101 Funniest Screenplays

When the film came out, playwrights George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind had already written the musicals The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, both Marx Brothers Broadway shows. “Morrie Ryskind and I learned a great lesson in the writing of stage comedy. We learned it from the Marx Brothers,” Kaufman said in a 1939 address at Yale, as quoted on the Library of America blog. “We learned that when an audience does not laugh at a line at which they’re supposed to laugh, then the thing to do was to take out that line and get a funnier line. So help me, we didn’t know that before." Filled with the brothers' trademark banter, A Night at the Opera featured Groucho as business manager Otis B. Driftwood, and Chico and Harpo as stowaways on a ship bound from Italy to New York (see over-crowded stateroom scene and/or the verbal interplay between Groucho and Chico as they go over the details of a singer’s contract).