We asked comedy greats to name the five works in their fields that influenced them the most and made them laugh the hardest. Tracy Oliver made headlines as the first black screenwriter to write a film that grossed over $100 million with the uproarious 2017 comedy Girls Trip, which she co-wrote. This year she’ll celebrate the release of Little, a movie she wrote about a woman (Regina Hall) who wakes up as her younger self (Marsai Martin) and her BET reboot of The First Wives Club.
Coming To America (1988)
This movie continues to be a classic. Watching it as a kid, I remember thinking all the characters that Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall played in the movie were hysterical. But even more than the comedy, I loved the scale of this film — the size of the wedding and the scope of the ceremony with the African dancers. It never feels like a small, cheap movie.
Bridesmaids was a huge turning point for me. I remember watching it in the theater and thinking, This will forever change the face of comedy. Not only was it about women, they weren’t all gorgeous, unrelatable women. Kristen Wiig as the protagonist was the type of chick I could relate to, and Melissa McCarthy was unbelievably funny. Bridesmaids set the stage for us to pitch Girls Trip, because now we could point to another comedy starring women that was raunchy and successful.
Trading Places (1983)
I watch Trading Places every time it airs. It also has a lot of social commentary hidden within the movie, which I love; it manages to say a lot about race and class without being overly didactic.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
I fell in love with Nora Ephron after watching this movie. I always go back to it when I write dialogue between two characters who are madly in love with each other, because you’re hard pressed to find dialogue as sharp as this: It’s basically a master class. It’s still my favorite romantic comedy.
Tom Hanks is incredible, and there are so many funny, endearing moments in it. My favorite scene is when Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play “Chopsticks” with their feet using the giant piano at FAO Schwarz. It’s really well-written with lots of laughs, but a lot of heart.
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