Top 10 Unscripted Moments in Comedy Movies
Sometimes deviating from the script produces the greatest magic. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Unscripted Moments in Comedy Movies.
For this list, we’ll be looking at various hilarious scenes from comedy films that were not included in the original script. This doesn’t necessarily mean improvisation. These moments could also come about through on-set ideas and slight deviations from the script. As long as the moment deviates from the script in some way, it will be included.
#10: Chest Thumping & Humming
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)
Martin Scorsese was 71 years old when “The Wolf of Wall Street” was released in 2013, yet it proved to be his most dexterous and lightning-paced film yet. Most of its delirious entertainment came from its committed and energetic actors, including Matthew McConaughey as Mark Hanna. Hanna’s weird chest-thumping and humming are now iconic, even though it was never in the original script. It was actually a meditation technique that McConaughey used before each take, and it was Leonardo DiCaprio’s idea to have him do it in character. He happily performed the technique on camera, DiCaprio looked around in embarrassment, and a glorious piece of pop culture was born.
#9: “I Can Walk!”
“Dr. Strangelove” (1964)
Stanley Kubrick is one of the most famously overbearing and domineering directors of all time, a perfectionist to the highest degree. But not so with “Dr. Strangelove.” Kubrick would often let Peter Sellers improvise onset (typically during rehearsals), and then he would take what he thought were the best lines and incorporate them into the script. Having a general story outline but allowing your actors to improvise is a creative process known as “retroscripting.” Sellers’s most iconic improvisation comes at the very end of the movie when Strangelove suddenly stands from his wheelchair and proudly proclaims that he can walk. It’s one of the funniest endings in movie history, and it all came from Peter Sellers himself.
#8: Louis’ Party Dialogue
Rick Moranis faded from the spotlight going into the 21st century. But he left behind an incredible legacy, including a string of iconic comedies and characters. Louis Tully is one of his best, exemplified by the brilliant party sequence. It’s said that Moranis completely improvised the sequence where Louis introduces Ted and Annette to the other partygoers. He decided to discuss the couple’s financial situation and mortgage rate, which is certainly hilarious on its own. But he also managed to make boring financial details funny through his delivery and weirdly specific details, proving that Moranis really could make comedy gold out of anything.
#7: Stu’s Song
“The Hangover” (2009)
During an interview with liveabout.com, Ed Helms revealed that the set of “The Hangover” was a very welcoming and friendly environment. Director Todd Phillips reportedly welcomed improvisation, and many scenes involving Mike Tyson were totally off the cuff. But perhaps the best bit of unscripted comedy is Stu’s song in which he sings about returning the tiger and finding Doug (before crystal meth tweakers find him, of course). Helms would often fool around on the piano between takes to entertain the crew, and Phillips decided to have him write a song for the movie. Helms wrote, perfected, and recorded the song all in a single day of filming.
#6: The Most Annoying Sound in the World
“Dumb and Dumber” (1994)
This was another film that welcomed improvisation. According to director Peter Farrelly, roughly 15% of the finished movie is improvised. But filmmakers should expect that with someone as unabashedly wild as Jim Carrey. Carrey reportedly improvised many hilarious scenes throughout the movie, including Lloyd’s amazement at landing on the Moon and his most annoying sound in the world. Both the idea and the sound itself were Carrey’s idea. You can even see Jeff Daniels briefly break character and genuinely laugh before joining in. We wonder how many professional actors Carrey has managed to break throughout the years?
#5: “I’ll Have What She’s Having!”
“When Harry Met Sally…” (1989)
This is one of the most iconic romantic comedies of all time, and it contains one of the funniest scenes in movie history. The entire restaurant sequence was one big creative collaboration from the cast and crew. The idea for the scene itself came about in rehearsals when a stunned Rob Reiner was told by writer Nora Ephron that some women fake their sexual pleasure. It was Meg Ryan’s idea to add the scene to the movie, and Billy Crystal decided on both the restaurant setting and the now-iconic line, which is uttered by Reiner’s mother. Reiner then directed a very nervous Ryan and perfected the sounds - right in front of his mother.
#4: Food Poisoning
“Bridesmaids” is one of the funniest movies of the 2010s, which shouldn’t be surprising given the incredible talent both behind and in front of the camera. It’s also not surprising to hear that many jokes were made up on the fly. These include Megan’s shenanigans on the airplane and the now-famous food poisoning sequence. Cinematographer Robert Yeoman revealed to Huffington Post that the food poisoning scene was not part of the original script. He admitted to being horrified and reluctant to film it, telling the HuffPost, “It’s not my style of humor, really, and I just wasn’t sure how this was all going to be pulled off.” But pulled off it was, and it quickly became the most famous scene of the movie.
#3: “But Why Male Models?”
Arguably the funniest line of “Zoolander” didn’t come from the air-headedness of Zoolander, but Ben Stiller. Stiller jokingly told Reddit that “[he’s] not really that much smarter than… Derek,” owing to him bumbling his lines and unintentionally producing a bit of comedy gold. While David Duchovny is rattling off what makes male models so useful, Stiller admittedly spaced out and “hadn’t followed what he was saying,” resulting in him losing his spot and uttering the same line again. Rather than laughing or looking off-camera in bewilderment, Duchovny decided to roll with Stiller’s blunder, producing the funniest bit of back and forth in the entire movie.
“The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005)
The classic waxing sequence is basically one long, extended improv. Wanting the scene to look as real and hilarious as possible, Steve Carell decided to actually get his chest waxed, so the filmmakers set up five different cameras and just let the actors do their thing. Basically everything about the sequence was totally improvised and natural. Andy’s violent and profane exclamations, the blood and tears, the laughing and cringing, and especially the reactions from Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Romany Malco - all were totally natural and completely unplanned. What resulted was pure comedy magic.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Munich, “Knocked Up” (2007)
Bonding Over the Awesomeness of “Munich” Was Totally Improvised
Terry Pete, “This Is the End” (2013)
Craig Robinson Made Up the Hilarious Name for His Monkey Flashlight Keychain
The Maniac, “Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
Nick Frost Went Through a Ton of Names for the Woman at the Winchester
Sleepwalking, “Step Brothers” (2008)
Much of the Destruction Was Made Up on the Spot by Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly
Miracle Max, “The Princess Bride” (1987)
Much of Miracle Max’s Dialogue Was Improvised by Billy Crystal
#1: The Broadcasts
“Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987)
Robin Williams was one of the most gifted comedians of his time, and his unbelievable talent is on full display throughout “Good Morning, Vietnam.” Williams portrays Adrian Cronauer, an Air Force Airman and irreverent DJ who kept the troops entertained throughout the Vietnam War. A large majority of the broadcast sequences were totally improvised by Williams on the spot, complete with his signature manic energy. His performance was widely acclaimed, and he was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor - a rarity within the comedy genre. It’s a fantastic marriage of inspired casting and brilliant performance, and it proves that Williams was truly one of the greats.