No really, can we?
While anyone outside of Hollywood doesn’t really take awards too seriously, they do, in many ways, acknowledge the craft of moviemaking in all different parts. Everything from the actors down to some Foley artist smacking a raw chicken in front of a mic in some soundstage somewhere (we formed an image of what a Foley Artist job looks like in our brains many moons ago and just assume they all do this still to this day).
But the one category they don’t seem to give any love to? Comedy movies. They get not a single distinction in the ceremony – no best comedy, no best comedic performance, and nothing about writing. Meanwhile, pretty much every other genre in the top 10 is celebrated with countless lists, has outcomes bet on, or is dissected for months on television, print, and every online forum leading up to the awards.
Here are a few reasons as to why the Oscars need a comedy category.
1 – It’s a popular genre
In 2017 alone 73 comedy films grossed over $780 million dollars at the box office, moving over 83 million total tickets making it the 6th most popular genre of the year. This is not even including other subgenres like “Dark Comedy” or the “Romantic Comedy” being included in that category.
2 – They use comedy to sell all other parts of their business
Oscar movies could be funny. We know this because filmmakers use the lighthearted part of the movies to sell a trailer or to show off the actor’s chops. But for some reason the academy can’t bring itself to make comedy its own category. All while being fine nominating comedic actors in dramatic roles, having comedians punch up scripts, or getting them to host their actual award show.
3 – It will validate the genre
By not giving the genre its own award, whether intentional or not, it says to the public that comedy isn’t a real profession or genre to strive. Many children say they want to be in film they grow up – director, producer, actor. But far less say they want to grow up to be a comedian. A job that often requires way more critical thinking, writing, and practice than the average person gives it credit for.
4 – It will make the awards ceremony more fun
The Grammys did something truly unique at this year’s awards show – they decided to air the award for Best Comedy Album. Giving the chance for them to parade out Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sarah Silverman to give the show lighter tones, and provide some laugh out lout moments. Now, imagine if someone like Bill Murray, Zach Galifianakis, or Richard Pryor would be able to make an acceptance speech?
5 – It’s tougher than anyone realizes to make a good comedy
Comedy is all about the element of surprise and when it works, it really works. This is also a fundamental reason most comedy sequels don’t work, once you know the movie’s beats, the jokes don’t hit as hard (looking at you The Hangover II and III).
A comedy movie is literally judged on one thing and one thing only… did it make you laugh. Even the crappiest drama or adventure flick can earn Oscar noms, as long as it looks pretty or sounded great. Comedy movies live or die by the jokes and their timing. Funny is a tightrope, drama is like a sidewalk.
Many famous actors have gone on record to state how much more difficult comedy was than a drama. Michael Cain famously said “comedy is underrepresented in every actor’s life because it’s so bloody difficult to write.” Julianne Moore said that drama needs emotional truth and comedy needs emotional truth and technique on top of it.
While it’s entirely possible that Hollywood doesn’t churn out the comedies because they historically don’t do as well overseas. The Academy has no such need to thumb its nose at the genre. They’ve never really paid much service to high-grossing films because it’s not a metric that determines quality.
If the Academy Awards view themselves as a representation of the best that film has to offer, perhaps it’s time they embraced a well-timed dick joke, the world seems ready for it.