Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Outsourcing Comedy Teams

 Paolo Villaggio and Renato Pozzetto
The United States was the leading producer of comedy teams for decades.  Their stellar product included Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges, and Martin and Lewis.  But the United States has experienced a severe decline in comedy teams during the last twenty-five years.  It may have to do with the vanity of the modern Hollywood comedian, who finds it distasteful to share the spotlight with a partner.  Regardless of the reason, it is a great loss to American entertainment. 

Fortunately, the comedy team remains part of a thriving industry in other places in the world. 

England remains a place where a comedy team can flourish.  In its day, the British music hall manufactured comedy teams at a vigorous rate.  Here are a few of the lesser known comedy teams of the British music hall.

Murgatroyd and Winterbottom, 1935

Clapham and Dwyer, 1931

Norman and Arnold, 1931

The Four Jokers, 1936

Bennett and Williams, 1936


Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss in Rhythm Serenade (1943)

To this day, comedy teams thrive on British television.

David Walliams and Matt Lucas

David Mitchell and Robert Webb

Today, no country sponsors more comedy teams than Italy.

Renato Pozzetto and Cochi Ponzoni became popular on television variety shows.

They made appearances in several feature films between 1976 and 1978.  Their films included Telefoni bianchi (1976), Luna di miele in tre (1976), Sturmtruppen (1976), Io tigro, tu tigri, egli tigra (1978), and Saxofone (1978).

Renato Pozzetto and Cochi Ponzoni in Sturmtruppen (1976)

Pozzetto tended to dominate the act with his comic man-child character.

Pozzetto in Io tigro, tu tigri, egli tigra (1978)
Pozzetto went off on his own in 1975.

Here are a few of his films.  You will notice that, though he made a point to pursue a solo career, he often worked in close collaboration with another actor.   

Paolo Barca, maestro elementare, praticamente nudista (1975)
(English-language version: Paolo Barca, Schoolteacher and Weekend Nudist)


Due cuori, una cappella (1975)
 (English-language version: Two hearts, a chapel)

 La patata bollente (1979) (English language version: Hot Potato)


Wikipedia provides the following plot summary:
Bernardo Mambelli alias "Gandhi" (Renato Pozzetto) is a PCI militant and pugilist working at a Milanese paint factory. One night, he sees a bunch of neo-Nazis beating a frail young man (Massimo Ranieri). He saves the man and brings him to his house to learn that he is Claudio, a homosexual. With nowhere to go, Claudio starts staying at Bernardo's house but a series of typical misunderstandings lead his comrades as well as his girlfriend Maria (Edwige Fenech) to believing that he has "turned gay". Bernardo is now seen as a potential lost cause and the ongoings soon reveal a "hot potato" situation for him.
Agenzia Riccardo Finzi. . . praticamente detective (1979)  
(English language version: The Finzi Detective Agency

Giallo napoletano (1979) (English language version: Atrocious Tales of Love and Death

Pozzetto with Marcello Mastroianni
Tesoro mio (1979) (English translation: My treasure

Sono fotogenico (1980) (English language version: I'm Photogenic)

Pozzetto with Vittorio Gassman and Edwige Fenech

Zucchero, miele e peperoncino (1980) (English language version: Sugar, Honey and Pepper)

Mia moglie è una strega (1980)


The Internet Movie Database plot summary for this romantic comedy fantasy: "A witch being condemned to burn to death by the Holy Inquisition makes a contract with the devil to be reborn in our times."

Fico d'India (1980) (English-language version: Prickly Pairs)

Plot summary: The mayor of a small town (Pozzetto) suspects his alluring wife (Gloria Guida) of having an affair with a local playboy.

Uno contro l'altro, praticamente amici (1981) 
(English language version: Against Each Other, Practically Friends)

Nessuno è perfetto (1981) (English language version: Nobody is perfect


Internet Movie Database Plot Summary: "Guerrino, a prematurely widowed businessman, falls in love with Chantal, a former paratrooper in the German army who changed sex a few years earlier."  Pozzetto got to work with some of the most beautiful actresses in Italy, but few were as beautiful as his Nessuno è perfetto co-star Ornella Muti.  Muti is best known to American audiences for her performance as Princess Aura in Flash Gordon (1980).

Culo e camicia (1981)



Ricchi, ricchissimi. . . praticamente in mutande (1982) 
(English language version: Don't Play with Tigers)

Porca vacca (1982) (English translation: Holy Cow

Testa o croce  (1982) (English-language version: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose)

La casa stregata (1982) (English-language version: The Haunted House)


Mani di fata (1983) (English-language version: Fairy hands)

Mani di fata preceded a similarly themed Mr. Mom (1983).

Questo e quello (1983) (English language version: This and That)


Un povero ricco (1983) (English language version: Rich and Poor)

Plot summary: A rich man tries to overcome his fear of poverty by living as a poor man for a month.

Il ragazzo di campagna (1984) (English-language version: The country boy)



È arrivato mio fratello (1985) (English language version: Here's My Brother)


Plot summary: A depressed teacher impersonates his flamboyant, fun-loving twin, who works in nightclubs as a pianist.

 Lui è peggio di me (1985) (English language version: He's Worse Than Me)

Plot summary: Old friends become rivals for a woman.

Grandi magazzini (1986) (English translation: Department Stores

 7 Chili In 7 Giorni (1986) (English language version: 7 kilos in 7 days)  


Plot summary: A pair of dim-witted doctors open a fitness center to help people to lose weight.

Da grande (1987)  
(English-language version: The Big)  


Plot summary: A boy's wish to be an adult causes him to magically transform into a middle-aged man.  The film, which was a big success for Pozzetto, was a likely inspiration for Big (1988).

Noi uomini duri (1987) (English translation: We hard men
Plot summary: A tram driver (Enrico Montesano) and a banker (Pozzetto) become friends during a survival training course.

Roba da ricchi (1987) (English translation: Stuff of rich

Casa mia, casa mia... (1988) (English translation: My house, my house


Burro (1989) 


Non più di uno (1990) (English translation: No more than one

Le comiche (1990) (English language version: The comic


Pozzetto joined with fellow comedian Paolo Villaggio for three films.

Le comiche 2 (1991) 


Piedipiatti (1991) (English language version: Flat Feet

Infelici e contenti (1992) 


Plot summary: A crippled man (Pozzetto) and a blind man (Ezio Greggio) strike up a friendship and go on an impromptu vacation to a beach resort.

Ricky & Barabba (1992) 


Plot summary: A homeless man (Christian De Sica) saves a billionaire (Pozzetto) from hanging himself. 

Le nuove comiche (1994)


Anche i commercialisti hanno un'anima (1994) 

Mollo tutto (1995) (English language version: I'll Leave It All Behind Me


Internet Movie Database Summary: "Franco is tired of his life as a shopkeeper in Rome and decides to leave his wife and daughter to begin a new life in Tunisia. Things don't work out as planned and he's forced to go back to Italy after a few years.  Completely destitute, he is hired to work as a waiter in his old shop by his wife, who fails to recognize him."

Papà dice messa (1996)


Pozzetto and Ponzoni reunited in 2000 for a television series, Nebbia in Val Padana.


The duo reunited again for a 2007 feature film, Un amore su misura.

Cochi Ponzoni, Renato Pozzetto and Camilla Sjoberg in Un amore su misura (2007)

Oggi sposi  (2009) (English language version: Just Married


Casa e bottega (2013) (English translation: Home and shop)


Ma che bella sorpresa (2015) (English language version: What a Beautiful Surprise


Pozzetto, now an elder statesman of the local comedy community, continues to be active in feature films.

Gigi Sammarchi and Andrea Roncato starred in ten films between 1982 and 1987.
Acapulco, prima spiaggia... a sinistra (1982)
I camionisti (1982)
Se tutto va bene siamo rovinati (1983)
L'allenatore nel pallone (1984)
I pompieri (1985)
Mezzo destro mezzo sinistro - 2 calciatori senza pallone (1985)
Doppio misto (1986)
Il lupo di mare (1987)
Rimini Rimini (1987)
Tango blu (1987)
Acapulco, prima spiaggia... a sinistra (1982)

Salvatore Ficarra and Valentino Picone have been consistently successful with the ten feature films that they have produced since 2000.

This is the poster for Andiamo a quel paese (2014). 

Andiamo a quel paese (2014)

The plot is not hard to follow.  The duo seek to reduce their expenses by relocating from a big city, Palermo, to a small town.  They create a new income stream by turning their new home into a makeshift hospice.  Hijinks ensue.  

L'ora legale (2017)

Pasquale Petrolo and Claudio Gregori, billed as Lillo and Greg, have starred together in seven feature films:

Blek Giek (2001)

Lillo e Greg - The movie! (2007)

Lightning Strike (2012)

Colpi di fortuna (2013)

Un Natale stupefacente (2014)


Natale col boss (2015)


Natale a Londra - Dio salvi la Regina (2016)

The duo typically struggle to get themselves out of sticky situations.  Take for instance Un Natale stupefacente.  On Christmas Eve, Lillo and Greg find themselves having to take care of an 8-year-old nephew whose parents have been mistakenly arrested for growing marijuana.  The following year, in Natale col boss, the actors play plastic surgeons kidnapped by a crime boss who wants facial surgery to hide his identity.  The crime boss tells them that he wants to look like Leonardo DiCaprio, but the surgeons misunderstand him and make him look like septuagenarian Italian singer Peppino Di Capri.  In Natale a Londra, the comedians play dog groomers who travel to London and get caught up in a plot to kidnap the Queen's dogs.

Italian comedy trio Aldo Baglio, Giovanni Storti and Giacomo Poretti, billed as Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo, have starred in nine feature films in the last twenty years.

Tre uomini e una gamba (1997) was their debut film.  The Internet Movie Database describes the plot as follows: "Three friends cross Italy by car in order to deliver their boss his dog and a wooden leg."

Così è la vita (1998)

Chiedimi se sono felice (2000)

La leggenda di Al, John e Jack (2002), which is set in New York in 1958, features the comedians as three inept mafiosi who work for the notorious real-life kingpin Sam Genovese.

Tu la conosci Claudia? (2004)

Il cosmo sul comò (2008)

La banda dei Babbi Natale (2010) was released in English-language countries as The Santa Claus Gang.

Il ricco, il povero e il maggiordomo (2014)


Fuga da Reuma Park (2016)

The team also produced three concert films - I corti di Aldo, Giovanni & Giacomo (1996), Anplagghed al cinema (2006) and Ammutta muddica al cinema (2013).

Anplagghed al cinema (2006)
Ammutta muddica al cinema (2013)
Pio D'Antini and Amedeo Grieco were the stars of Amici come noi (2014).

Katia and Valeria (Katia Follesa and Valeria Graci) have been featured on numerous television shows since 2001.

Il Matrimonio

These days, comedy teams can be found almost any place in the Western world except for the United States.

Finnish comedians Antti Holma and Riku Nieminen solicit laughs together in Kanelia Kainaloon, Tatu Ja Patu (2016).


Sami Hedberg, Aku Hirviniemi and Jaajo Linnonmaa have teamed up for the Luokka Kokous franchise, which is essentially a Finnish version of Hangover.

Luokka Kokous 2 (2016)

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