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George Simmons (Sandler), a famous and popular comedian and star of numerous successful lowbrow comedic movies, is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, the treatment of which promises only a low chance of success. Looking back on his life and finding it empty and lonely, realizing that he's somehow managed to drive away pretty much every meaningful human connection he ever had, Simmons decides to get back to his roots and return to the stand-up comedy circuit where he started. At his first gig, where he gives a dark, depressing routine, he crosses paths with Ira Wright (Rogen), a fumbling, shy and nervous up-and-comer who is on stage immediately after Simmons and manages to get a few laughs riffing on Simmons' dark routine.
Recognising something in Wright, Simmons offers him a job writing jokes for a corporate gig, which becomes a gig as Simmons' P.A. Ira thus becomes the first and only person George tells about his illness, and he begins to try and encourage George to come out of his shell and rebuild connections, including mending bridges with 'the one that got away' -- his ex-girlfriend Laura (Leslie Mann) who is now married to an Australian businessman named Clark (Eric Bana).
Just when George has resigned himself to the inevitable, an unexpected development gives him further cause to re-evaluate his life and what he thought he knew about it -- and he decides that it's time to get back together with Laura...
Funny People contains the following tropes:
- Affair Hair: Averted with Laura.
- And Then What?: Eminem proposes this in a vulgar yet true way after George finds out he is cured.
- As Himself: A several comedians Cameo as himself, a couple of whom exaggerate themselves more then others, most notably Ray Romano and Eminem.
- Creator Breakdown: George's first stand-up gig after learning about his illness especially, but it informs all of them that we see. Ira's own gigs aren't entirely free of this either.
- Deadpan Snarker: George and most of the other comedians who appear, although it's deconstructed in a way; it's made fairly clear that they all tend to use jokes as a substitute for actually forging meaningful connections with other people, or at least as a way to avoid expressing their feelings.
- Halfway Plot Switch: When it's revealed that George is cured of his illness, The movie soon shifts to a Days of Our Lives kinda feel as George starts to rekindle his love for Laura as Ira does not approve of this and Clark certainly doesn't either after he finds out.
- The Ishmael: Call me Ira.
- Jerkass: George. He's brutally deconstructed by Ira towards the end.
- Kavorka Man: George, his celebrity status makes him pretty popular with the ladies.
- Lame Comeback: George's comeback to Ira's What the Hell, Hero? (see below), that Ira isn't funny, is just as pathetic and inadequate as it sounds.
- Lonely At the Top: George, although it's established that it's more than fame that has caused this.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Ira's roommates' assessment of Aubrey Plaza's character: "She's mousy!" "Yeah, a mouse I wanna stick my dick in!"
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ira does this when he follows Laura to the airport. When Clark and Laura reunite and forgive each other, Ira tries to sneak away, but is spotted by Clark, thus having Laura be forced to tell how she slept with George and thus having an angered Clark beat the living crap out of George. All thanks to Ira simply trying to fix things.
- One-Scene Wonder: James Taylor Fuck Facebook.
- Also the scene with Ray Romano and Eminem.
- Reason You Suck Speech: Ira gives one to George (see below), but it actually seems to have a positive effect at the very end.
- Recycled in Space: The film's been interpreted by some as Adam Sandler's version of The Great Gatsby.
- Sad Clown: George, of course.
- Shout-Out: Possibly. The final shot in the movie (both in look and context) is nearly identical to the final shot in Catch Me If You Can, which was also shot by Janusz Kaminski
- Show Within a Show: Jason Schwartzman's character acts in "Yo Teach". There's also all of the movies that Simmons has been in, which show up here and there.
- Spin-Off: Judd Apatow bought a pitch for a Randy movie. The script is yet to be written.
- Stylistic Suck: The majority of the shows within the show.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Annoyingly enough, at least one trailer shows George getting the news that his illness is gone. Some summaries give away the same plot point. Of course, given the length of the movie and the Halfway Plot Switch...
- What the Hell, Hero??: In a way; after Ira, completely fed up with George when he fired him, has completely deconstructed the other man and informed him that even if he had everything he ever wanted George would still not be happy because he's a bitter, selfish, self-loathing shell of a man who doesn't seem to know what happiness even is never mind be able to find or provoke it in other people.
- Your Cheating Heart: Laura and Clark.
- Your Days Are Numbered: George's cancer sets off the plot of the movie, but of course he gets better.