Restrictions of space preclude any attempt on my part to formulate a theory of unintentional humour, but three basic points might be worth making:
First, the filmically 'unintentional' seems to apply exclusively to humour. No spectator is likely ever to have shed tears at a scene that wasn't designed to elicit them from him, or emitted a scream that the director hadn't premeditated to the last degree.
Second, no matter what the orthodox opinion might be, I myself infallibly know, from some inner, intimate conviction, when I am laughing not with but against a film - so that, even if I have no rational counter-argument to offer them, I simply cannot be swayed by admirers of Polanski's new erotic psychodrama, Bitter Moon (an absolute hoot), who claim that it was always meant to be funny.
And, third, although I laughed louder and longer at Bitter Moon than I have at most recent comedies, I realised, when it was all over, that for some mysterious reason I hadn't actually enjoyed it as much as I did those comedies.
Typically, Hollywood has now begun to appropriate and consciously exploit the pleasures of unintentional humour. Think of the Airplane] and Naked Gun spoofs. The jokes are crude and obvious enough, perhaps, but the sublime Leslie Nielsen remains so deliriously straight-faced throughout that one can only suppose his performance is intended to prompt a unique and paradoxical form of intentionally unintentional laughter.Reuse content