One of the reasons that writing comedy is so hard is that you have to serve two sometimes-opposing goals: You want everything to be as funny as possible, but you also want everybody to stay in character. You quickly realize that you can’t always use the funniest possible line or show the funniest possible action. Instead, you have to limit yourself to the funniest line or action that this character would say or do in this situation.
On “How I Met Your Mother”, if the writers comes up with a funny Barney joke, but he’s not in the scene, they have to resist the temptation to just give that line to Ted, who wouldn’t naturally say it. The worst possible solution is when writers give a Barney-type line to a Ted-type character, and then cover their asses by having Ted say something like, “Sorry, Barney’s not here and somebody had to say it!” Ugh. Do not do this.
This is even worse: one thing that happens all the time in kids’ books is that the author will mention early on that the kid has a word-a-day calendar, then every time the kid uses a word that no kid would know, they simply have the kid explain, “I just learned that word from my calendar”. Double-Ugh.
Bridesmaids had a wonderful ensemble of actresses and the script was able to come up with strong character arcs for four of the six ladies in the bridal party. Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey, on the other hand, each had a lot of funny lines , but didn’t really get storylines of their own.
The proof that the moviemakers weren’t sure what to do with them is in the airplane scene. They have a funny conversation about their very different marriages, but the writers didn’t seem to know how to end it, so they have the two women suddenly kiss. It gets a big laugh, but it really doesn’t come from character and it doesn’t get paid off later.
In an otherwise rock-solid movie, it’s an example of choosing a quick laugh over character building, which isn’t the best choice. You can’t ask, “What’s the funniest thing they could do?”, you have to ask, “What’s the funniest thing they would do?”