Seth Rogen is no stranger to bad taste comedy. After all, the star has made a hugely successful career gleaming giggles from gross out movies. However, even by his own debauched standards his latest movie, a cancer comedy called ‘50/50’, is a bit, well, in bad taste.
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Jet black in tone, the film tries to find the funny side of life-threatening illness. Whether it works or not remains to be seen; ‘50/50’ has divided critics. But in that regard it’s nothing new - a quick glance over the dusty annals of Hollywood history uncovers a bevvy of bad taste movies which have tried, and sometimes failed, to wring comedy out of situations ranging from terrorism to the Holocaust. Here’s our top ten with the hits and misses of bad taste comedy.
Hit: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
He’s made a career out of outraging audiences, but Sacha Baron Cohen outdid even himself with Borat, a mankini clad movie that singlehandedly incensed an entire nation. That nation was Kazakhstan who understandably got a bit hot under the collar over the comedian’s caricatured portrayal of their national culture that included casual racism, sexism and all manner of unpalatable xenophobia. It was funny though.
Miss: Freddie Got Fingered (2001)
With a title like this it’s fair to say audiences probably should have known what to expect when they entered cinemas for this flop from American funnyman Tom Green. But then again, can you really prepare yourself a protagonist swinging a baby by its umbilical cord and wrapping himself in the carcass of recently deceased roadkill?
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Hit: Man Bites Dog (1992)
‘Big Brother’; fly-on-the-wall shows about airports; Rick Waller - reality TV has a lot to answer for. But as far as we know it hasn’t yet stooped so low as to stalk a serial killer for the audience’s enjoyment. That’s the premise behind this superb Belgian satire, which follows a charismatic killer as he cuts a bloody swathe through the local community. At one point he even hands out handy tips, such as explaining how it’s more cost-effective to attack old people than young couples because they have more cash and are easier to kill.
Miss: The Ringer (2005)
Watching Johnny Knoxville star in a film with people suffering from learning difficulties is perhaps nothing new. But in 2005 he broke away from the ‘Jackass’ stable and sought pastures new in this Farrelly Brothers er, comedy. The premise sees Knoxville’s protagonist pose as a contestant in the Special Olympics, an idea that’s almost as offensive as the predictable parade of bad taste jokes which principally revolve around humiliating the mentally handicapped.
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Hit: The Producers (1981)
The plot in Mel Brooks’ Oscar-winning filmfollows a pair of Jewish producers intent on creating a Broadway flop for financial gain. However their creation, which is tastefully entitled ‘Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden’, proves to be an unlikely success. Cue 90 minutes of razor sharp satire complete with chirpy musical numbers about the Nazi advance across Europe. One of the most hilarious bad taste comedies to have ever rolled off of the Hollywood production line.
Miss: The Day The Clown Died (1972)
Whilst Brooks rode a wave of silver screen success following the release of his bad taste blockbuster, the same can’t be said of his predecessor Jerry Lewis. Lewis directed and starred in this unreleased Holocaust ‘comedy’. As if the premise wasn’t bad enough, the action itself revolves around a circus clown who’s enlisted by the Nazis to coax Jewish children into the gas chambers... no, really. The film has never been released and rumour has it Lewis owns the only copy.
Hit: Four Lions (2010)
As the genius behind small screen satires ‘Brass Eye’ and ‘The Day Today’, Chris Morris’ first foray into film was always going to be something special. And in ‘Four Lions’, a razor sharp black comedy about a British terrorist cell,he didn’t disappoint. The movie is unashamedly incendiary. Yet, underneath the bad taste there’s a fine farce of a film that’s more ‘Dad’s Army’ than Jihad.
Miss: Postal (2007)
One scene in ‘Postal’ sees the sociopathic white trash ‘hero’ enter into a deal with Osama Bin Laden to distribute scrotum shaped dolls laced with avian flu. It’s that kind of film. Such material is par for the course for Uwe Boll, by common consensus the world’s worst director and a man who once challenged film critics to a boxing match to settle their issues.
Hit: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Of course the badly drawn boys in this bad taste epic are supposed to shock audiences. But no matter how liberal your sense of humour, it’s easy to see why their jump from small to silver screen stoked such controversy. After all, how many films can you name that involve Satan, Saddam, sex toys and a script with so much swearing it scooped a place in the Guinness World Records.
Hit: Bad Taste (1987)
Before he inflicted audiences to Frodo and co’s never-ending ramble across Middle Earth, Peter Jackson expressed his appreciation of unsavoury comedy in the aptly named ‘Bad Taste’. The low-budget caper demonstrated the then fledgling filmmaker’s keen grasp of audience anatomy, as a gory flick that revolved a group of aliens harvesting humans for their intergalactic fast food franchise provided a mainline into audiences’ funny bones.