Has Paul Feig become ‘the man’ in the comedy world?

It’s the end of the year, so a lot of those “best of” lists are coming out. When you get into film, you don’t often see comedy movies crack top 10 lists — but here, via The Atlantic Wire, we have The Heat (McCarthy and Bullock) making the list. That movie didn’t make one New York Times list, but Manohla Dargis gave it a shout-out. It made it onto a couple of other lists, including this one from The Motley Fool. (It also made about $230 million world-wide, which is nice.) If you go back a couple of years, Bridesmaids was in the AFI Top 10 films list for 2011 and won a shit ton of other awards. Those two movies, which you can argue are among the top five-ten comedies of the 2010s so far, have two things in common: Melissa McCarthy, who might be the most bankable female comedy star right now, and Paul Feig, who directed both. Feig has worked a ton in TV, including The Office and Nurse Jackie. 

Feig was probably best known for a long time as an associate of Judd Apatow, who has a bigger name in people-that-don’t-follow-the-entertainment-world-breathlessly circles. He worked with Apatow on Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, two chronically-underrated shows (the former of which has spawned a number of stars including Rogen, Franco, Segel, John Francis Daly, and Busy Phillips). Before that even, Feig was doing pickup cameos in things like Newhart and Three O’Clock High. Now he’s becoming one of the highest-grossing comedy directors of the past half-decade. He can do something that very few director/producer/writer types have been able to do over time: helm comedies that are female-centric, but don’t pander to females. In the process, he’s averaging a little under $200 million gross world-wide per film. He’s got similar-type projects coming up: one with McCarthy, Rose Byrne and Jason Statham (!) about a female spy (McCarthy), and one with “an ethnically-diverse cast of actresses.” People have been trying to figure out his exact model all over the Internet for close to three years now.

No one’s going to put Feig in the same discussion with a Spielberg or a Redford or even a Christopher Nolan — those are apples and oranges conversations. But in terms of making comedy films, he should at least be considered at, or maybe one level below, someone like Seth MacFarlane (obviously these are very different types of films). Most of the highest-grossing comedy films of all-time — Home AloneBeverly Hills CopAustin Powers, etc. — involve some kind of ridiculous suspension of disbelief (the robbers can’t be that dumb, can they?). Feig’s movies do too, but they’re played in a way that seems like they could happen. The relatable quality in the face of absurdity is cool.

He also is good with the role players, which is crucial for comedy (others need to shine and develop themselves; very few knew Chris O’Dowd before Bridesmaids and now he’s everywhere):

Dude is also kinda funny on the Twitter himself (talk about relatable!):

And he’s producing a Peanuts movie, which is pretty awesome. I feel like Peanuts is a pretty universally well-regarded thing. I loved it. It’s my icon over at Tumblr. I think the football being pulled away is representative of how many young boys feel, but I also agree with some of this:

Anyway, before I go in about 1,000 different directions and start discussing some of the best moments from Freaks and Geeks and how that underscores that even back then, Feig could write for females… I’ll just let myself out. My point is, Feig might be emerging as a ‘king-maker’ in the Hollywood comedy world. He might even surpass his man Apatow in the next couple of years, especially if these next two films + Peanuts score well at the box office. To a new king of comedy (and martinis).

Ted Bauer