More Lesions for laffs!
"There's Something About Mary"
This popular comedy has not one but three examples of dermatologic conditions. Given the flick's extreme physical humor, the characters' skin is in extremely poor physical shape.

Case in point are the hives experienced by actor Chris Elliott whenever babelicious Cameron Diaz draws near. Hives (urticaria) are caused by a release of histamine in the skin, causing redness, swelling, and itch. Commonly, hives are brought on by an allergic reaction to foods and medicines. Often, no clear cause can be determined. Stress can also play a role, as in this case. Even when a cause is determined, hives can still persist for weeks or months. Treatment includes antihistamine pills, cortisone by mouth or injection, and avoiding the material causing the allergy. That or getting the screenwriter to change the script!
Stress can also result in the second of the movie's skin findings seen too on Elliott's face. On Elliott's lower eyelid, he shows a form of acne lesion called a stye. Tender and angry, sties are essentially inflamed cysts of the lid. Like other types of acne lesions, they can be treated in the doctor's office with drainage, but also may respond to warm soaks and antibiotic pills and drops. And Elliott may want to talk to his agent about getting different roles.
Finally, Diaz' girlfriend Magda gives us a historic look at a bygone(?) era. From the 1950's to the last few years, the overly-tanned, "leather-skinned" look was the popular appearance of Caucasians. Slowly, as the knowledge that the accumulation of ultraviolet radiation causes damage to skin cells, people are beginning to wisely protect themselves from excess sun exposure. By doing this, wrinkles, discoloration, and risk of skin cancer can be minimized. At long last the "healthy" tan is being reduced by Hollywood writers to a behavior to joke about. Rather than pull out the aluminum foil, pull out the sunscreen.
Dustin Hoffman in "Wag the Dog."
Hoffman's hilarious depiction of a pompous Hollywood producer also shows what not to do to your skin. His first appearance in the film consists of an entire conversation from within a tanning bed. For the rest of the film, he sports the tanned leather-skin look. Tanning beds are not recommended. Any ultraviolet radiation can have long term effects and tanning booth tans do not sufficiently prevent burns. Rather than damage the skin, try the sunless tan creams instead.
A pox on "Home Alone 3"
 Yes, Virginia, there was a "Home Alone 3" and no, the actor featured here is not Macaulay Culkin. Everything about this production represented a last ditch effort to wring dollars from a dying franchise. Even the makeup job was low rent. In this version, the boy is left alone because of a bad case of chicken pox. This viral infection is characterized by fevers, severe itch, and small water blisters surrounded by a red halo. Dermatologists make the diagnosis by noting that at a given time, the different lesions should be in various stages. First red bump, then water blister, followed by drying and crusting. This reality was too complicated for the makeup department who opted instead for identical appearing red bumps. Proving a skin condition does not have to be realistic to make it into the skinematic spotlight. Also proving a movie does not have to be funny to make it into the humor spotlight. Chicken pox when contracted by adults is not funny, but can result in life threatening pneumonia or meningitis. Antiviral medicines are available as is a vaccine, recommended to all who are not already immune.  

A warty Oliver Reed as both "Dr. Heckle and Mr. Hype"
As many as 50% of Americans may be infected with Human Papilloma Virus or HPV, so having warts is no laughing matter! It helps to have a sense of humor since no anti-viral treatment is yet available. Treatments include destructive measures such as burning, cutting, or freezing warts. We recommend having a doctor do this--kids don't try this at home! Newer remedies include topical prescription treatments to augment the immune response to the wart virus. While waiting for a cure, try actor Reed's trick: using a shockingly bad wig to distract attention from the lesions. This option is so cost effective that HMO approval is guaranteed.
From Chrome-Dome to Conehead



 Young Frankenstein's monster is bald and green.

 Beldar Conehead is bald and pointy.
Hairlessness is usually a sign of cinematic evil, but can be used for humor as well. In these cases, a bald pate is further accentuated by a greenish skin hue for young Frank and by extending to a pointy tip for Mr. Conehead. Technically known as hydrocephalus, this latter condition is a medical emergency on earth, but remains the norm on the conehead planet. Just a handy comparative examination differentiating extraterrestrial epidermi--provided at no charge from your friends at!
The state of a stain
Finally, evidence that if a comic film contains only one joke, it should center on a skin condition. The Bruce Willis/Michelle Pfeiffer flop, "The Story of Us," follows the hilarious exploits of a couple on the verge of divorce. Laughs are eked out in a scene where the two meet with a marriage counselor. They are unable to concentrate on his advice--distracted by his port wine stain birthmark shaped like the state of California. In actuality, these birthmarks can appear "geographic" in shape, though we recommend a regular road map in a pinch.

lesions for laughs

List of humor lesions
Back to Main Lobby


© 2000 Vail Reese M.D.