Ben Stiller was honored with the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy at the 19th annual Brittania Awards on Wednesday night, but before the ceremony, Stiller spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about some comedy-related subjects, including whether comedy should have its own category at The Academy Awards. He vacillated on the question, but did acknowledge the lack of recognition comedians receive from the annual scorecard. As Stiller put it:
"In terms of the Oscars, it's just too bad that comedies don't get recognized. It just seems like there's this huge hole there where there's no recognition for people who over the years — and this is for years and years, you know — have been doing such great work. So I don't know if the solution is a new category or not."
I'm surprised Stiller didn't plump harder for such a category, considering Permanent Midnight was probably his best shot at taking home a statuette, and that wasn't gonna happen. He did point out the comedy love shown by the looser Golden Globes (who instituted a Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category in 1952), saying:
"It's great for comedies that the Globes exist in that way –that there's more of an opening to see them get recognized. Though I don't know if everybody feels like the musical and comedy categories always should go together, I think it 's better than not having any recognition whatsoever for these people who really deserve it."
Yeah, that packaging of musicals and comedies together I never really got. Stiller's words follow recent remarks made by Judd Apatow as part of an L.A. Times panel event where the Knocked Up director made clear his desire for an Oscars comedy category. Apatow had said, "If comedy is not included, ever, it's been like five times in a zillion years that it's won Best Picture, then it doesn't seem like it's screwing up Schindler's List for Hangover to have its own category."
There are various reasons why comedy doesn't have its own category at the Oscars, the subjectivity of comedy not least among them, but it's worth discussing. No one wants to see a watered-down Oscars like the Grammys have become, whatever the cinematic equivalent of Jethro Tull winning a Metal Grammy is, but animation did get their own category ten years ago. Of course, the issue of horror and sci-fi and all the rest being ghettoized then pops up. But we can't have an Oscars telecast that lasts longer than the original, uncut version of Bertolucci's 1900, if not a Major League Baseball game.
The last real comedy to win a Best Picture Oscar was probably Annie Hall (unless you count lighter fare like Forrest Gump or Shakespeare in Love), and even that wasn't a broad comedy. What does everyone think, should the Dangerfield-esque lack of respect for comedies continue, or do you like the sound of the words "Oscar-winning" before movies like Anchorman and Bridesmaids? (Just random examples.)