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Comedy no comedy

Ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Nov. 10, 2017
tags: Comedy no comedy

Riffing on Banes' newspost from a while ago of “Horror minus horror”, does a comedy story without the comedy STILL work as a comedy? And does that make it BETTER comedy than something that doesn't?
I would contend that is the case.

Hear me out:
Pure comedy without much story can often be pretty hit or miss. Take gag comics, or prop comedians. UGH! Take them away…
Sketch comedy is the same: Benny Hill sketches didn't have much story and they're often pretty flimsy, much like the actress's outfits… While in Mitchell and Webb, or Fry and Laurie the sketches have a clear story and they're basically pure art. Prank shows and spoof movies like Airlpane are more examples of comedies that don't work at all without the comedy.

In terms of comics we have full page story comics VS 3 or 4 panel gag strips or even single panel comics. The latter kind are less likely to have much of a story, but when they do, even if it's only implied by the audience's relationship with the characters, they're so much more effective. We know a lot about Calvin and Hobbies for example so even when the strips don't have a story it seems that they do anyway. The Far Side by Gary Larson is a great example of a complete narrative in a single image. Even when the art is simple it still works as narrative because we have a relationship with the cows, we know the crabby ladies with their horrible cat-eye spectacles and their suffering husbands. The comics actually become better when you HAVE developed that familiarity with the characters, just like TV sketch comedy can work even better when the same characters appear in multiple sketches.

I'm NOT saying that comedy NEEDS drama to work or that it needs stakes or tragedy or anything like that, or even that story comedies are always great! No, NONE of that is true.
What I AM saying is that if the comedy could work as a good story in its own right even if you removed all the comedy, or we have enough of a relationship with the characters to care about seeing more of them even if we didn't find them funny, then it has a better chance of being a good comedy than something that couldn't stand without the humour: If it has a crappy story like “Meet the Spartans” for example, or something where you don't like any of the characters (that would be “Friends” for me), then it probably won't work as well as a comedy.

OK, now could someone please set me right? :D



bravo1102 at 1:48PM, Nov. 10, 2017

Guess you never saw Airport or No Highway in the Sky. Same stories just like Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove. Meet the Spartans was a mash up of 300 and Meet the Fokkers. It followed the plot of the first transposing it to 300 for attempted comedic effect. Just like Carry On Cleo put very British comedians and situations into a sword and sandals movie. I saw No Highway in the Sky and the High and the Mighty just recently and was blown away at how closely Airplane had copied the plot, characters, events even the voice overs. Airplane even used the airplane sound effects from the High and Mighty even though it's a jet and not a propeller plane. I never understood it until I saw the High and the Mighty.

Ozoneocean at 9:31AM, Nov. 10, 2017

@Bravo, I'm pretty sure Meet The Spartans was closely based on The 300 ^_^ Airplane like Meet the Spartans and all spoofs are based on real films, but the story in the spoof itself usually isn't very strong. Airplane 1 was ok, not the sequels. Hotshots and Hotshots 2 were great, Meet the Spartans was awful.

Ironscarf at 8:20AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Very true. I learned a lot from Lydia.

bravo1102 at 6:38AM, Nov. 10, 2017

And many of the first Marx brothers movies were actually standard dramas with them written in.

bravo1102 at 6:32AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Neither of those movies work. My Favorite Blonde, the road pictures, and few others are classics in how they twist dramatic conventions.

bravo1102 at 6:30AM, Nov. 10, 2017

And they work because you care. Sorry to say but I actually care about Abbot and Costello no matter what situation they're spoofing among other comedic characters. If you don't care about how Bob Hope makes it out of the situation and gets the girl no Hope comedy works. (Like cancel my Reservation or How to Commit Marriage)

KimLuster at 6:30AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Humor is based on being shocked and then realizing you're safe, so for comedy work, it has to have mechanism to draw you in, lower your guard, so as to leave you vulnerable for the 'shock'!! Creating Familiarity (by drawing on known 'serious' movies and genres, or creating recurring characters we can get comfortable with) is an excellent tool for it! Wonderful article!! And God I loved me some Far Side - I thing I have all the collected anthologies!!

bravo1102 at 6:21AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Most Mel Brooks movies are also dramatic stories twisted into comedies. Young Frankenstein is Son of Frankenstein. Blazing Saddles is any number of westerns (as is the more subtle Support your Local Sheriff, Rustler,s Rhapsody, The Bad Man) And then there are military comedies which often as not are not based on dramatic stories but real events. Catch 22 and What did you do in the War Daddy and Best of Enemies are all real stories dressed up with some exaggeration for comedy.

Banes at 6:16AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Makes sense! I would agree with this! having structure, stakes and interesting characters creates stronger potential to keep the audience comin' back too!

bravo1102 at 6:09AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Meet the Spartans is actually based on the lukewarm comedy Meet the Fookers which was only saved by some broad comedy performances by Barbara Streisand, Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman. A bad comedy based on a bad comedy. Hot Shots! Is actually very close to Top Gun and then the Rambo franchise. Watch the originals and you can see cliche for cliche, plot point for plot point how it's twisted into a comedy.

bravo1102 at 6:00AM, Nov. 10, 2017

But Airplane was made as a drama at least twice. No Highway in the Sky which actually costarred Robert Stack, Airport and Airport '76. Watch them and you'll see all the dramatic tropes Airplane is spoofing. Watch Fail Safe for the exact same story as Dr. Strangelove without the comedy. Many spoofs take their inspiration and even whole plots from drama. Among the best was the Carol Burnett show. It Went with the Wind was pure genius.

Fantasticbrick at 4:26AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Good advice. I may try and apply this myself.

Ozoneocean at 2:05AM, Nov. 10, 2017

It was... I forgot I had to do a newspost and then I forgot I'd already set a placeholder title for one! XD

Gunwallace at 12:14AM, Nov. 10, 2017

Content no content?

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