That's Not Funny
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That's Not Funny

2014, Media  -   51 Comments
Ratings: 7.95/10 from 212 users.

The history of the comedic form, and its unique ability to help us process what is most taboo and controversial in our society, serves as the basis for That's Not Funny, a smart and breezy feature-length documentary which calls for a reexamination of comedy's true purpose in the modern age.

Since the days of vaudeville, comedy has aimed at inciting conversation and deeper thought on a host of socially unacceptable topics. So why is our modern society so easily offended by the humor they see on their televisions, cinema screens and theatrical stages? Filmmaker and comedy enthusiast Mike Celestino wanted to know, so he set out to craft a film which explores our evolving relationship to comedy and its relationship to us.

Comedy is everywhere, observes Celestino. We use it to break tension, to point out hypocrisy, and even to convey the news. Indeed, comedy permeates our everyday lives and it remains one of our most universally popular art forms. But as its prominence continues to thrive, so does its propensity to inspire shock and offense among many of its consumers.

As explained in the film, this is far from a new phenomenon. In 1940, filmmaker Charlie Chaplin released The Great Dictator, a controversial skewering of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Scandalized audiences of the day criticized Chaplin for making light of real-life atrocities. The same dynamic occurred with the rise of the modern comedian in the late 1960’s – emblemized by figures like George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor - as they riffed on a range of sensitive topics as varied as religion, relationships, politics and the social ills of the day.

In each of these cases, the artist was unfairly maligned by a public which failed to recognize the true intention of the art. As argued by Celestino, the power of comedy lies in its capacity to expose the absurdity of everything around us, especially in those subjects we find most uncomfortable, and to point the way towards solutions and improvements through sharp, witty and enlightening observation. After all, what better way is there to combat the truly horrible and victimizing elements of society than to laugh at them?

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James Oliver
5 years ago

Somebody wrote that it would be hard for the them to imagine Mike Celestino doing comedy ;;;;; personally as a 15 gigs in comic I would look forward to seeing it. I would imagine quite deadpan with clever jokes ,,,, I always equate comics as intelligent people,,, But I'm not sure why,,,,,,, Anyway I recon your show is probably too clever for a few Mike coz your doc was for sure ,,,, well done and thankyou for having the balls ,, I love it when people tell me stuff I don't already know ,,,,,

5 years ago

This guy assumes we’re dumb! He learned how but doesn’t have the “to” for a doc. My entire 30+ years (age 12 and forever after) i’ve Wanted to make my own documentary but always see them and say, “I don’t think I can do that” but watching this! . . . ‘
“**** yah, I can do better than that!” I’ll begin with ‘Sorry’ but the marks brothers? B comedy held along luie CK and others? Really?

Daniel Sorkin
5 years ago

Very articulate, intelligently done documentary. If anything maybe TOO sincere. I kept waiting for the host to crack a joke or throw in a funny line, but he played it completely straight. I see above he put in a funny comment or two so we know that he can do it when he wants to.

6 years ago

Thanks. Great documentary.

6 years ago

This should not be listed under comedy. It's not funny.

6 years ago

Interesting that Hitler has been so routinely mocked and so easily identified by his stupid mustache, guess the 21st century leader to be most mocked will be Trump with his easily identifiable stupid hairdo.

6 years ago

What @Chip said - 100%! Nice job Mike Celestino

7 years ago

Needs more cowbell.

7 years ago

This was really good! Actually, the narrator's looking as if he's about to cry, and not cracking a smile, is exactly what it's all about, this thing that is so, so funny, this comedy thing we cannot live without! There is something weird about the human condition that is terribly funny and also terribly agonising, but naturally we all want to run to the funny part and laugh. So, good comedy is picking up the funny part, the real salt, putting a good punch in it to minds drugged on isms and plastered over with labels , a punch like pepper, and a generous pinch of sugar, which is simple kindness or loving-kindness or ahimsa (non-injury) ...We have to remember that most humans have a delicate digestion for truths that are served up too plain and raw... and there are many many young tender children out there..Comedy should make them laugh, think, feel.

7 years ago

Doc exuded sensitivity to freedom of speech/expression/comedy, while educating me on the history of humor. The creator didn't seem to lose sight of the value of caring for other people while leaving room for easing ills through laughter. That, it seems to me, is a good cocktail for not cramping the style of the human condition; a universal circumstance of diverse freedom for every one of the me's and the you's.

P.S His VERY boring narrative style created a contrast that left room for free thought.

7 years ago

Good one . Would be much nicer if his voice didn't sound like he's about to cry at any given time ;)

7 years ago

In the end regardless of what anyone says or does we must realize we are responsible for our actions no matter what they may be. Actions can bring about good things or extremely bad things. Please analyze your actions and critique what you are doing, If everyone takes care of themselves then we realize we don't need to get involved in "Issues" that are not presented to us in the proper context.

Renata Ym
7 years ago

Good subject, but not good comedian/director. The documentary was kind of boring.

Phil Dubuque
7 years ago

Mike, you did a great job. I enjoyed the entire presentation. Even the title "That's Not Funny" has a useful double meaning. The analysis of comedy is never funny in itself. After all, we can either find out why a joke is funny or, we can just find it funny - it's one or the other but not both.
Thanks for a well thought out and very well presented film.

7 years ago

Contrary, to the views of some (SAM!!!!!), comedy is not meant to be pointless, or only for amusement. Beyond fart jokes and slapstick it's actually an artform that is meant to challenge the absurdity of our safe little boxes. The best comics or comedic writers are those that made us look inward and say "That's F'ed Up, what was I thinking?". Ironically the funniest comedians are the ones that are pointing the finger back at us.

"If I don't laugh, I'll cry." John Stewart understood this. He needed to educate as too how stupid our leaders were, but kissed the booboo by making us laugh.

To paraphrase the BeeGees, "We started a joke.....

7 years ago

works well as a "primer" on the history of the (US) "comedy industry", but...I found it a bit "preachy"...I gave it six stars – videos are getting too many stars in general, it seems, scores are too high...too much praise...
Was interesting to see George Carlin (my favorite) in various performances I had never seen...
He said many things that are very, very important, but I doubt the American audiences truly "gets it"...(which is why he could say what he did!)
Today, comedy is very much "leashed" in the US, has to be, in a totalitarian society...evidence? – ....saturday night live...what more do you need...? – It's dead...(it died after "9/11" when the police state became more explicit...)
...I don't think the "serious" narrator of this documentary agrees with all....

7 years ago

Surprise Don Rickles, comedian was not included. I suggest a segment on foreing comedy. Some is good some is simply bad. Recently I tried very hard to laugh at Resorte a well known Mexican comedian. I laughed once. The movie ( in Spanish was not funny probably made in the 1930. Is there such a thing as "sophisticated" comedy. PS grateful to mom for briging us to live in the U.S.A. It was hard for me and my grandmother my beloved grandma was very funny and she was always asking me to translate Carol Burnett, Comedian. I can say love comedy. My top 4 comedians are: George Carlin Richard Pryor (I never met Lenny Bruce rather never heard him) my favorite comedian is Robert Klein and my late mother Norma Alvarez Tio Rolando (uncle) aunt Ana uncle Neguin & Marco. Thanks

7 years ago

I had an older nurse lady friend who would say, "Somebody rape me...!" Indicating she hadn't had a boyfriend in awhile.

Not that I condone it but face it, the Germans were just getting rid of the competition, just like the jealous nazi islamos want to do. Yet the brilliant sensitive types have muslim sensitivity experience in usa schools? How many did Genghis Khan off just for the fun of it? Alexander the Great? Persian armies... The Vikings? Napoleon? Soviets? USA? African War Lords? Why aren't the sensitives throwing darts at all the rest of the war mongers since Pharaoh?

Big fan of comedians who make fun of folks who are too sensitive. Jezelnik does an interesting job of that but George Carlin was great in so many areas.

As for Celestino, wish you'd let the comedians do more of the talking for you.
I know, right back at me. Which is fine.

jackie freitas
7 years ago

Btw...I'm German but I'm not a Nazi. I caused no pain to millions of people. But a lot of them sure as fu*k did. So, you're actually stating a fact.
What's the problem...??

jackie freitas
7 years ago

LOVED this.....I, literally, agree with everything you said.
Viva la Doug Stanhope!!
p.s. Patrice O'neal had funny rape jokes

8 years ago

Good documentary! Very well done and contains some excellent points. I really enjoyed it.

8 years ago

In the video it says, "Either everything is ok or nothing is ok."

I vote for everything.

8 years ago

A lot of the feedback I've read has been negative, which I think is lame. He provided a very insightful, informative synopsis into the history of comedy, which I appreciate and learned a lot from. To the woman who states: 'In fact, his overall stance seems to be that historic edgy comedy was terrible because people got hurt, but today's edgy comedy needs to be free.' <--- I don't know what that is. I don't think he devalued "historic edgy comedy" at all, and often times he reputed it as the gateway to the comedy of now (such as Lenny Bruce toeing that controversy line).

It seems like a lot of whiners on the comments page missed the whole point he was making initially. We do not, as individuals, get to decide what "indecency" means for an entire society. To the guy that got all huffy when Mike said, "If anyone knows about inflicting pain, it's the Germans" - you can suck it. This was exactly what he meant - people have different boundaries, are insulted/offended by different things, but ultimately, some people really do find relief in the (as you see it, 'offensive') joke, and you can go railing on about rights and being offended, but it doesn't make any difference. Honestly, health-wise, the more you can laugh at, the better off you are.

8 years ago

Is this The Residents in the film's beginning, around 3 minutes in? If so...awesome, awesome.

8 years ago

A rapist, a woman and a comedian walk into a bar. The bartender looks at one of them and says, "We don't serve your kind." The comedian gets up and leaves. The rapist, surprised, turns to the woman and asks her what that was about. She replies, "He was going to tell a rape joke."

8 years ago

I didn't think there was a good principle being argued here. Celestino agrees with the majority opinion that 1930s blackface was not funny because 20th century racism actually harmed black people, but later he says it's okay for South Park to use the word "nigger" because we all understand that it's examining the concept of racism and/or "gently poking fun of our differences." What's the real difference though?All I can see is that it's that Celestino finds South Park funny, but not blackface. In fact, his overall stance seems to be that historic edgy comedy was terrible because people got hurt, but today's edgy comedy needs to be free. So he twists himself around both "everything is okay or nothing is" AND the contradictory stance that Birth of a Nation was not okay. Questionable.

In the end, he's deeply offended by people being offended. YAWN. Please save it for when comics are actually being censored, and then I'll stand right beside him and call for a massive change. I don't agree with him that people shouldn't be allowed to say they don't want to hear homophobia, racism, sexism, etc. They are not saying that NOBODY should, (and no one is actually being censored), they are just expressing their opinions. Which he also says is a good thing, unless they are stupid moms who don't get the joke. Ugh. Downvoted!

8 years ago

The problem is comedy can be used to oppress as well as enlighten.

For example the all to familiar trope of Transexuals lurking in the dark corners of bars looking to seduce unsuspecting young men. Or the Old black and white minstrels.

It's BS like that which engenders stereotypes and dehumanises people...It's not witty, it's not clever, it's not funny. Especially when you take into account how many people in those communities are murdered every year because of those ancient stereotypes and the equally ancient mentalities that latch onto them.

For example there's a difference between Billy Connolly and Chubby Brown, Both are incredibly offensive, but one of them is actually funny and talented and can transgress cultures and generations because of it. Whilst the other is a gross dinosaur who relies entirely on stereotypes and ignorant audiences of increasingly old white men, to the point where he himself has become a literal caricature of everything wrong in comedy.

Fair enough everything is on the table with comedy, nothing is sacred...but that doesn't mean there still aren't standards or that everything can be funny.

Times move on, and it isn't "PC gone mad" to get offended when somebody drags up some decrepid stereotype from an ignorant age to get a cheap laugh from idiots.

8 years ago

This is another propaganda video on Top Documentary Films. It is slanted in such a way, that it follows a lot of the typical historical brainwashing pap. Additionally, comedy and satire about Jews and their religious beliefs is pretty much nonexistent in this supposedly uncensored piece. The emphasis on Hitler and German slights, the emphasis on satires on Christianity make me think this guy is not very bright. But after all, the victors write the history. The school system and Hollywood are not revealing their underlying agenda.

Babak Golshahi
8 years ago

I didn't like the music, the overly serious and clinical tone, or the bland, unnatural, forced presentation.

Loosen up man, you're dissecting comedy in the boring way possible and framing it as if you need your viewer to understand YOU and not the material you are talking about.

Other than that I reallly enjoyed this

Don Duncan
8 years ago

I take freedom, especially freedom of expression, seriously. So does Mike, when he says: "I am offended by people who get offended and want suppression." (I paraphrase.) Censorship is the opposite of freedom of speech. It requires the threat of or initiation of force. Without force, no censorship is possible. Who uses force as a primary means of social control? Govt. Who makes govt. possible? Everyone who believes in force over reason, and supports its implementation as a necessary evil, hoping it can be "limited" as in "limited govt.". The dream of using force to create the society you want, but hoping force will never be used against you, against your values, is to support a world of dog-eat-dog, a world with no respect for any beliefs except the current ruler's. It is a society without rights. I support a voluntarist society, a society where pushing others around by force or threat thereof is not tolerated. Comedy is a non-violent way to share ideas, consistent with a voluntary society.

8 years ago

yeah, this was a good explanation of comedy, and well timed, political correctness is running rampant, but kind of clinical.

8 years ago

Hard to imagine Celestino on stage doing stand-up comedy.

8 years ago

Great subject, but not very funny.
9:45: "if anyone knows about inflicting pain it is the Germans".
What is that supposed to mean? Isn't that a kind of a racist thing to say?

8 years ago

Comedy is meant to humor and people who are offended tend to take it too seriously rather than what it is, someone elses idea that they find that may be humorous to you as well.