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BRIDESMAIDS – COMEDY AT THE OSCARS

Traditionally the Oscars have not been a welcoming place for comedians, unless they made serious dramatic turns, ala Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting or Jim Carry in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The only comedians at the Oscars are usually the ones hosting and occasionally providing light entertainment in between the award speeches. Will Ferrell, Jack Black and John C. Reilly made their case for comedy at the 79th Academy Awards, back in 2008 with this great musical number…

This years nominations seem to indicate a change in attitude though…..Bridesmaids, the smash hit from 2011, has been nominated for 2 awards in Best Original Screenplay (Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo…both above) and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy)…both seem pretty strong contenders.

One of the writers of Bridesmaids, Kristen Wig, has always been a favourite comedian of mine. She’s been a huge player in the cast of US comedy mainstay, Saturday Night Live. The show is one of the longest running comedy shows (35 years) and has produced some of the biggest names in comedy Dan Akroyd, Jim Belushi, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell and list just keeps on going. Wiig has a great re-occurring sketch she performs with Fred Armison (From Portlandia), in which they use their superb improvisational sketch skills and make up lyrics on the spot. When they screw up, it just makes it even funnier…

Improvisation seems to be the key skill involved in the writing of Bridesmaids. A skill Kristen, and writing partner Annie Mumolo, are all too good at. Both honed their comedy foundations at the famous Groundlings Improv Theater, in LA. Annie Mumolo, puts it all into perspective….

Our only experience had been writing sketches, and sketches at the Groundlings are about six pages long. So in the very first draft, Kristen said, ‘OK, let’s think of it as 20 sketches, so we don’t get overwhelmed.’ That’s how we started, but then we took that draft and devoured it and kept really working on it for the next few years to make the turns stronger and the story funnier.

So who knows….maybe Bridesmaids could be the film which turns the tide for comedy at the Oscars. One day we may even see comic genius Will Ferrell give the most hilarious acceptance speech for best actor….well maybe best supporting actor….baby steps people.

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