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The Return of the Comedy Duo?
by Tim Josephs

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After watching STEP BROTHERS the other day for the fifth or sixth time, I started thinking about comic duos in the movies. There was a time when there were several, then they kind of faded away, but now it looks like they might be making a comeback.

Beginning with the earliest days of cinema, many comedies seemed to feature a duo. The 20s to the 40s had over eighty films from Laurel and Hardy. I've seen a few of their shorts; they're amusing and their physically comedy is impressive.

The 40s and 50s had Abbott and Costello who made over thirty movies together. The ones where they "meet" a monster are delightfully silly and their "Who's on First?" bit is a classic and still funny fifty-plus years later.

Those two decades also featured Martin and Lewis. I'm a big fan of this duo and have seen most of the fifteen films they did together. They're perhaps the greatest funny man/straight man team off all time. (Though Dean Martin was really funny himself; part of the
reason behind their breakup was that he was tired of being considered the guy who just sung and looked good while Jerry got all the laughs).

Another pair from about the same time was Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Over a twenty year period they made seven "Road" movies though I can't say I've seen any of them.
Their last one was in 1962 and then there was a drought of comedy duos until 1976. That's when Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor picked up the mantle in SILVER STREAK. They made five movies together, the last, ANOTHER YOU, in 1991. I've seen a couple of their films and they're pretty funny and it looks as though they really had a good time working with each other.

In the 90s two Saturday Night Live alumni joined forces. Chris Farley and David Spade made two films together, TOMMY BOY and BLACK SHEEP. Both movies are kind of the same but still enjoyable, and who knows how many more they would've made if it wasn't for the untimely death of Farley.

But until
recently, the comedy duo well has been rather dry. However, now it looks like a renaissance might be on the way. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have starred together in two films, the aforementioned STEP BROTHERS and TALEDEGA NIGHTS. Ferrell is one of those actors who I'll see in anything, and although some of his movies aren't great, like LAND OF THE LOST, he's always funny. And Reilly is a perfect complement to him.

Paul Rudd and Steve Carell have starred in two films together, THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN and DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS. Unlike with Ferrell and Reilly who are basically two clowns, these guys have kind of a traditional comedic relationship with Carell as the buffoon and Rudd the straight man.

The same can be said about Jack Black and Kyle Gass, with Black the spastic joker and Gass more of the straight man. These guys are hilarious together in their TV show, videos, and their one movie, TENACIOUS D IN THE PICK OF DESTINY. Plus, they're pretty damn good musicians
as well.

Another great comedic duo is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ are two brilliant satirical movies and these guys work amazingly well with each other. Next year they'll be in another movie together called PAUL and I'm really excited about it.

Another outstanding British twosome is Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Though they haven't yet starred together in a movie, they did create The Office and the excellent Extras and appeared with each other in several episodes.

And let's not forget about the ladies. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two very good comedic actors who have so far made one film together, the cute BABY MAMA. They had a lot of previous experience working together on SNL and it shows, and hopefully they'll work with each other again.

So, perhaps it's a little early to declare a rebirth of the comedic duo, but with these talented and funny people working together, it's definitely something to look forward to.

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Mike Thomas
Nov 9, 2010 12:40 AM
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You might be on to something here.

Comedy Duos are seeming to be more prevalent. Robert Downey, Jr.'s DUE DATE, also in SHERLOCK HOLMES (it's a stretch, but Downey was not playing it straight), and the upcoming YOGI BEAR. There are probably others (older ones, like OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE), but I can't think of them now.

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Movie Musings
Every other Tuesday

Thoughts, observations, conjectures, complaints about movies and mostly how they relate to me personally. If you're looking for something a little broader, try Ebert.

Other Columns
Other columns by Tim Josephs:

So Long 2013, and MatchFlickers!

The Season for Peace, Presents, & Puncture Wounds

Women are Once Again Kicking Ass

Chewing the Scenery

The Greatest President We Never Had

All Columns

Tim Josephs
Born to write (literally much to the displeasure of his mother, he emerged with a pencil clutched in one tiny fist), Tim spends most of his days crafting epic monosyllabic poems, new comical titles to his favorite Beatles' songs (Hey, Dude), and angry letters to local businesses that have wronged him in some way. He's really an okay guy once you get to know him.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Tim Josephs by clicking here.

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