A New Direction in Comedian Comedy?: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch Drunk Love and the Post-Comedian Rom-Com

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter contends that it is precisely through the simultaneous interrogation of the comedic personas of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler and of the rom-com that Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind and Punch-Drunk Love might serve as significant milestones in the trajectory of the comedian-comedy; a largely male-centred genre that has merited little discussion of late, and has certainly received no sustained interest since it was first brought to critical attention over 25 years ago. At once unexpected Carrey/Sandler vehicles and dysfunctional rom-coms, they are symptomatic of the truly hybridized and self-conscious post-comedian rom-com; a new strain in contemporary Hollywood marrying and interrogating the attentions of the comedian and romantic comedies. Specifically, it seems to be the concerns of the screwball, a genre in any case closely aligned with the comedian comedy, that are being both harnessed and somewhat inverted here: so the screwball’s gender dynamics are replicated in that it is the females who are the initiators of each of the film’s romances. Yet, the physical humour that is so central to the screwball is, for the most part, conspicuous by its absence. Sandler and Carrey, of course, are widely known for their exaggerated, physical comic antics. However, and as I outline here, these films work to reconceptualize, repackage that physicality, and, indeed, our expectations of its occurrence; in effect recasting it, internalizing it as the complex psychologies of Joel and Barry. In effectively decentring both comedy and romance; in finding themselves, particularly in the case of the Gondry film, preoccupied with, rather than compelled by either, these films certainly eschew the expected mechanics of the comedian and romantic comedies; but, in doing so, they offer up a new and intriguing generic space for their mutual dysfunctionalities: the post-comedian rom-com.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFalling in love again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2008


  • comedian comedy
  • rom-com
  • performance


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