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Top 10 Fascinating Facts From Classic Comedies – 2020

by R. Vega
fact checked by Jamie Frater

I would never want to live in a world without comedy. Whether intentionally idiotic or so snarky it goes over everyone’s head, a good laugh is medicine for the soul. This article is intended for readers who have seen these films. It is a pretty safe bet to assume that the majority of cinephile’s have seen these movies over and over again and could practically recite every line by heart, but these fun facts will add more depth to the viewing experience.

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10 The Jerk (1979)

The Jerk (1979) | Official Trailer | Screen Bites

The Jerk was Steve Martin’s firsts starring role of the 1970’s after his stand-up success. Directed by the brilliant Carl Reiner, the attitude on set was extremely laid-back which led to many wonderful unscripted scenes. Initially not knowing which direction to go with the film, Mr. Martin mentioned to the screenwriters that he had a great line from his act that always seemed to win the room. And that is where we get the famous opening line of the film “It wasn’t easy for me; I was born a poor black child in Mississippi…” which kicks off this absurdist comedy perfectly. The role of “Marie” was specifically written for Bernadette Peters, and Bill Murray surprisingly wound up on the cutting room floor as his scene was deleted in post-production. The coolest little gem about this film is that Stanley Kubrick was actually a huge fan and even invited Martin over to his house to play chess.[1]

9 Dumb & Dumber (1994)

Dumb & Dumber (1994) Official Trailer – Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels Comedy HD

1994 was a huge year for television star Jim Carrey. That year he released The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and by far one of the funniest movies of all time, Dumb & Dumber. Directed by the Farrelly Brothers, it’s almost impossible to not think of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as the leads. Believe it or not, Nicolas Cage and Gary Oldman were originally offered the parts and the original draft of the script is known in the screenwriting world for how disorganized it was. After the Farrelly Brothers over it was named A Power Tool is Not a Toy. The movie was unapologetically rejected from every major studio until New Line jumped in and Carrey got on board. Daniels had just finished filming Speed and the studio hated the idea of him being in a silly comedy so they tried to cut him, but Carrey staunchly defended Daniels and threatened to leave the project unless Daniels was Harry. Carrey’s tooth is also cracked in real life, he had a dentist remove the cap for filming.[2]

8 Coming to America (1988)

Coming to America (1988) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

This comedy classic is fascinating because due to scheduling conflicts, the studio green-lit the film and set a release date before post-production even began. Directed by John Landis, who had worked with Eddie Murphy previously in Trading Places, the film got off to a very rocky start. Anybody with knowledge of the industry in the 1980s will tell you that this was the film where Murphy let his ego get to his head. Landis was used to a humbler Murphy, but on this production, with all the time constraints, Eddie decided that he was going to let everybody know he was a superstar and even once ordered a $235 McDonald’s breakfast. The stress level on set was also so intense that Murphy has publicly stated it was the first and last time he ever had an alcoholic beverage. Things were getting so heated between him and Landis that Arsenio Hall recommended that he have a little bit of Absolut vodka, which he chugged immediately and wound up hugging the toilet minutes later. Murphy and Landis would later resolve their issues and become friends again, with Landis directing Eddie in Beverly Hills Cop 3. On a lighter note, they had Paula Abdul choreograph the wedding dance scene.[3]

7 Caddyshack (1980)

Caddyshack (1980) Official Trailer – Chevy Chase Movie

Harold Ramis’ first directorial debut is a product of a 250-page script and hours of improvisation from an extremely talented, but mostly inebriated cast. Ramis admitted that he didn’t know what he was doing during production. This was also the very first feature film for legendary stand-up comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. The lovable Mr. Dangerfield was so green on a set that he thought he was doing a terrible job because nobody was laughing at his jokes. He literally needed to be reminded that if a crew member did laugh at one of his jokes, it would’ve ruined the take. This was around the time that Bill Murray had just replaced Chevy Chase as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and Chase wasn’t thrilled. However, this tension was broken by the amount of alcohol and drug consumption on set. Murray, whose role of Carl was actually supposed to be completely silent, was said to conjure some of his improv genius with the help of booze and was regularly found passed-out in sand-pits on the golf course. The studio convinced a country club in South Florida to let them film the movie there. Multiple interviews with cast members detail the amount of cocaine on set. But between the late night golf-cart races and rampant drug abuse, Ramis was able to get the movie completed.[4]

6 The Waterboy (1998)

The Waterboy (1998) – Official Trailer – Adam Sandler Movie

This Adam Sandler essential, directed by Frank Coraci, was initially intended to be shot in black-and-white as a dark comedy in New England, but it was instead filmed in Florida. The character Bobby Boucher was inspired by Sandler‘s SNL character, Cajun Man. Despite all of the classics made about sports over decades, The Waterboy was actually the highest-grossing sports film of all time until The Blindside came out. Additionally, people think that Henry Winkler was doing Sandler a favor by being in the movie, but in reality it was actually a major boost for him. Winkler agreed to the role only because he was a fan of Sandler‘s Chanukah Song where he’s name-dropped. His performance as Coach Klein lead to plenty of exposure generationally and made him a household name with Happy Madison Productions. Then there’s Kathy Bates. Bates’ agent didn’t want her to even look at the script, but because the studio made an official offer she legally had to see the script and after 12 pages she threw it in the trash. It was actually her niece who dug the script out of the trash noticing Sandler’s name.[5]

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5 Anchorman (2004)

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Directed by Adam McKay, the idea for the film was spawned when both he and Will Ferrell saw a clip of a 1970s news anchor. The original draft for the script was bonkers. Ferrell and McKay originally wanted to have Ron fight ninja monkeys in the jungle in a spoof of the drama Alive. Famed director Paul Thomas Anderson was initially interested in helping, but once he took a look at the initial draft and saw a sequence where Ron had a musical number with a bunch of sharks, he politely cut his ties with the movie. The movie is also not shot in San Diego, it is actually shot in L.A. County. The initial cast aside from Ferrell as Burgundy was dramatically different. The lineup had Leslie Mann as Veronica Corningstone, Chris Parnell (who played Garth) was supposed to be Brick, Dan Aykroyd was supposed to be Garth, Ben Stiller as Brian Fontana, Ed Harris as Ed Harkin, and John C Reilly was supposed to be Champ. Ferrell was a huge fan of Reilly, but he had to step away as he signed with Scorsese for The Aviator. But Reilly made sure to team back up and Ferrell and McKay with Talladega Nights. Lastly, that was actually Ferrell playing the flute. He has been playing since elementary school.[6]

4 Office Space (1999)

Office Space Trailer (02/19/1999)

The original concept for the brilliant comedy was based off of a short animation series about an office worker named Milton. When asked what the inspiration was for the concept, Mike Judge cited his time in the 1980s, in the Bay Area, having his soul sucked-out working as an engineer in a corporate hell-scape. Judge finished the first draft of the script right after the completion of the first season of King of the Hill. With his connections to Fox, he was able to wrangle together a few executives and have a table reading and he asked Stephen Root (who voiced Bill) to read a few of the characters. Judge and the executives were so taken by Root’s Milton that the part was offered immediately. The film could’ve gone in a completely different direction, as Fox wanted Ben Affleck to play Peter. One of the few push backs that Judge got would have changed the entire mood of the film as the executives hated the gangster rap throughout the film. But it was positive reactions from the test audience that revealed people could appreciate the absurdity of this boring corporate landscape with white-collar-drones listening to gangster rap. The movie also made office supply history, as the infamous red stapler was actually a discontinued color by Swingline. The prop used in the movie was actually custom-made and after the premiere, Swingline had to re-introduce the red stapler due to high-demand.[7]

3 Animal House (1978)

Animal House Official Trailer #1 – Tom Hulce, John Belushi Movie (1978) HD

This John Landis gem was originally supposed to be a satirical dark comedy loosely based on Charles Manson’s youth. National Lampoon, which back in the day was a humor publication like MAD magazine, got involved when it’s editor-in-chief matched up with Landis. The cast was supposed to be star-studded with Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd; but once the ball got rolling in post-production, both the producers and the stars themselves went different directions. The budget that Landis had was so minuscule there was no option to build expensive sets, so they would have to convince an actual college to let them film. The producers were rudely rejected by every single college in the USA except for one, the University of Oregon. With a new cast worked-out and a location to shoot, the young ensemble of actors decided to do a bit of research and attended a frat party. Karen Allen was apparently with the actors when a beer was spilled by mistake and the party crashers from Hollywood were chased out and beaten by the football team.[8]

2 The Big Lebowski (1998)

Official Trailer | The Big Lebowski | Screen Bites

This Coen Brothers directed hit was inspired by the Raymond Chandler novel The Big Sleep. The character of The Dude was based on a person named Jeff Dowd. Dowd helped them distribute their first film, was a member of The Seattle Seven, and referred to himself as “The Dude”. The Big Lebowski character was shopped around with some huge Hollywood names. The Coen’s wanted Marlon Brando for the role. The movie also has one of the highest F-bomb counts in film history at 260, but the film is also inducted with only 700 other films into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. It’s literally an American legend. The most interesting fact about the film is that the famous line “I hate the f*****g Eagles, man” led the Rolling Stones’ manager to waive the $150,000 licensing fee for Dead Flowers.[9]

1 Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Dr. Strangelove (1964) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Stanley Kubrick‘s only comedy is based on a book by Peter George called Red Alert. This film is at the top of the list for many reasons, mainly the feat of being a still relevant and hysterical film over a half century later. Between the tone and subject matter, the film can best be described as pitch-black humor. The film wasn’t even intended to be a drama. While Kubrick was adapting the novel into a screenplay, he couldn’t help but notice all the sick jokes. Eventually he stopped trying to avoid all of the unintentional humor and just went all-in on a comedy. Apparently while shooting, since both George and Stanley were chess masters, any creative differences would be solved with a quick game. The movie had two alternative endings. The first in which all of the politicians and generals get into a giant pie fight. The other one (which was never shot) was apparently going to show aliens watching all of these events unfold from outer space like a reality show. The latter would make a formidable ending to 2020.[10]

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fact checked by Jamie Frater