The Writers Guild of America (WGA) have released a list of the 101 Funniest Screenplays from classics such as The Gold Rush, written by Charles Chaplin – number 94, to the more recent Bridesmaids, written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig – number 16. The whole list spans 86 years of comedy screenwriting.
So, who won? Which screenplay from the last 86 years took the crown? Well it was the 1977 Woody Allen script Annie Hall, written by Allen and Marshall Brickman.
The top five were: Annie Hall, Some Like it Hot (1959, Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond), Groundhog Day (1993, Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis), Airplane (1980, James Abrahams & David Zucker & Jerry Zucker) and Tootsie (1982, Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal).
Now, listen, I’ve nothing against Woody Allen. However, I don’t know anyone who particularly likes his films and I’ve yet to meet anyone who would quote them to me or where a phrase from one has entered popular parlance. I can say both those things about a lot of other scripts on the list such as: Airplane, Groundhog Day, Blazing Saddles, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Big Lebowski, Ghostbusters etc, etc, etc.
But, I have to remember this is funniest script, not funniest movie. And sometimes the two can turn out very different. I’ve read scripts that haven’t made me laugh at all and yet the movie was hilarious and it’s worked the other way round too.
The panellists included The Farrelly Brothers (Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary), Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect), Jon Favreau (Swingers), Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker (Airplane!, The Naked Gun) and a whole lot more.
So there you have it. Wanting to write a funny script? Make it neurotic and with plenty of dialogue.
The top 10:
1) Annie Hall (1977) – Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
2) Some Like it Hot (1959) – Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond, Based on the German film Fanfare of Love by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan
3) Groundhog Day (1993) – Screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, Story by Danny Rubin
4) Airplane! (1980) – Written by James Abrahams & David Zucker & Jerry Zucker
5) Tootsie (1982) – Screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal, Story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart
6) Young Frankenstein (1974) – Screenplay by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, Screen Story by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, Based on Characters in the Novel Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
7) Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern
8) Blazing Saddles (1974) – Screenplay by Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Alan Uger, Story by Andrew Bergman
9) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
10) National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) – Written by Harold Ramis & Douglas Kenney & Chris Miller