For this blog on the universal language of comedy, I watched the original film and adaptation of Death at a Funeral with nearly identical scripts to compare and contrast. The difficulty, and perhaps blessing, I found in writing this blog is the amount of similarities between the two which contributes to the idea of comedy as something easily translated from culture to culture and relatable to global audiences. If you haven’t seen either film, I’ll attach the trailers below:
Funerals are widely regarded as a time of depression, solace, and reflection on life and loved ones; Death at a Funeral flips the concept on its head and comedically confronts many of the battles extended families face when they are required to combine and interact. Comparing the trailers to one another displays many of the similarities between the original and remake while also delivering the basic premise for the film. A dysfunctional family gathers to celebrate their relative’s life and soon discover there are skeletons in the closet of the deceased — in case you didn’t catch it, Peter Dinklage plays the father’s lover in both films, which is a fun homage the American remake presents to fans of the original film.
As I searched for differences in the films, the only obvious one that came to mind is the contrasting cast. The 2007 version is made up of British actors, including Paul McCartney’s former girlfriend Jane Asher, and, of course, this results in dry, British delivery of the lines. Conversely, the 2010 version is made up of a primarily African American cast, save for the father’s lover and James Marsden, creating a different tone and delivery to the line. Depending on a person’s preference for British or African American humour, this is the best way of deciphering which version of the film is best.
I circle back to my original idea a few blogs back that the appreciation of comedy is based on experience above every other factor. Not all types of comedy are universally accepted by audiences. Some prefer gross-out humour, others prefer witty banter, and many Americans would do not enjoy the quirky, dry, and oftentimes dark British humour. The American adaptation removed a large portion of the swearing in the script, which proves there is a definite cultural difference in what is “acceptable.” However, the closeness in the adaptation of Death at a Funeral and its success does point to some sense of universality in comedy and what makes audiences laugh.
If you get a chance, please watch this episode of “On Story” about the universal language of comedy!