Director: Bran Ferren

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Funny is a fast-paced romp about jokes and joke telling, a veritable anthology of contemporary American humor. Without script or actors, it features nearly 100 people delivering the goods on sex, death, religion, and ethnicity via every type of humor from the knock-knock joke, to the proverbial farmer’s-daughter story, to the man-who-dies-and-goes-to-heaven routine, and many,many more. It’s so good at what it does, Funny should have been part of the Venus probe into deep space. As jokes are prone to do, it reveals everything about us.

Some of the joke tellers are professionals, others are celebrities, but most are just regular guys, ordinary Joes with remarkable poise, efficiency and delivery, Director Bran Ferren is clever enough to include jokes that fall flat (you can hear the film crew moaning in the background). His film is more than meets the funny bone. It’s really about people and performance: that moment when we’re called upon to tell a funny story, with our self-esteem hanging in the balance.

Ferren also intercuts various versions of the same joke told by different people in different places. The effect is something like a kabalic sense of the existence of some great Book of the Joke, where all one-liners reside to be read, studied and passed on from generation to generation. Bran Ferren is the founder of Associates and Ferren, a well-known special-effects outfit in upstate New York. Not surprisingly, Funny is distinguished by its clear look, crisp sound and snappy editing.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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