Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Post on Comedy from a Film Festvial

Good day, my readers,

It's midpoint now in the SCAD film festival, which I am presently attending. I'm attending it so presently, in fact, that I am writing this very post while sat at the back of a panel discussion at the Savannah College of Art and Design. How is your week going? Unless you also saw 'We Need to Talk about Kevin' then the odds are high that it has not been as awesome as mine. Before Caowin gets any ideas about the similarities between his name and the eponymous 'Kevin', let me just emphasise that the film had nothing to do with my co-writer, and if it did then I would immediately break off my professional relationship with him [EDITOR'S NOTE - Caowinhim: 'No homo'.]

At any rate, I am not here today to talk to you about Kevin (no pun intended), nor am I here to discuss Caowinhim in any real and/or fictional way. What I am going to discuss is my art: that is, comedy. When learning the fundamentals, there are often two things that crop up - and obvious puns are neither of them.

Though irony is fine. So is bashing Apple.
The two things are a pretty universal definition of humour, and a pretty universal safety net for humourists. The definition is something like this: 'The establishment of an expectation followed by the denial of said expectation'. It should be noted that, while a very accurate definition of what we find funny to observe, this is almost never funny to us while it's actually happening to us. When was the last time that my co-writer was laughing his head off about getting cock-blocked, for example. Actually, he's probably doing that right now. See how easy that was? If you found my quip amusing, it's because I established the expectation that Caowinhim would be upset or angry at being denied sex, and then shatter it by pointing out that he usually finds it hilarious actually.

Which is good, because he lives in the friend zone.
If you didn't find my joke funny, then firstly fuck you, and secondly you bring me perfectly to my second point: the safety net that we in the business call "Commenting on the silences", and you at home likely call "a damn funny save". This is an actual thing that many people teach in comedy theory - that if you make a joke and the audience doesn't get it, or just doesn't laugh, don't pave over the concern; draw attention to it. They will almost always laugh that time. This ties in with the first point, in that we as an audience, never expect any sort of 'artist' to say 'I'm terrible, aren't I?' - after all, the said artist only got where they are by being explicitly NOT terrible. Caowin once more serves as an exception to this. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Caowinhim. 'The expectation being shattered here is that Y. S. Rice wants to keep all his teeth.']

No, you're not THAT terrible, Caowin. (Remember what I said about irony?)
The thing about learning order and structure to something like comedy, is that you just can't do it. The same really does go for any art, when you think about it. Don't get me wrong: there are rules to these things, and every good artist must know them (even though the best don't obey them). What I'm really saying is that 'quality' cannot be taught. It's too subjective, and too much based on the creator's natural ability. No doubt my favourite author, Chuck Palahniuk, has been through many a dull English lesson, teaching him all about punctuation, Capitalisation, and speling - but none of that stuff will have (in itself) shaped his writing style. By contrast, I'm sure that Stephanie Meyer's English language education is aproximately equivelant to Palahniuk's, but I would still sooner kill myself than share a lift with the woman.

"This isn't working out...No Stephanie- it's not you; it's those fucking stupid stories you write. Now if you'll just climb out of my life and into this grave I dug for you - in my own time, might I add." - Y. S. Rice
Multiply this unlearnability of quality by ten thousand when you're performing something live, like stand-up comedy, and you'll see my issue with teaching humour. I hope this doesn't come across as arrogant; I aren't saying I write good comedy - I don't! Or do I? Maybe that's what the man wants you to believe. Who knows? Not me!

Look at the funny monkey while I remember whats going on.
Yes, I am but saying that just because people comment on how unfunny they are does not make them actually funny - it only works the other way round. A good comedian, who is usually hilarious, can sideline the occasional mishap by laughing at how mishap-py they are BECAUSE IT'S UNUSUAL. If you are regularly 'joking' about your unfunny-ness, then the only reason people will laugh is at you... Because you are now being ironic to your very core, without even realising it.

But enough about my bitter and darkened soul -

American doctors even think it's heart disease, but I reckon they just don't get my British sarcasm

"Nope, it's definitely heart disease."
- 'Scream 4' was a film I saw about 6 months ago, and which was unusual for a couple of reasons: firstly, it's the first time I've seen the fourth installment in a series without ever having seen 1-3; secondly, it's the first time I've ever willingly watches the fourth installment of a series which I would never have paid to watch 1-3. If you haven't seen this film, but have seen Avatar... They are in no way similar, but congratulations! -You've won back a tiny bit of my respect. If you haven't figured out by now, I hated 'Scream 4'. You know what it does wrong? Trick question; it was everything! You know what it does right? Well, it was mildly hilarious. After some light research, I discovered something interesting: the film is intended to be an awful mockery of the modern '(pseudo-shock-slasher)horror' genre. It succeeded phenomenally!

"But wait, Y. S. Rice, you said you hated the film! Isn't subverting horrible tropes a good thing?"

Not when the subversion itself is now a horrible trope. The original 'Scream' succeeded, by all accounts, at this wonderful mission of trope destruction, and it is generally well-regarded as a result. 'Scream 2' did basically the same thing, but appended the exotic Arabic numeral '2' to the title (well played, guys!). The third instalment ramped everything up by changing the two to a '3'! And who said that originality is dead? Can you all see what I'm getting at here? There's a good reason that the franchise was dead for 11 years - that's over half of my life spent not ruined by this particular unecessary sequel. But alas, there is a reason that I bring up this film.

Just because you make fun of your lack of quality does not actually give your work any quality. Jimmy Carr can do it, Frankie Boyle can do it - most people can! But if Stephanie Meyer told the world that her books were crap, it wouldn't be witty or clever - her fans would 'pish and tush' her, while her enemies would simply high five.

Only in the entertainment industry do people even think they can get away with this move. Imagine if Bush or Cameron or any other scummy politician had thought they could be absolved of all their douchebaggery by playing it all for laughs... Hang on a second... What if..?

David Cameron has been absolved!


This has been yours weekly,

Y. S. Rice

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