Hefty Humor


According to this chart, weight is most frequently mentioned in movies of the comedy genre. Another chart on the page shows which individual movies contain the most obesity-related terms. A third breaks it down by actors who said the lines — although this is meaningless, because any actor who was chosen to play that particular part would have recited the same dialogue.

Searching for mentions of weight and for character names that referenced weight the folks at Bulimia.com read 1,223 film scripts spanning 90 years of movie production. They found 707 mentions of the terms “fat, fatty, chunky, big boned, chubby, husky, obese, overweight, plump, portly, and stout.”

The authors also include some paragraphs about movies with obese main characters. Their page says:

It may be a common reality, and indeed we draw humor from it regularly, but it’s fundamentally tragic — not comical — that anyone would feel compelled to joke about their weight to dodge public scrutiny and derision. In many of these instances, people are clearly masking pain — pain that in some cases may spur development of disordered eating, potentially leading to conditions such as anorexia. Others may turn to compulsive exercise, and other purge behaviors associated with bulimia.

But if fat is officially not funny an awful lot of professional comedians have not received the memo. As Craig Ferguson famously said, “Fat is where comedy is stored.”

And other virtues, too. J. Elvis Weinstein recalled on a podcast episode: “I was a fat kid. Halloween is the only time I remember, as a kid, having a work ethic.”

Obesity seems to cultivate creativity. As Nate Bargatze says, “What’s easier than working out is, just tell people you used to weigh 300 pounds.”

Overweight comedian Jonah Hill told journalist Susannah Gora the moment when he realized it was time for a change. A nutritionist asked him to list his favorite foods, “and it was like, the menu of a 6-year-old’s birthday party.”

Film writer Glenn Kenny is quoted on the history of vaudeville and cinema, where…

[…] what really played was the fat person who could perform physical feats that you didn’t think fat people could perform. Fatty Arbuckle was huge, but also had this incredible physical agility.

Tom Arnold told Gora that people react badly when a comedian quits drugs or loses weight. The assumption is that the performer will not be funny any more. On the contrary, as Arnold assured her:

I have been very big — I have been over 300 pounds, I’ve been under 200 pounds, and I certainly wasn’t at my funniest when I was over 300 pounds.

Seth Rogen once greeted an audience with, “You probably all notice that I’m around 10 pounds less funny.” Horatio Sanz was a Saturday Night Live cast member for eight seasons, left the show, and lost 100 pounds. Drew Carey lost 80 pounds. In Mens’ Health, Sarene Leeds made the case that weight loss stalled the careers of both comic actors.

Standup comedy veteran Louie Anderson lost 50 pounds and hosts the very popular “Off the Couch” page on Facebook. When an interviewer asked what he most wants to be remembered for, Anderson replied, “Isn’t he that guy that lost all that weight?”

Optional bonus referral: “Rowdy Roddy Piper Fights Childhood Obesity,” a video from Funny or Die, could be considered offensive by some. But it’s also pretty funny.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Weighing In on Movies,” Bulimia.com, undated
Source: “Nate Bargatze,” Twitter.com
Source: “Are comedians funnier when they’re fat?,” Salon.com, 09/23/11
Source: “Why Do People Get So Angry When Fat Comedians Get Healthy?,” MensHealth.com, 12/04/14
Source: “Comedian Anderson has dropped weight, kept the comedy,” TribLive.com, 05/21/2014
Image courtesy: Bulimia.com

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