I wonder if Funny People underperformed for the exact same reason that Studio 60 got canceled. Both of them were good and entertaining. Maybe not amazing, but undoubtedly much better than other stuff that crushes. Yet both of them did way worse than things of far poorer quality.
In fact, you could probably throw Mr. Saturday Night and Punchline into this category as well. All of them were letdowns because they’re about comedians who weren’t being funny. And you know what does succeed? Comedians being funny.
Something about this seems obvious.
A comedian being dramatic seems kind of similar to hiring a plumber to fix your broken toilet and instead he sits in your living room and tells you about his emotional core that fuels the life choices that made him become a plumber.
And as a failed comedian, I completely understand the motivation behind wanting to be dramatic. You write a joke, get on stage and tell it over and over. After a while you want to do something else, and tell people something other than a joke. But no one wants to hear it.
This is why comedy clubs, jazz clubs and poetry clubs are SEPARATE PLACES. The best comedians are the ones who have nothing emotional about them and all they do is make fun of everything. This is why the best comics are bitter and soulless, because they don’t care about anything. As soon as a comic gets emotional and dramatic about stuff, it’s less funny.
Louis CK is hilarious because he talked on stage about how much he hated his wife and kids, and now he’s divorced and still hilarious. Dave Attell, bitter alcoholic, hilarious. Sobers up, still funny, but a hair less. The entire point of a comedian is to be funny and as soon as they do anything else, no one cares. Yeah, that sucks, but it’s the comedian’s job.
This is why 90% of stand-up comedians’ first movie scripts are about – guess what? – a stand-up comedian who is dealing with shit and has to get dramatic and be taken seriously. Every fifteen years or so, studios forget that those movies tank and someone with enough clout comes along to get one made, so everyone gets this, “It’ll work this time” mentality. And it doesn’t. If you’re a comedian, do your job, be funny.
Get your dramatic feel-good movie out of my dick jokes.