Tag Archives: funny

Chuck Jones on What Makes a Comedian Funny

Many thanks to the editors at BigThink.com and to Patrick Allan at LifeHacker.com for sharing this terrific story and quote from Chuck Jones!

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From BigThink.com:

Chuck Jones (1912-2002) was an American animator, cartoonist, and director of animated films. His most famous work consisted of numerous Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts for Warner Brothers featuring characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, and others. Jones was nominated for eight Oscars, won three, and was awarded an honorary statuette in 1996. Robin Williams called Jones “the Orson Welles of cartoons.”

Many luminaries of humor peddle varying definitions of comedy. Jones’ stance was that comedians are funny people who do funny things against a backdrop of relative normality.

“A comedian is not a person who opens a funny door — he’s the person who opens a door funny.” [Wikiquote]

Source: “The Art of Chuck Jones: John Lewell Interviews the Veteran Hollywood Animator [1982],” in Animation – Art and Industry, ed. Maureen Furniss (John Libby Publishing Ltd., 2009), 134.

From Patrick Allan writing at LifeHacker.com:

Having a good sense of humor can make you more charismatic and become the type of person people like to be around. Being funny isn’t always easy, however, and legendary animator Chuck Jones believes the main ingredient is how you say or do something—not what you say or do.

Chuck Jones—most known for his animation and direction on Looney Tunes—has been nominated for eight Academy Awards and received four for his cartoon work. Needless to say, Jones—who passed away in 2002—knew comedy pretty darn well. Jones believed there was a secret to it all:

“A comedian is not a person who opens a funny door — he’s the person who opens a door funny.”

Ever tried to listen to someone repeat a stand-up comedian’s joke? It’s amazing how unfunny it can be. So as you work on your jokes and humorous conversation, remember that you don’t need to stress about material. Instead think of ways to be funny without relying on a “funny door.” Of course, you don’t want to be all jokes all the time, but a sense of humor can get you a lot farther than you think.

Critical Opinions on Chuck Jones’s Work

We're in the midst of a big scanning project here, digitizing press and publicity from the past couple of decades so that we can share it with you at some point in the future as a resource on ChuckJonesCenter.org. Today, a sheet of paper, a photocopy really, surfaced that had a series of comments from a variety of writers, historians, and critics about the work of Chuck Jones. They're just too wonderful not to share them with you now. 

"Chuck Jones is considered by many to be no less than a seminal figure in the development of the animated film." –Alex Ward, Washington Post

"He has made moviegoers laugh as often and as well as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. His work is among the best of American film comedy." —Jay Cocks, TIME Magazine

"Chuck Jones is a worldly-wise child who knows animation downside up and outside in and can also do a perfect imitation of a cat swimming…" –Joseph Morgenstern, Newsweek Magazine

"[With animation becoming a vital part of modern cinema] is Chuck Jones the real successor to Walt Disney? Many knowledgeable observers of the scene think so." –Dr. Richard MacCann, Professor, University of Kansas in an introduction to an evening with Chuck Jones at the University in 1967.

University of Kansas Jayhawker 1967 cropped copy

"I may get an argument from people franticallly pointing at light bulbs, but yesterday I met the greatest inventor in the world, a man far greater than Edison–and funnier–Chuck Jones…" –Herbert Lockwood, San Diego Daily Transcript

"Since Jones never made topical jokes, his stuff remains, like all good fables and only the best art, both timeless and universal." –Peter Bogdonavich, Film Director, writing in Esquire Magazine

"For more than a generation, Chuck Jones has been one of the most imaginative and accomplished film makers in the America…" –Jeff Simon, Buffalo Evening News

Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner Take a Leap Into 3-D

 

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On Friday, August 20, a group of Chuck Jones' most devoted fans and collectors were invited to a private screening on the Warner Bros. Studio lot of the three new theatrical cartoons that the studio has produced. 

We drove up to lovely downtown Burbank from the Chuck Jones Gallery in Tustin (3065 Edinger Avenue) and entered Warner Bros. through the Forest Lawn gate.  [Little known fact:  Forest Lawn became a cemetery because it was originally zoned as open space, the only 'business' that could be built there was a cemetery.  The original owners were eager to develop their acreage and consequently the legendary burial ground of so many Hollywood stars was born (so to speak.)]

Arriving on the lot is always exciting; what with the security checks and the ever-hopeful thought that you'll spot one of your favorite actors or actresses walking in costume from a sound stage.  The sound stages are as imposing (and iconic) as they appear in the opening of any Warner Bros. movie; they are great monoliths erected to the 10th muse, Cinema. 

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Linda Jones Clough with Sam Register

We were greeted at the screening room by the gracious & talented Sam Register, Executive Vice President, Creative Affairs, Warner Bros. Animation.  The screening room was on the second floor of executive offices, one of the office 'bungalows' on the lot; these buildings always appear smaller on the outside than they really are and the screening room looked like it could comfortably seat a couple of hundred studio moguls in plush luxury.

Not only was Linda Jones Clough there with her husband, Jim, but sitting directly in front of them was author, critic and essayist, Leonard Maltin, and sitting next to him was the blogger, animation historian and author, Jerry Beck!  So after catching our breath and exchanging hellos and air kisses (so Hollywood!) with everyone, getting seated, who should walk in but the president of Warner Bros. Television, Peter Roth.  Mr. Roth welcomed us warmly and spoke briefly with Linda Jones before heading back to his office to take a meeting.   ('Take a meeting' is showbiz lingo; don't you feel like an insider already?) 

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Sam Register (3rd from left, standing) introduces Peter Roth, President of Warner Bros. Television to Linda Jones Clough and her husband Jim.

Mr. Register extended a few warm words of welcome to those assembled and then the first of the three, "Coyote Falls", which has been released with the movie "Cats and Dogs II" and has been met with much critical acclaim (the cartoon, not the movie) was shown. 

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Leigh Yetsko (and her family from left, Matt, John Jr., Leigh & John Sr.) had this to say about the new films, "…we were delighted with the new 3-D Coyote/Road Runner shorts!  Chuck's particular sense of humor is tough to match and seeing his characters recreated, as a fan you can't help but be skeptical going in, but in this case we were blown away with how successfully the creative team captured the themes and the humor.  Instead of being gimmicky, the 3-D added dimension, not distraction.  We saw fur and feathers (and explosions!) like never before.  All that said, if it's not really funny, you only need to see it once.  I can't wait to see these again and again!"

After the first short was shown, the director of the shorts, Matt O'Callaghan spoke for a few minutes and then we were shown the final two short films. 

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(from left: Matt O'Callaghan, Linda Jones Clough, Leonard Maltin)

Longtime collector and fan of the art of Chuck Jones, Bill Heeter shared this with us, "…I have to say, after previewing the three Road Runner & Coyote cartoons last Friday,  I couldn't have been more pleased!  As if the CG/3D issues weren't enough, compressing the a cartoon into three minutes without sacrificing the story sounded impossible, but Matt [the director, Matt O'Callaghan] sure did it.  The story lines were funny, the gags well-executed, and most importantly he didn't lose sight of what made Chuck's cartoons stand out–the subtlety."

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From left: Craig Kausen (grandson of Chuck Jones and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity,) Matt O'Callaghan, Linda Jones Clough, Leonard Maltin, Katherine Concepcion and Jerry Beck.

Craig Kausen summed it up best, "The consensus was unanimous: we enjoyed them all!" 

Our day didn't end with here but continued on into the evening and those events will be detailed in an upcoming post.  Look for it!