The hardest thing to differentiate between, even more difficult than the question “Which child do you love more?”, is nostalgia and comedy. Was it funny because you were dumb and young or was it truly funny? And how would people react if they saw it today?
This month, I’m revisiting some of my favorite comedies as a kid. First up, we have the hilarious (?) 1998 film:
Comedies speak to the audience of that precise moment in time. Call it decadal humor, but people’s tastes change… slowly. LIKE MY COMPUTER RIGHT NOW.
…I apologize for that outburst. My laptop hasn’t been the same since the Maverick OS update.
A film that one might find funny this year, could turn into an unfunny nostalgia-driven film a few years down the road with some hindsight in hand. This is why I had wanted to specifically target some of my favorite comedy movies from my youth.
It’s hard to believe that Dirty Work is from my youth, but when the film is eighteen years old now… let’s just say that I’ve grown since I was thirteen.
Norm MacDonald was at the height of his career in 1998 thanks to his run on Saturday Night Live during the filming of the movie. That was until he was fired from the same show right before the film’s release. It was such a bitter break-up that Lorne Michaels, creator and producer of the show, made sure that no NBC show would feature advertisements for Dirty Work.
Ouch. Needless to say it didn’t make a boat load of money at release (just barely 10 million over its lifetime).
As a kid, I was baffled by its director: Bob Saget. “Oh come on, he’s such a nice family man!” Well it made sense then for all I had to rely on for his image at the time was Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos, and not his raunchy stand-up act.
Some of Dirty Work’s best scenes feature its cameos or bit roles. During a few hallucination scenes we see Adam Sandler as the devil and Gary Coleman as… Gary Coleman. The film also features brilliant guest spots from Chevy Chase, Dave Koechner, and Don Rickles.
Then there’s Chris Farley. Oh Chris, how we miss thee. His scenes were the most energetic and insane (a reflection of his own personality), largely due to his internal struggles with drug addiction. And sadly, this was his last appearance on-screen.
It’s no wonder they made an entire documentary on the man entitled: I Am Chris Farley.
Dirty Work isn’t clever nor does it rely upon high brow humor, but the movie is still funny overall. Though I am still unable to differentiate between the afterglow of the era and what’s actually funny. It’s broad enough to be funny to most, but specific to fans of Norm MacDonald, Artie Lange, Chris Farley, and everyone else involved.
Plus, the film features Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) as another villain– Travis Cole. And a Wild John Goodman appears!!
Instantly quotable and timelessly funny, Dirty Work will appease everyone who likes their humor a bit blue.
Where/ when did I first see it?
I had watched this movie like almost every other film of this era, via the Video Market in Fort Kent. We used to rent a few movies a week, and when we found one we loved, we’d rent it over and over. And Dirty Work was a repeat offender. Due to its measly earnings. I’d say this must have been a quick turnaround time from theater to VHS; by the end of 1998 (it was released in June of that year).
How does it hold up?
The movie has its cheesy moments of humor, but again, the film is largely a classic and should provide any new viewer with a few laughs.
This movie to me is a time capsule of fantastic performances from fallen stars like Farley and Jack Warden. My only experience of Jack Warden prior to Dirty Work was his dirty work in the Problem Child films….
What did I like about it and why?
I sound like a broken record at this point, but the aforementioned cast- particularly Chris Farley’s role, and the overall tone of the humor are the things that bring me back to Dirty Work once more.
- I’m a dirty child at heart.
- Norm MacDonald’s humor is underrated.
- Chris Farley may have become a David Spade or the Kevin James of current Adam Sandler fare… Yikes.
Where can you see it?
Check out Dirty Work on CanIStream.It?