Spacemen Three

World of Comedy Film Weekend

Three long months into winter, I could use a good laugh. Starting tonight, the World of Comedy Film Festival comes to my rescue with its sixth annual of mix of funny flicks from Canada and around the world.

"Programming for the festival is always a challenge," says World of Comedy Director Carla Nolan, "what makes one person laugh may not be funny at all to someone else and may even offend them". Having sorted through over 500 submissions for this year's lineup, Nolan explains that the fun of programming is "in finding those 'gems' that come together to create a festival with a variety of features and shorts, that elicit everything from a smile to an 'I can't believe I laughed at that!' belly laugh while catering to a whole variety of comedy tastes."

Carla answered my pressing questions about how vomiting, comedians, and "adult" humour fit into this festival.

Is there a gag that gets overused (for example, I've noticed that a lot of really funny shorts end with someone vomiting)?

There doesn't seem to be any one gag, at least none in the films we're showing this year, that make me say "oh please, not this again". However, as far as physical comedy goes, men getting hit in their privates does seem to be favorite gag amongst filmmakers - perhaps that's because the majority of comedy filmmakers are males. We try to stay away from films that rely on bodily function humour to get laughs at the expense of a good story line.

Are there themes in the program, or do you just pick the funniest films?

We don't choose specific themes - we just want the funniest films that explore the entire range of comedy from romantic comedies and satires, to dark, twisted humour, political commentary and even the silly. Comedy is the most subjective genre there is so we try to find something for every comedy taste. That being said, we find that every year some theme emerges from the entries - one year it was leprechauns, another it was circumcision and vasectomies [writer comment: I had difficulty finding links of interest here] and this year we received a lot of films that dealt with relationships, sex and romance.

I know some local stand-up comedians that make videos and play them during live shows. Are these turning up in the submission process, or are the films mostly coming from filmmakers?

The films submitted to the festival mostly come from filmmakers. We do get some films from sketch troupes, many of which are in the mockumentary vein. One of the challenges for sketch troupes is to find a way to make their comedy translate from a live show to the film medium both in style and in story... We do receive entries which have stand-up comedians as actors in narrative films or in documentaries. This year we're showing a great feature comedy/documentary, Certifiably Jonathan starring comedy icon Jonathan Winters with cameos from comics including Robin Williams, Sarah Silverman, Howie Mandel and Ryan Stiles as well as an animated short What Blows Up, Must Come Down with the voices of Louis Black and the legendary Jackie Mason.

Is the selection aimed at a broad audience, or do you lean more towards "adult" humour?

We definitely try to appeal to a broad audience. Some of the more 'adult' humour films (theme and language), especially for those who like their comedy with an edge, screen in our Shorts on the Line program at 9:30 PM on Saturday night. Every shorts screening has some films which are tamer and could be shown to a family audience as well as films with more mature themes. The festival demographics skew a bit older, say from people in their mid-twenties to senior citizens. We know from the experience of five previous festivals that our audience has a more sophisticated taste in humour - they want high production values, engaging story lines and plot twists and are not particularly interested in frat boy or puerile humour. Those types of films definitely have their audience but tend to skew more to the teenage demographic.

An Irish submission was one of my favorite selections from the preview set. In Hugh O'Conor's Spacemen Three, coworker relationships are strained very soon after takeoff... and the space mission goes on for months. Also in the opening program, The Deceitful Ones, a two-minuter by locals Paul Wensley and David Boyce uses voice-over on a public domain film from the 1950s for laughs (the synopsis for this film is "desperate men try to use an expired pizza coupon"). In the Shorts on the Line program, I got the giggles at My Deer Friend, the dramatic story of a series of events in a friendship between a man and a stuffed stag.

The festival leans towards shorts programs, which are great because if you don't like a film, another one will be on in a few minutes.

The World of Comedy Film Festival runs at Innis College's Town Hall Theatre, Friday February 27 through Sunday March 1.Still photo from Spacemen Three.

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