Bobby Farrelly has spent a quarter century in comedy, and the co-director of films like “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary” says the world’s sense of humor has become increasingly touchy.
“People are very thin-skinned about a lot of subjects,” he said, speaking at Idaho’s Sun Valley Film Festival, held March 15-19. “You can’t even joke about them. These aren’t the days of Lenny Bruce, when you could try a bunch of different things and break rules. Now, people are sensitive. But I think it’ll change. It’s a cyclical thing. Someone will come along who’s doing it differently, a modern-day Joan Rivers who can make people laugh about being sensitive.”
Another change Farrelly noted is the shrinking number of names that matter as comedy box office draws. It’s a list that doesn’t include men who once toplined Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s movies, like Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Jim Carrey.
“They don’t make very many comedies anymore, if you look at the marketplace,” he said. “Comedies are really the one thing that’s gone by the wayside. There’s only a few people that mean anything in the world of comedy nowadays. Mainly, it’s women, the Melissa McCarthys. And they’re hysterical,” Farrelly said.
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The Farrelly Bros. were also standard bearers for that now-endangered species, the mid-range movie; none of their films cost over $40 million to make. “We were never big-budget movies, but we’re not low-budget either,” he said. “Those are the movies that have been kind of kicked to the curb right now. Some other stories just really aren’t being told like they were 10 or 15 years ago.”
Farrelly also gave the audience a few choice anecdotes, including Cameron Diaz’s infamous “hair gel” scene from “There’s Something About Mary.” He and his brother made a deal with Diaz: “We told her, ‘We’ll show it to an audience, we will let you sit behind us and if they do not guffaw laughing, we’ll take it right out of the movie. But if they do, that’s what we’re trying to do,’” he said.
Like any genre, great performances in comedy rely on comfort and trust. “I hope that they feel a safety net, that if the movie stinks, it’s not on them, it’s on us. It gives them the freedom to be fearless. We want them to know that they can try anything and they won’t get blamed. We will,” Farrelly said, adding with a smile, “And we have.”
Looking forward, Farrelly discussed producing Jenna Laurenzo’s debut film “Lez Bomb,” which he hopes to screen at festivals this year. He also shared a few details from his and Peter’s in-the-works musical, based on “There’s Something About Mary.” Most of their career has been built on surprising people and this is one case where the story may be familiar, but their contributions won’t be.
“We don’t want to tell it beat for beat exactly the same, but it’s generally the same story. We’re writing all the lyrics now, and it’s a little challenging. But it’s a lot of fun,” Farrelly said.