Bill Forsyth’s Comfort and Joy

Comfort and Joy poster
Comfort and Joy poster

One night, a few summers ago, when it was too hot to sleep I remember lying in my bed and listening to the heat drive one of my neighbors insane. It was around two in the morning and for about twenty minuets he was pacing back and forth screaming “Enough! I’ve had enough of this!” He never went into further detail but anyone who could hear him knew he was talking about the heat. I remember lying there and thinking, if only he had some ice cream.

Ice cream sales rise and fall simultaneously with murder rates. The more ice cream people buy the more murders there are. Of course this isn’t the ice cream’s fault. It’s the heat’s fault. It drives people crazy. I’d even go so far as to bet that if people didn’t have ice cream to cool them down the murder rates would go even higher. We don’t often think of mayhem and ice cream as being close but the two are old friends. It’s been the subject of news reports, podcasts, and was even the premise of Bill Forsyth’s 1984 comedy Comfort and Joy.

On the surface Comfort and Joy is the story a radio host who gets mixed up in an intense turf war between rival ice cream trucks. Yet the subtext of the film presents a portrait of an apathetic man lost in a world of extremists. Fresh from a breakup with his kleptomaniac girlfriend Alan putters through his unfurnished apartment. Faced with a lack of identity and ambition Alan fantasizes about his girlfriend returning to him and restoring his sense of wholeness.

Then one day while he is out driving Alan witnesses a seemingly unprovoked assault on an ice cream truck by two masked men carrying black crow bars. As they make they’re making their getaway one of the assailants recognizes Alan and asks him for an autograph. One of the recurring jokes in the film is that Alan, a man going through an identity crisis, is frequently stopped by strangers who immediately recognize him.

After witnessing the first attack Alan finds himself slipping further and further into the world of ice cream warfare. Acting as a neutral messenger between the two feuding companies Alan hopes to bring them towards a peaceful resolution. Instead Alan finds himself infuriating both in a series of events that always end in a chaotic mess.

Comfort and Joy is a film that uses a ridiculous premise to explore and mock some of the more basic aspects of life; identity, ambition, and passion. One of the subtler jokes in the film is the more outrageous the feud between the ice cream trucks get, the more serious a global conflict grows in background radio reports and newspaper headlines. Bill Forsyth’s film presents it’s audience with an absurd world of filled with blind aggression but it’s also a world of excitement and love. It’s a world where we cannot solve all our problems but one where we can take time off from them to indulge ourselves with simple pleasures like ice cream.

So what do you think? Have you ever seen Comfort and Joy? Do you know any ice cream truck turf-war stories? Please leave some comments below so that we can continue our discussion on ice cream, turf wars, and identity crises.

-Jet Fuel Blogger, Lucas Sifuentes

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