People’s hunger for comedy shorts, whether they be sketches, web videos, actual in-depth produced short films, is undeniably on the rise. The viral video alone, arguably, has given a shot of life into comedy that has revitalized several other disciplines within the art form. So, why not have an entire festival for it? In it’s 4th year, the LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival fills that void quite well over a scheduled, jam-packed 4 day extravaganza out of the Downtown Independent Theater (an LA destination for comedy, which also houses the amazing weekly stand-up show, Holy Fuck, and monthly comedy shorts screening series, Channel 101).
Under the guidance of Gary Anthony Williams, Jeannie Roshar, and Ryan Higman, a careful selection of films that has included the likes of Scott Thompson, David Alan Grier, Margaret Cho, and more have been screened to filmmakers, industry, and comedy fans alike. Funny or Die even put up a block of their own FOD Exclusives on opening night to lend even more legitimacy to a festival of comedy shorts, despite being plenty “legit” with being the largest comedy film festival in the U.S.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened on Days 1 and 2:
-Interestingly enough, the Funny or Die block of videos had been all available for watching online for at least a week, if not a few months, but got uproarious laughter. There’s something to be said for the longevity of the approximately 3 min. comedy short film and the desire to watch and, consequently, laugh again at it.
-As said before, there’s a lot of star power to be seen here at the LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival. We’ve seen, in films, anyone from Scott Thompson to his Kids in the Hall co-star Dave Foley to Michael Cera to Margaret Cho twice to Wilmer Valderrama to David Alan Grier to even Morgan Spurlock & Ken Burns in the funny meta mockumentary Glue Man by Joe Pickett. Even though Funny or Die has set the precedent, it’s great seeing comedy big names doing short films.
-There have been plenty of selections from around the world, even so far as Australia, such as Nathan Lovejoy’s funny and endearing Animal Love that’s refreshing to see in a city so saturated in comedy.
-A surprising amount of non-dialogue (or barely any dialogue) shorts played quite well such as Gareth Tunley’s Special Forces (two special forces operatives can’t communicate quietly).
-The shorter has proved the better. Three of our favorite films thus far, Tony Yacenda’s Last Words (the disputing of a civil war hero’s last words), Adam Jones’ The Stay-At-Home Dad: Eat My Meat, and Jason Axinn’s Runyon (two “bros” running into each other in Runyon Canyon) are well under 5 minutes and played to big laughs.
-The panel with legendary comedy writer (SNL, Get Smart), Buck Henry, (even though he claims, “everyone in Hollywood is legendary) was fascinating as he dissected the ending of the Graduate, which he wrote. Apparently, Mike Nichols wished to have an ending that continued on-going internal generational struggle with Benjamin as he was on the bus with Elaine by giving no specific direction to the actors and having the camera roll out on the final shot. The author of the original novel Charles Webb abhorred the ending.
-Another great Buck Henry quote "I never mentioned the word ‘satire’ around Columbia [Pictures] or any other studio because it was a deal killer.”
-Thugs the Musical by Kevin Avery was astounding. Questioning the entertainment industry’s current take on black actors, Avery made an entire musical for marginalized black actors that don’t feel “ghetto” enough for the roles that black actors normally get. Hilarious, poignant, and thought provoking, it’s one of the best shorts we’ve seen so far.
We’re almost running late on a screening for Day 3, so, as you can read, there’s definitely more to come from the wonderful LA Comedy Shorts Festival.