Who’s Laughing Now? New Comedies For April Fools’ Day

Five funny films whose humor goes for more than laughs

While there are plenty of theories about how April 1 became April Fools’ Day, historians admit that the origin behind this celebration of practical jokes and mischievous pranks remains a mystery. Allusions to April Fools' Day date back as far as Chaucer, and the first recorded prank occurred in 1698 with a fictional newspaper account of people going to the Tower of London to wash lions. In the last three hundred years, friends and co-workers have gone out of their way to make their April Fools' Day jokes messier and more memorable. The Museum of Hoaxes has even ranked their “Top 100 April Fools’ Day Hoaxes of All Time.” In 1976, the spirit of April Fools’ Day took over the whole month when April officially became National Humor Month with the intention of making people aware of “humor as a tool to lift ailing spirits.”

To celebrate this month of merriment, we’re showcasing five comedies that not only make us laugh but also use humor to bring complex issues into focus with lightness and wit. 

The official trailer for Kajillionaire.

Kajillionaire | Family Matters

As an artist and filmmaker, Miranda July creates work, like her recent comedy Kajillionaire, that defies expectations. In the film, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), the adult child of a pair of low-rent grifters (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger), learns to become her own woman when she meets Melanie (Gina Rodrigeuz). Deftly blending humor with heartbreak, July creates a con-game comedy whose real sleight of hand is to reveal the characters' true emotions in hilariously absurdist ways. To capture the family’s dynamic of disappointment, July stages sometimes silly, sometimes sad, moments between them. “I’m writing it funny because there’s no other way to get across that kind of pain sometimes,” explains July. Through her particular alchemy, July has created with Kajillionaire what The Atlantic calls her “best work, mixing her gift for quirky comedy with a heartbreaking story.”

Watch Kajillionaire now. 

The official trailer for The High Note.

The High Note | Good Vibrations

Nisha Ganatra’s comedy The High Note follows the trajectories of two women — Maggie (Dakota Johnson) and Grace Davis’(Tracee Ellis Ross) — adrift in LA’s dazzling music world. Grace is an international performing star who wants to rediscover her passion for writing personal songs. Maggie, her personal assistant, is hungry to make her mark as a music producer. Although the film has fun with the genre of personal assistants dealing with their bosses’ outrageous expectations, the story is ultimately about the connection that Grace and Maggie build trying to support each other's dreams. “I wasn’t interested in a story where women were not working together and helping each other,” explains Ganatra. As such, The High Note's humor builds up its characters, rather than tearing them down. “This is an enchanting and escapist summer movie,” exclaims film critic Claudia Puig, “And it has something to say about the male-driven world of pop music.”

Watch The High Note now.

The official trailer for Half Brothers

Half Brothers | Both Sides Now

Luke Greenfield’s Half Brothers follows two siblings, Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) and Asher (Connor Del Rio), from opposite sides of the border on a road trip to uncover the secret behind how their father, Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa), ended up with two separate families — one in Mexico and one in the United States. Touching thoughtfully on the discussion of immigration, Half Brothers humorously reminds us to look at the situation from both sides. For Film Threat, “this family story is filled with moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, and genuine emotion, which sets it above any silly comedy Hollywood can produce.” In addition to getting lots of laughs, the Mexican-born writer/producer Eduardo Cisneros wants his audience to think about what brings his characters together, rather than what separates them, and then take “a minute to stop and think what the other person’s going through.”

Watch Half Brothers now.

The official trailer for Irresistible.

Irresistible | Party Games

For sixteen years, Jon Stewart, as the comic genius behind The Daily Show, shone a spotlight on American politics by making us laugh at the news. In Irresistible, Stewart creates a classic political comedy that pokes fun at both parties while still exposing the very real problem of big money's corrupting influence on American campaigns. Steve Carrell plays Gary Zimmer, a high-powered Democratic strategist who decides to support a local hero, retired Marine colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), for mayor of the small town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin. When his professional nemesis, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), arrives to boost up support for the Republic incumbent, a tiny dairy town election is turned into a very expensive political circus. Taking aim at what he calls “the permanent campaign and an election-based economy that has sprung up around that,” Stewart takes on the political system, rather than any particular politics itself. “Taken on its own terms,” The Hollywood Reporter points out, “this buoyantly funny comedy offers lip-smacking entertainment that will surprise many with its skewering of both sides.”

Watch Irresistible now

The official trailer for The Dead Don't Die.

The Dead Don't Die | Weird Science

Something weird is happening in the all-American town of Centerville, something that the heroes of Jim Jarmusch’s comedy horror film The Dead Don’t Dieare desperately trying to understand and stop. The undead are waking up all over town. Harking back to the tongue-in-cheek horror of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, Jarmusch pits three small-town cops — played by Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny — against their neighbors, who have all been turned into zombies. “Every zombie story,” explains Jarmusch, “is somehow metaphorical.” As TVs and radios constantly report in the background, the world's ecosphere is out of whack. As a result, environmental warnings about climate change have come true in the most unexpected way — the dead won't die. While the film's message may be deadly serious, Jarmusch’s deadpan humor keeps the apocalypse entertaining. The film imagines, asPopMatters points out, “the end of the world blatantly without once forgetting to be steadfastly, almost dementedly, silly.”

Watch The Dead Don’t Die now on iTunes or Amazon.