A comedy film is an exercise in contradiction – we expect the unexpected. Watching comedies, we are prepared to laugh – at surprises. The comedy is a major genre of Hong Kong cinema and one of its most profitable. Comedies work by presenting jokes, creating funny situations and also by the antics of actors. Comedic actors connect with the audience on a personal level, serving as surrogates, projecting frustrations, realising dreams. Many comedians of Hong Kong cinema are presented on screen in pairs, amusement readily generated by their differences and oppositions from each other. Their unique personas and the ways they interact with each other also take on social significance, representing the integration of individuals, classes and cultures.
In the late 1950s, Sun Ma Si-tsang and Tang Kei-chen, often called the "Two Fools", specialised in playing the little men. Their films generate much laughter from their hustling ways to make a buck, yet never without positive moral notes. In the early 1960s, MP&GI introduced the North-South series, addressing the issue of cultural conflicts caused by the post-war waves of immigrants from up north. Leung Sing-por, one of Cantonese cinema's top comedians, and Liu Enjia, his counterpart on the Mandarin side, team up to star. The conflicts become fodder for great comedy and their resolutions idealistic projections for the future. In the 1970s and 80s, Michael Hui, master of stone-face humour, made a series of memorable comedies that created laughter out of satiric social conditions. Hui would team up with his younger brother, Ricky, forming a cherished duo, himself playing a miserly boss while Ricky assuming the role of a bumbling slowpoke with a heart of gold. In the following decade, the comedian with the most impact was Stephen Chow, whose mo lei tau (nonsensical) comedies went on to become defining works of the 1990s. His favourite partner was Ng Man-tat, and their chemistry together hilarious manifestations of the post-modern sensibilities of their time.
Comedies in Hong Kong cinema continue to evolve. And Charlie Chapin once said, "A day without laughter is a day wasted." It is our sincere wish that the laughter created by the four pairs of comedians in this programme will provide you with many a day not wasted.