Jay Roach on woke culture killing comedy: There's no serious limitation on being funny

Justin Rao

Mumbai, Dec 26 (PTI) 'Bombshell' director Jay Roach does not believe that woke culture has come in the way of making successful comedies.

Earlier this year, 'Joker' director Todd Phillips, known for blockbuster comedies including 'The Hangover' series, said he quit the genre as 'woke culture' had made it impossible to make comedy films.

In an interview with PTI, Roach, who has helmed global comedy hits including the 'Austin Powers' films and 'Meet the Parents', said good humour always finds an audience.

'I don't agree that it's somehow making comedies impossible because of the new questions in our culture,' Roach said.

'There are so many great examples, especially on TV lately, starting from 'Bridesmaids' to incredible shows like 'Veep' and one of my new favourites, 'Fleabag'. We evolve and the things that need to be talked about or made fun of (also) evolve,' he added.

The director, whose latest film 'Bombshell' is based on the accounts of several women at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, believes one has to find new topics for comedy.

'I don't see that there's any serious limitation on being funny. I just think you have to evolve with the time and figure out what the issues are.' Roach said top rated comedy shows of current times are a testimony that the genre continues to reinvent itself.

'Maybe women are at the forefront in the comedies I listed because some of what needs to be made fun of are male-centric cultural status quo, even in comedy. 'Fleabag' is so incredibly good, it's so funny. These shows prove that comedy isn't dead.' The director said he would like to figure out a way to make comedies a 'must see in theatre events.' 'To somehow make going back to the theatre and laughing your head off with strangers in a big giant room... To make a spectacle, a cinematic kind of comedy, with big comic set pieces, whatever it takes so that you're not just comfortable at home and watching.' Giving an example of 'Borat', which he produced with Sacha Baron Cohen, Roach said he is yet to experience the kind of theatrical experience he had with film, about a fictional Kazakh journalist travelling through the United States. 'I've been lucky with 'Austin Powers', 'Meet the Parents' and 'Borat', during which people were not only laughing and rocking in their chairs but slapping each other, pulling their shirts over their heads. In one of the screenings, two guys ran towards the screen and came back high-flying the audience!' he said.

The director said Hollywood star Charlize Theron, who plays the role of news anchor Megyn Kelly on 'Bombshell', recently shared with him that she laughed so hard during 'Borat', she slipped a disc in her neck.

'She had to go to a doctor because she was laughing so hard! To do that in a giant room with a bunch of other people that you're now suddenly connecting with over this shared hysteria, that's something I want to find a way to do again.

'I do think it's possible. I don't know what form it will take, but I very much want to find that project that somehow earns a big theatrical audience.' Roach said what intrigued him about 'Bombshell' that the story felt like a 'Shakespeare drama with a Shakespearean villain'. 'It was a very compelling story. He (Ailes) wanted to enforce his world view, in a cult kind of a way. That doesn't mean that all the women adhered to the requirements of that. These women, starting with Gretchen Carlson, rebelled against this idea.

'Because at first just one woman spoke up, which inspired many women to speak up, that they were able to bring down one of the most powerful media titans ever. It just felt like a Shakespeare drama with a Shakespearean villain,' he said.

A Lionsgate release, 'Bombshell', also starring Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, is distributed by Cinepolis India. It will release on January 3. PTI JUR BK BK