Jocularity & Jolts: The Comedy and Drama of Documentaries

3 de juliol de 2023

"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton - American actor, screenwriter, and director 


In the realm of cinema, comedy and drama encapsulate the ebb and flow of human experience. Documentaries that dance across these genres reveal the spectrum of our shared realities: the laughter, the tears, and everything in between.

Whether you're settling into a Netflix movie night or catching up on YouTube shows, comedy and drama documentaries serve you hearty doses of humor and poignant narratives. They mirror the essence of life—a rollercoaster of euphoria, despair, and everything in between.

Documentaries—docu-dramas or docuseries—have a way of drawing out hearty laughter in one scene and melancholic tears in the next. The power of these films lies in their uncanny ability to humanize their subjects, resulting in an authentic connection between viewer and screen.


a couple of clowns


For Those Who Savor the Sweet Taste of Laughter and the Salt of Tears: Top Ten Documentaries and Docuseries:




two climbers on an ice wall

This documentary unveils the high-risk world of Sherpas, who guide mountaineers on Everest expeditions. The film skillfully captures the inherent danger of their profession and the often-overlooked role they play. The narrative is punctuated by instances of humor, resilience, and camaraderie among the Sherpas, making it a perfect blend of drama and comedy.



Microcassette - The Smallest Cassette I've Ever Seen

a dozen mini cassettes and a man's hands

In the documentary, Microcassette - The Smallest Cassette I've Ever Seen, an exploration of the mundane transforms into a journey of imagination. Amid the sprawling waste of a large Croatian island landfill, Zoki stumbles upon a tiny relic from the past - a microcassette. This discarded piece of technology ignites a tribute to serendipity and creativity, as the film unravels the stories that this little object might hold, symbolizing the beauty that can be found in unexpected places.


American Factory

two women in a factory

This Academy Award-winning documentary on Netflix brings to the forefront the cultural and economic collisions between Chinese and American factory workers. The film skillfully weaves humor into its narrative, highlighting the shared human experience amidst the disparity.


Rota N Roll

a band of friends playing music

The documentary dives into the profound cultural transformation of Rota, a quaint fishing and farming town in the Spanish province of Cadiz, which in the mid-20th century witnessed the influx of 8,000 Americans and the onset of Rock 'n' Roll. These Americans, building the largest military base in Europe, initiated a drastic shift in Rota's cultural landscape. As fishing and farming dwindled, the town began to differentiate itself from the rest of the country, still under Franco's dictatorship. Along with the arrival of missiles, the American influence also brought with it a wave of economic stimulation, Levi's, Marlboro cigarettes, Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the vibrant sounds of Rock and Blues. This film uncovers the story of Rota's metamorphosis, interweaving tales of unlikely romances between Americans and locals, portraying a unique snapshot of a town forever altered.


Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness

a blond man hugs a tiger

This docuseries, available on Netflix, oscillates between the ludicrous and the tragic. It delves into the underbelly of big cat breeding in America, featuring a cast of eccentric characters whose outrageous antics are often laugh-out-loud funny.


Satiesfictions - Promenades with Erik Satie

an orchestra around a pool with swimmers

This whimsical documentary steps into the fascinating world of Erik Satie, a 20th-century French avant-garde composer, and all-around eccentric. Known for his quick wit, eccentricities, and remarkable contributions to the arts, Satie was a pioneer in more ways than one. The film, in playful vignettes, brings his imaginative creations to life: his many fictional advertisements morph into real commercials, and his sketches animate into lively cartoons. Featuring a colorful cast of divas, dogs, children, and quirky pianists playing stacked pianos, the film takes you on a surreal journey through Satie's multifaceted universe. The accounts of Satie's peers and music scholars interspersed throughout the film offer profound insights into his extraordinary world of word and sound.


Life According to Sam

a family poses for the camera, one of them is bald and has a red shirt

This touching documentary chronicles the life of Sam Berns, a teenager battling a rare, rapid-aging disease called Progeria. Amidst the struggles, Sam's infectious spirit and humor shine through, making it a deeply moving watch.


Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown

a clown with a well-groomed red nose smokes a cigarette

This Documentary offers a vibrant exploration of one of cinema's most legendary comedians from an international perspective, primarily focusing on his film reception in France. Director Gregory Monro expertly unveils the influences on Lewis's irrepressible humor, tracing back to Charlie Chaplin and the iconic duo of Laurel and Hardy. With insightful contributions from industry giants like Martin Scorsese, Sean Hayes, and Louis Malle, the documentary stitches together a mosaic of perspectives on Lewis, all united in their reverence for him as a comedy titan. As the film draws to a close, Lewis himself graces the screen, culminating in a precious piece of history about a true genius of laughter.


Exit Through The Gift Shop

art gallery

This intriguing docu-comedy revolves around Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in LA, who becomes an accidental street artist. The film, while shedding light on the hype around art, offers comic relief through Guetta's unconventional journey.


Cuba No Cow

a man with long hair from behind looks at an immense green field

This short dives into the paradoxical landscape of Cuba, where owning a cow is apparently a far-fetched dream. After an intriguing tip-off from locals during a documentary workshop, American filmmaker Erik Anderson decides to delve into this peculiar narrative. With a borrowed camera, and a heart filled with curiosity, Anderson embarks on an engaging exploration, documenting this perplexing hearsay and navigating through the socio-cultural labyrinth that is Cuba. This documentary captures a curious intersection of cultural nuances, governmental regulations, and individual lives in a country full of surprises.


Whether it's the dramatic tension of a powerful docudrama or the rib-tickling humor of a comedy documentary, these films engage, entertain, and enlighten. They serve as mirrors to the society we inhabit and the realities we share.


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