'Brittany Runs a Marathon' director: Comedy must become 'more human' in 'woke' era

Tom Beasley

Brittany Runs a Marathon director Paul Downs Colaizzo has disagreed with Joker director Todd Phillips’ recent comments claiming that “woke culture” has put an end to comedy.

Colaizzo, who is making his feature debut with the comedy-drama, said that funny movies simply need to be “a lot more empathetic and filled with compassion” in an era of increased scrutiny via social media.

Brittany star Jillian Bell added that she is “done with” the brand of comedy which punches down on those deemed to be different from the norm.

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Phillips, who directed the Hangover trilogy before stepping up to helm the dark take on Batman’s arch-nemesis, said last month that it’s impossible to be funny in the modern world.

He told Vanity Fair: “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore — I’ll tell you why, because all the f***ing funny guys are like: ‘F*** this s***, because I don’t want to offend you.’”

Todd Phillips on stage during an official Academy screening of "Joker" on October 3, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences )

Colaizzo, however, told Yahoo Movies UK he believes the change in comedy is simply a reaction to the fact that the image of a straight white male is no longer the “spine of our culture”.

He said: “As a world, I'm grateful for the fact that we're moving off of that. When that was the spine, anything off of that spine was considered funny.

“Making fun of somebody for their gender or their sexual orientation or their race was allowed because it was off of centre.

“Now that we're redefining what centre is, I think humour has to become a lot more human and a lot more empathetic and filled with compassion. I think it's totally possible and exciting to find the mix of those worlds.”

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Brittany Runs a Marathon follows the title character, played by Bell, as she pursues running in an attempt to improve her fitness after a doctor tells her she’s at serious risk of health problems.

Jillian Bell portrays the lead role in comedy-drama 'Brittany Runs a Marathon'.

She takes a role as a pet-sitter and ends up living with fellow pet-sitter Jern (Pitch Perfect’s Utkarsh Ambudkar) as they both try to piece their lives back together.

Bell said she is particularly annoyed by the prevalence in cinema and TV of easy jokes aimed at overweight people, with prosthetics often used to joke about how fat characters used to be.

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“I'm so sick of that message,” the 35-year-old 22 Jump Street star said. “I was so protective with Paul, and he was great about it too, about coming together and just saying: ‘If she is making fun of herself or doing some kind of a joke, let's be careful of what we're doing’.

“We're both very protective of her. We've seen that before and I'm just done with it.”

Paul Downs Colaizzo and Jillian Bell attend "Brittany Runs a Marathon" UK Premiere on October 23, 2019. (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)

Brittany Runs a Marathon debuted to strong reviews at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and Colaizzo thinks the movie’s brand of comedy has appeal to modern viewers.

He said: “I think there's a whole generation of people that are interested in telling stories about people who are funny not because of what their identity is and not because they're different from what we consider powerful or alpha or the best, but because we're humans.

“It's humiliating to be a human and it's embarrassing to be a human and to want something. We can relate to each other while we still laugh.

“There's comedy everywhere. There's just not comedy in that narrow lane any more.”

Brittany Runs a Marathon arrives in UK cinemas on 1 November, and on Amazon Prime Video from 15 November.