Enjoyable, profanity-laced round table in the August 2010 Esquire (hat tip: Throwing Things) on the inexhaustible subject of what is never not funny. The players: Judd Apatow, John Landis, Adam McKay, Todd Phillips and Edgar Wright.
Adam McKay: Animals. We always have animals in our movies—bears in Anchorman, a cougar in Talladega Nights, a German shepherd in Step Brothers.
Judd Apatow: True. Narcoleptic dog videos on YouTube: Never not funny.
Todd Phillips: What about talking animals?
McKay: Ooh. Todd just found the hole in the argument. Animals talking are very rarely funny. But animals behaving as animals—always funny.
In general outline, I agree -- and must add that the piglets in Nanny McPhee Returns [pictured] had me in stitches. But that rare exception to the talking-animals-are-not-funny rule: Babe. Confession: while I didn't love the movies, I laughed at Drew Barrymore's voice as the Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bill Murray's as Garfield and Owen Wilson's as Marmaduke.)
Other things never not funny: Steve Martin's deadpan, Diane Keaton's dither, Groucho Marx punctuating a crack with a puff on his cigar, Chris Rock's bug eyes, Bill Murray's "we-are-not-amused" silences, Queen Latifah's "he didn't just say that, did he?" doubletake, Cary Grant's triple-take, Hugh Grant's polite stammer, Owen Wilson's coinages (chipichawa, kachow!), the leopard in Bringing Up Baby, Asta (the wirehair terrier in The Thin Man and The Awful Truth), Gromit (of Wallace & Gromit), Monty Python...