THINKING COMEDY: MELISSA MCCARTHY
In the sixth of our series Thinking Comedy, film comic Melissa McCarthy talks about comedy and instinct.
I suppose I’ve always been a very instinctive comedian. When I worked on the Gilmore Girls our director would occasionally go through a scene and look for the jokes. I didn’t really like that.
If I have a character and the character is funny then the jokes organically emerge from that reality. In this sense, I’m a very Nietzschean comedian. I suspect the rational and go for a more Dionysian freaky angle. Bridesmaids – the scene where we’re all throwing up and shitting – thinking that through it isn’t probably what you would want to show on screen. But that gross out moment speaks to the animal within us, the wildness which lurks beneath the veneer of civilisation with which we coat ourselves. Ultimately, we laugh because it is what we secretly want and yet cannot admit.
Take the Jason Bateman comedy Identity Thief. Many people told me that the film was probably not going to work. The script was weak and we were always going to have to work towards the gags. Jason is – unlike me – very thoughtful and rational when it comes to the work. So he was always saying ‘This is awful, this is going to be an absolute disaster.’ I was far more relaxed. ‘Yes,’ I told him. ‘It might well turn out as funny as a Chinese mining disaster. But at least we’ll have fun.’ And I went for it. As it turned out, there was a Chinese mining disaster coinciding with the release date and I think even the film’s harshest critics would be pushed to find the mining disaster ‘funnier’.
With Tammy we decided to root everything in the character and for me it works. My hope is not only that people will be entertained but they’ll feel the beast within them stir.