Today’s feature has not only shaped my own sense of humor, but my idea of comedy as a whole. I’d never seen anything quite like This Is Spinal Tap before, and afterwards my concepts of what was and wasn’t funny were forever derailed from the norm forever. No longer could I watch Booty Call or Overnight Delivery and find the humor. No longer would anything from the Cartoon Network line-up (with the obvious exemption of Adult Swim) make me giggle with delight. Even the great Jay Leno, who had never made me laugh before, ceased to not un-amuse me. Now I am an adult with a very particular (i.e. odd) sense of humor, hard to please, and it’s all this movie’s fault! But, damn it, I love it for just that reason.
So just what is this movie? Well, for the few left uninitiated, This Is Spinal Tap is a fake documentary chronicling the fake exploits of the fake band Spinal Tap during their American tour in the early 80s. It’s an eerily accurate spoof of real-life rock band situation; life on the road, band politics, on-stage antics, and everything else you wanted to know about a rock band but never wanted to ask. With a camera manned by fake documentarian Marty DiBergi (played by director Rob Reiner), we are taken into the immersive world of an over-the-hill rock group with heads that are way too big, pants that are way too tight, and members that are way too clueless. Band members David St. Hubbins (vocals, rythym guitar), Nigel Tufnel (lead guitar), Derek Smalls (bass guitar), and the latest in a long, long line of drummers recount their 20+ years in the business, from their days in England playing Beatles-like pop and psychadelic rock, to the natural progression of heavy metal (?!?!?!) in the latter half of their career. Trying to find the stage at confusing venues, empty autograph signing sessions, and being detained at the airport for a foreign object in a band member’s pants are just a couple examples of the everyday hassles of life on tour with the greatest heavy metal group in Britain, and Mr. DeBergi captures it all in hilarious detail.
What a great idea! Written by the principal players of Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Chrostopher Guest, and Rob Reiner (playing David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls, Nigel Tufnel, and Marty DiBergi respectively), this is the best lambast of the rock world that anyone has ever come up with. It’s one of those movies where the things that happen are so insane, you know that they probably happened somewhere in real life. In fact, a lot of real musicians have come out and admitted that a lot of the horrible things that happened to Spinal Tap during their tour in the movie happened to them too. Eddie Van Halen reportedly saw it and did not laugh once, citing that everything in the movie had happened to him! Tough luck, Eddie! Grow a funny bone!
The humor is such that no jokes are told, no pauses to laugh are given, and everything is presented to the audience with a straight face. It makes for a disheartening experience for watching it with a group of friends, because every now and then you’ll hear the dreaded line, “Oh, that was supposed to be funny?”, which is the comedic equivalent to “Are you sure you’re hard yet?”. This line is usually followed by the ending of a friendship, but more people need to be made aware. Let me spell it out for you: THAT’S THE JOKE!!!!!! It’s a little more subtle than your average comedy, and that makes for a bit more confusion among people as to what’s a joke and what’s minutia, but if you’re really good at what you do, then there shouldn’t even be a difference.
The Spinal Tap songs are so good, I actually have the CD! They’re all fantastic! Christopher Guest and Michael McKean are actually very talented musicians, and the songs are not just hilarious (with titles like “Sex Farm” and “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock Ya Tonight” what’d you expect?), but pretty toe-tapping in their own right. The lyrics are some of my favorites in any song EVER. Take for example the understated beauty of “Big Bottom”, in which David St. Hubbins, ever so gently, intones: The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin’; that’s what I said! /The looser the waistband, the deeper the quicksand, or so I have read! /My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo/I wanna sink her with my pink torpedo! Isn’t that just beautiful?!
Something is never as funny when you’re talking about it compared to when you’re there experiencing it, so what are you waiting for? Go watch this movie! It’s out-and-out hilarious, and if your sense of humor is a bit sharper than most, you’ll catch more humor than you thought could fit anto just one movie. This is a must-see for fans of rock and roll and fans of alternative comedy. If you haven’t seen it yet, go out and rent this TONIGHT! I give it 10 pink torpedos out of 10. A very high recommendation!
Tomorrow we take a gander at the Tom Cruise/Ridley Scott slice of fantasy Legend! Until then, a question: what was your favorite scene from this movie! Discuss this in the comments section. This one, hands down, is mine: