Of course, Oscar voters don't usually take comedy seriously, but sometimes they do, so it's no laughing matter that the comic wizards behind today's hottest gut-busters ("Pineapple Express," "Knocked Up," "Superbad," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") are pooh-poohed by the academy. Makes you wonder: Will Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen ever get deserved notice?
After all, voters hailed comedy break-outs Diablo Cody ("Juno," winner) and Paul Hogan ("Crocodile Dundee," nominee) right away. Other funny films have received screenplay nominations like "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Big." Heck, three lighthearted cartoons even received bids: "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo" and "Ratatouille."
But when academy voters acknowledge comedy films with writing nominations, they usually prefer work by members of Hollywood's inner circle. Nora Ephron had already proven herself as a dramatic writer (nommed for "Silkwood," 1983) when she nabbed nods for comedies "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle."
James L. Brooks already had an Emmy-proven TV track record with "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when he segued into films, winning Oscars for writing, directing and producing best-picture champ "Terms of Endearment" (1983) and earning nominations for "Broadcast News" (1987) and "As Good as It Gets" (1997).
Yes, some famous comedy writers got saluted right away, but that's rare, looking back at Oscar history. For example, Billy Wilder started earning Oscar noms soon after he began penning Hollywood laffers, but that's because he teamed up with Charles Brackett, who was a key member of the town's clique. He was president of the Screen Writers' Guild when he and Wilder wrote their first screwball comedy, "Ninotchka," nominated for best screenplay of 1939.
If the "Pineapple Express" gang continues to prove their chops, it's possible they'll repeat the experience of Woody Allen, who was snubbed ridiculously during his early heyday: "What's Up, Pussycat" (1965), "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" (1966), "Take the Money and Run" (1969), "Bananas" (1971), "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask" (1972) and "Sleeper" (1973).
Finally, in 1977, the academy got the joke and "Annie Hall" swept five Oscars (best picture, director, screenplay and actress). But there was sad news for the king joker in one category: Woody lost best actor to a guy in a Neil Simon comedy (Richard Dreyfuss, "The Goodbye Girl").
Curiously, if Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow do get nominated this year, they'll probably compete against Woody Allen, who seems likely to reap his 15th screenplay nomination for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
(Photo: United Artists )