James McKenna THE MACGUFFIN MEN: The Campaign for Comedy

On August 10th, George W. Bush and Barack Obama will face off in an election. Now it may sound like I have the date wrong, and one of the names wrong, but I’m not talking about this year’s presidential election. I’m talking about the movie The Campaign.

Allow me to clarify what I mean a little. When I first saw the trailer for The Campaign I started thinking about the fact that these were two high-profile comedic stars in the same movie. I then started thinking about how the confrontational nature of the film, two men running against each other in an election, will probably lead to many reviewers commenting on which actor was funnier in the film. What struck me as interesting was the way that their battle for a Congressional seat in this movie seemed to line up with their real-life experiences in comedy.

In The Campaign, Will Ferrell plays the incumbent, a man who has held the seat with little competition for five terms, and Galifinakias plays the newcomer attempting to take the position from him. And while it seems as though the two actors get along in real life, this scenario reflects the way that Ferrell has arguably been the dominant actor in comedy for quite a while now. Yet over the past few years Galifinakias has been trying to take that distinction for his own. Comedy is not as inherently competitive as electoral politics, which may only have one winner and one or more losers, but since around the turn of the millennium, Ferrell has been the face of mainstream American comedy.

He found a lot of success on television with his well-liked run on Saturday Night Live, being largely responsible for the resurrection of that show from a low point in the mid-1990s, so much so that he now has three ‘Best Of’ episodes, has hosted two season finales since he left, and is seen as one of the stars of the recent SNL era. Even with a few certifiable misses, his movie career from that time span has some memorable successes, from his small parts in Zoolander and Old School to widely-loved vehicles like Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory and Step-Brothers. All these successes helped him become the recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a pretty prestigious award for any comedian. He has certainly found mainstream success, and while most people wouldn’t consider him a has-been, it would seem as though we’ve seen him peak. As Ron Burgundy might say, he’s a pretty big deal, but I think it’s fair to say he’s no longer the ‘It’ guy in comedy. The best candidate for that title would most likely be Zach Galifinakias.

To read the rest of this article, or more on the MacGuffin Men: http://themacguffinmen.com/2012/08/10/the-campaign-for-comedy/

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