  • Wham Line: The aforementioned Lame Comeback is meant by George to be this in-universe. And for a comic to be told this by someone as big as George Simmons would certainly qualify. Still comes off pretty lame, though.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: George's cancer sets off the plot of the movie, but of course he gets better.