“Laughter is the best medicine.”
Certainly, many people find solace from their troubles in lighthearted comedies. But a comedy that offers an escape for a couple of hours is more of a temporary relief rather than a cure, and once the laughter fades away, the unadorned sound of a silent reality creeps back in. However, a film or series that can put existential drama within the context of a bigger, oddly funny picture, colored with the entire palette of human emotions, is the type of cinematic experience with real healing power. ‘Dramedies’ and dark comedies that don’t make you forget your drama, but help you reevaluate it and capture some of its bitter-sweet beauty fits that mold.
Boston Legal is a unique and elusive blend of comedy and drama that won people over with its overarching, wondrous positivity, and classic tale of prevailing against all odds without a trace of cheesiness. The special and unusual friendship between the two protagonists (the big-time lawyers Denny Crane and Alan Shore), is the lifeline of the story, reminiscent of the spontaneous connection which usually arises only between children.
Somehow, the unique combination of the two friends’ characters…can give anything a positive spin that never comes at the expense of thoughtful takeaways.
Denny Crane and Alan Shore are like two grown kids whose sense of wonder and ability to find joy and solace in each other’s company always culminates in their sacred ritual at the end of each and every episode – sharing a whiskey and a cigar on the office’s balcony, reflecting on the day’s events and life altogether. Somehow, the unique combination of the two friends’ characters, the larger-than-life legend Denny Crane who is slowly, but gloriously succumbing to Alzheimer, and the melancholic and seemingly cold Alan who simply melts whenever his best friend is around, can give anything a positive spin that never comes at the expense of thoughtful takeaways.
F Is for Family
Stand-up comedian Bill Burr showed that the maturity and depth of his comedy and general outlook can translate to a whole new source of entertainment which at times is as far away from comedy as possible. The fact that the animated series’ protagonist Frank is an amalgam of Burr’s and the other writers’ ’70s dads really shows in his honest and nuanced portrayal, skillfully devoid of too much embellishment or unnecessary nostalgia.
In fact, all the characters are imbued with different traits of the human personality which keep clashing, accelerated by the challenges of the era. This creates a lot of humorous, psychological, witty, and often pretty dark storylines, featuring messed up kids and their coming of age, the pressure on a father’s shoulders and how a wife helps from behind the scenes, lost hopes and dreams, the faint glimmer of new ones, fake friendships, and unlikely, but true kindness. Overall, the series couldn’t have a better name – it’s a show about family and human connection in all its beauty and ugliness.
…Bill Burr showed that the maturity and depth of his comedy and general outlook can translate to a whole new source of entertainment…
Bojack Horseman and Californication
It’s strange that two series can bear such a striking resemblance, considering that one of them features all kinds of anthropomorphic animals. Even though the two dramedies are centered around somewhat of a cliché – a washed-up artist who has everything a guy could ever wish for, yet barely anything that makes him happy – both series take us on journeys which people from many different walks of life may have been on at some point.
…in their long search for their missing pieces, they find drama, ugliness, darkness, lots of funny absurdities, and a drop of beauty here and there to keep them going.
The dramedies’ protagonists and supporting characters are all damaged in their own ways, and in their long search for their missing pieces, they find drama, ugliness, darkness, lots of funny absurdities, and a drop of beauty here and there to keep them going. It is those complex emotional mixes that make us root for the characters on their journeys and take a page from their battered books of unconventional wisdom. Maybe somewhat formulaic, but nevertheless, the shows offer enough color, humanity, humor, and existential takeaways to make it all feel unique and special.
In Bruges took dark comedies and dramedies on a whole new level. It’s probably either one of the funniest dark movies or one of the darkest funny movies ever. The cinematic world is cold and ruthless, following hitmen’s best practices and brutal set of rules.
This harsh environment makes the punchy humor all-the-more black and sarcastic, highly reminiscent of Guy Richie’s films. However, In Bruges is somehow imbued with an eerie sense of looming despondency, hanging over the main characters. Against its eerie backdrop, any hints of humanity and even faint chances of love feel even more tragic and doomed.
What makes In Bruges truly special is its characters. Every single one is complex and dubious, searching or at least bearing some slender hope of redemption which is hard to stay indifferent to. And as the name implies, the actual setting of the film, Bruges, Belgium, is like a character of its own, pervaded by gloom which somehow feels both hopeless and majestic at the same time.
It’s probably either one of the funniest dark movies or one of the darkest funny movies ever.
The Guard has one of the funniest opening scenes that perfectly sets its tone of unusual black humor. The protagonist is somewhat of a classic anti-hero whose wit and knack for careless and immoral fun, especially for a police officer, are his most undeniable qualities.
A truly funny film which still somehow manages to instill a sense of affinity for the protagonist, making us look for traces of his kindness and heroism right until the end.
Calvary and Seven Psychopaths are another two films worth mentioning because of their highly unusual plots and masterful executions. In fact, there’s a clear thread here – In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are both written and directed by Martin McDonagh, brother of John Michael McDonagh who wrote and directed both The Guard and Calvary.
Calvary is actually like a more dramatic version of In Bruges, with subtle humor, witty remarks, and a similar sense of doom, intensifying as the film goes on, whereas Seven Psychopaths is more of a crime comedy minus the drama. Either way, both films are definitely weird in a good way, truly unique, and simply awesome.
…a more dramatic version of In Bruges, with subtle humor, witty remarks, and a similar sense of doom…
Those dark comedies and dramedies are some special works of art, particularly suitable for special moods and even life periods. The kind of stories you’d love to see unfold when you’re not really sure where your own story is headed, and if it’s going to be a funny one or a sad one.
You might even be unsure of the kind of character you’re playing in your own film at the moment, if you’re a hero or an anti-hero, if you’d be someone you’d root for. Those films and series are filled with characters who, despite all their weirdness, or maybe even because of it, feel truly human and relatable, in both their good deeds and their bad ones. Complex characters who might help you make sense of your own.
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