TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy

TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy

TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy

TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy

TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy

TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy

Series - Retrospective

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Who said that fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life? From Animal House to Anchorman and beyond, we survey the rude, crude and brilliant movies that changed the face of modern American comedy.

Films in TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy

    • Up In Smoke
    • Lou Adler
    • Cheech and Chong hit the big screen (and other items) for the first time in this ruder, cruder, drug-culture complement to the outsider comedy of the same year's Animal House.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Trading Places
    • John Landis
    • Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis star in this old-fashioned Capra-esque social comedy with a Preston Sturges bite (and substantially more F-words than either), one of the most critically acclaimed comedies of the 1980s.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Superbad
    • Greg Mottola
    • Produced by the ubiquitous Judd Apatow and co-written by Seth Rogen, this hit high-school comedy features Michael Cera at his nebbishy best and made the paunchy Jonah Hill into a star as his foul-mouthed buddy.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Revenge of the Nerds
    • Jeff Kanew
    • Geeky freshmen band together to take on the Aryan jocks of the tyrannical Alpha Beta fraternity in this sequel-spawning campus comedy.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Airplane!
    • Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
    • This delirious send-up of all-star seventies disaster epics set the meta-comedy mould for four decades' worth of cinematic spoofs.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Porky's
    • Bob Clark
    • Due to a programming change, the screening of Porky's scheduled to screen on August 10th has been cancelled. We apologize for any inconvenience.

      Bob Clark's raucous, 1950s-set comedy doubles down on the crude sexual humour of Animal House in its tale of a group of horny high-school guys looking to lose their virginity in style.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • National Lampoon's Vacation
    • Harold Ramis
    • Hapless Griswold family patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase) decides to take the whole clan on a cross-country trek to the Wally World theme park in the first of the long running Vacation series.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Old School
    • Todd Phillips
    • Three middle-aged buddies (Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell) decide to relive their college glory days by founding their own, non-university-affiliated frat house, in director Todd Phillips and producer Ivan Reitman's millennial revamp of Animal House.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Private Parts
    • Betty Thomas
    • Animal House mastermind Ivan Reitman produced this screen adaptation of radio personality Howard Stern's best-selling autobiography, with the "shock jock" starring as himself.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
    • Adam McKay
    • Enter a glass case of emotion with the gloriously hirsute Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and the Channel 4 News team in this bona fide modern comedy masterpiece. Don't act like you're not impressed.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Wet Hot American Summer
    • David Wain
    • Meatballs goes Dada in this first cinematic outing from the creators of Role Models, a gleefully free-form spoof of all things eighties (and all things, period).

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Dave
    • Ivan Reitman
    • Good-hearted temp-agency owner and presidential lookalike Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) finds himself playing the POTUS part for real in Ivan Reitman's winning, Capra-esque comedy.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Thank You for Smoking
    • Jason Reitman
    • A smooth-talking political lobbyist for Big Tobacco (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself suffering a crisis of conscience in Jason Reitman's provocative satire.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Rushmore
    • Wes Anderson
    • Wes Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson's critically acclaimed follow-up to their singularly quirky debut Bottle Rocket ingeniously redefined Bill Murray's screen persona.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • There's Something About Mary
    • Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
    • Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz and Matt Dillon star in this huge sleeper hit from the Brothers Farrelly, which sparked a resurgence of boundary-pushing R-rated comedies.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • The 40-Year-Old Virgin
    • Judd Apatow
    • Veteran second-banana MVP Steve Carell made a well-deserved leap to stardom in Judd Apatow's hit comedy, which combines go-for-broke grossness with sweet-natured sensitivity.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • American Pie
    • Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz
    • A knowing throwback to the golden age of the teen sex comedy (if there ever was such an era), American Pie managed to be cheerfully crude and immensely likable in equal measure, aided considerably by a classic supporting turn from Canada's own Eugene Levy.

      Special Guest Announced: everyone's favourite dad, Eugene Levy, will be in attendance at this screening.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • The Hangover
    • Todd Phillips
    • This enormous and unexpected runaway hit became the most successful comedy franchise in Hollywood history, and made cult comedian Zack Galifianakis into a much-mispronounced household name.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Bridesmaids
    • Paul Feig
    • Produced by bromance impresario Judd Apatow and co-written by star and SNL MVP Kristen Wiig, this distaff take on the boy-centric likes of The Hangover matches them for rudeness, crudeness and vulgarity, but brings far more vulnerability and genuine emotional resonance to the profane proceedings.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • National Lampoon's Animal House
    • John Landis
    • The rowdy and rebellious frat brothers of Delta House turned "Toga! Toga!" into a generational rallying cry in the film that sparked the reinvention of American movie comedy.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Beverly Hills Cop
    • Martin Brest
    • Following his unexpected breakthrough in 48 HRS., Eddie Murphy leapfrogged into superstardom as a firebrand Detroit detective whose search for his best friend's killer leads him to the ludicrously posh Los Angeles enclave.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Caddyshack
    • Harold Ramis
    • Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray are part of the all-star comedy ensemble in this guffaw-inducing saga of lunacy on the links.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Animal House Reunion
    • In honour of the 35th anniversary of the film that sparked the reinvention of American comedy, we bring the people that helped build the Animal House together again on stage to discuss the movie's creation and lasting influence.

    • No events playing at this time.

The 1970s was a decade of profound change in the landscape of American movie comedy. Just as in the sixties, when the Hollywood studios had sought to connect with the emerging countercultural youth audience by embracing the talents of young, often film school-educated directors, the seventies saw formerly fringe elements of the American comedy scene migrate ever closer to the mainstream. The rise of comedy clubs, and the example of such boundary-pushing comedy legends as Lenny Bruce, saw the emergence of a new standup-comic sensibility based less on traditional punchlines than on the unabashed presentation of raw, at times even shocking material. At the same time, sketch-comedy troupes such as Second City and The Groundlings began to depart from the Laugh-In/Carol Burnett Show model and push their characters and scenarios to ever more outrageous extremes, while the instant success of Saturday Night Live in 1975 crystallized comedy's new rock-and-roll attitude by combining sketch comedy with live music. Finally, the expansion of Harvard's venerable humour magazine Lampoon into the National Lampoon multimedia mini-empire ushered in a new generation of comedy writers and performers.

In 1978, all these forces aligned on the big screen in National Lampoon's Animal House, which shattered box-office records, brought R-rated comedy to the mainstream, and made "Toga! Toga!" into a generational rallying cry. Produced by Canadian Ivan Reitman (whose most notable/notorious previous production had been David Cronenberg's 1977 Rabid) and directed by John Landis, who had already helped bring the new freewheeling, absurdist seventies brand of humour to the screen with The Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House was a seamless integration of classic comedy tropes with the stylings of the comedic counterculture. Its story of a motley crew of academic underdogs triumphing over privileged conservatism distills the essence of the college-bred outsider humour that fuelled SNL and the Lampoon, and established the neo-countercultural template of social rejects vs. "straight" society that would be employed in American comedies for the next four decades (and counting). Where Cheech & Chong's raggedy Up in Smoke, released two months after Animal House, presented the last gasp (or puff) of sixties drop-out drug culture, Animal House combined rock 'n' roll attitude and crass humour with (meta)cinematic finesse: Bluto's fourth-wall-busting raised eyebrow to the camera while peeping into a sorority bedroom perfectly embodies that fusion of boundary-pushing content and smart self-awareness that would prove to have such an enormous impact on comedies to come.

While the film's influence is readily apparent in its many cinematic successors — from such late-seventies and early-eighties hits as Meatballs, Stripes, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Revenge of the Nerds to the later generations of filmmakers, writers and performers that begat Old School, Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, American Pie, The Hangover and Bridesmaids — it has also permeated comedy culture as a whole. From late-night television (David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel) to radio (Howard Stern and a legion of lesser "shock jocks") to stand-up (take your pick), the mainstreaming of ribald humour pioneered by Animal House has now become the comedy norm, and has altered broadcast standards correspondingly. Would Seinfeld's infamous "Master of Your Domain" episode have been possible without Animal House, let alone much of The Simpsons, anything on Family Guy, or the even wilder reaches of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Archer?

Of course, Animal House is also crucial for the wealth of talent it brought together and turned loose on an unsuspecting world. Already a rising star at SNL, John Belushi became the id of a generation as the popeyed Bluto, while his colleague Bill Murray — the star of Reitman's Animal House follow-ups Meatballs, Stripes and Ghostbusters — became its sarcastic, wised-up ego. Matty Simmons, the founder of National Lampoon and Animal House co-producer, made the Lampoon brand into an enduring movie presence with the wildly popular Vacation series, featuring former Lampoon alum and SNL star Chevy Chase. Director John Landis went on to make some of the defining comedies of the 1980s — including classics such as The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Coming to America — while Reitman kept the Animal House spirit alive both in his own films as director (Kindergarten Cop), by producing Howard Stern's film debut Private Parts and Todd Phillips' Animal House redux Old School, and by bequeathing to the world his son Jason, who made his own foray into his family's comic dynasty with the searingly funny satire Thank You for Smoking. Both together and apart, the Animal House fraternity has reinvented comedy for the modern era and reshaped America's comic sensibility, one toga at a time.

Jesse Wente