The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) vs. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

November 5, 2012 Shelly Goldstein

Beatlemania didn’t just consume Baby Boomers; it defined them. When the band broke up in 1970, their split caused a seismic generational depression as powerful as the surge of joy that began the night of Sunday, February 9, 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show. So, it was no surprise that the Beatles’ already legendary status proved to be fertile soil for comic parody, inspiring a classic docu… excuse me, mockumentary, built around the greatest Fab Faux band that never was: the Rutles. In turn, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, opened the door for yet another fake documentary set in the music world: This Is Spinal Tap, the first feature directed by Rob Reiner.

The Rutles clearly took aim at the Beatles, whereas Spinal Tap focused on a band of mindless metal-head morons. Neither film was what you would call a hit when it premiered. One ran as a network TV special, finishing last in the week’s ratings, and the other was a theatrical comedy that most people didn’t realize was a joke. Yet both today are considered classics of their time, because they were able to capture the massive cultural energy surrounding the British Invasion of the ’60s, lovingly embrace it, and then turn it ever so slightly onto its ear. […]

Exporting Raymond (2011) -vs- Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005)

August 1, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

Two very funny men – the co-creator/show-runner of one of the best sitcoms of the last two decades, and the writer/director/star of some of the best movie comedies of the previous two decades – are sent to seemingly unfunny countries on the other side of the globe, both in hopes that their humor is universal enough to withstand translation and jump cultural boundaries, and both in for a series of surprises, disappointments, and comic adventures.

Phil Rosenthal’s documentary Exporting Raymond, a wise-ass chronicle of his consulting gig on the Russian version of his iconic, long-running show “Everybody Loves Raymond,” is now out on video (as of Aug. 2) after a brief theatrical run. Is it the exercise in whiny narcissism it probably sounds like? And more to the point, does it cover the same sort of gefilte-fish-out-of-water territory that Albert Brooks covered in his (fictional) Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005)? Is this deja vu all over again?

Grab a bowl of borscht and a dish of saag paneer, and sit back and enjoy an international Smackdown about the wonderful universality of comedy. Or lack thereof. […]