Ha Ha Funny?

Amongst the many things, or the same things that were talked about many times, the subject of writing humour was something Delia and I discussed last night. It’s a hard thing to take a blank page or screen and find something humourous about it. If I remember the Kung Fu Monkey entry about the subject, or it might have been Joss Whedon or Steven Moffat who put this forward, the three sources of humour are:

Situational
Characterization
Fear

For those unfamiliar, fear can get a laugh typically as a countermeasure to what the audience may actually be feeling at the time. What’s good about laughter is that it is once it starts, it’s all downhill. Also exponential. Start a person laughing because of something he/she is worried about and the next series of jokes get a little easier, or a better response. Something that I had wanted to bring up – but couldn’t cause it was way too late to get into it and I was already going to miss out on 2 hours sleep – was inappropriate humour.

It’s way, way earlier than House but it is the most readily available and common example. The basis of this could be found in characterization or situational, but I do believe that inappropriate humour is best sought in fear. Fear of transgression, of being politically incorrect, of going against the status quo. And its something that would be great to write but is terrifying – and not in the funny way – to me.

Neil is an undisputed master of inappropriate humour. Right or wrong, you can at least be assured of a laugh when he gets going but I wonder what the impression would be like if he were on record. This is what concerns me about writing this style of humour: When you’re talking with friends who know you and know you wouldn’t feel the way you write (Or maybe you do but possessed of wit enough to sell it in less aggressive dialogue, who knows) but know you to be a good person, you can play with their expectations. If you’re writing a script, then it’s words in a character or actor’s mouth and as such, the blame for unpopular or hurtful opinion neatly transposes with the vehicle you’re writing for. But without that vehicle, or rather, that shield– writing humour in this style suddenly becomes a reflection on you. What’s worse, now this ‘opinion’ on record, ready to haunt you should you, I don’t know, get involved in politics or something.

Harlan Ellison spoke of the courage it takes to write and how you can never let the words “They’ll crucify me!” get in the way (I’m horribly paraphrasing here). But is it a manner of not caring what others think of you? Or trusting that the astute members of your readers recognize the difference between you and fiction? Do you need justification or entitlement for angry humour? Difficult to say.

More to follow…

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1 Comment

  1. As an example of inappropriate humour, I present “The Aristocrats”.

    I leave it to the student to figure out what I’m talking about, but there is the epitome of an extremely funny joke that is funny only because of the norms it pushes.

    Gilbert Gottfried did one of the best most recent tellings of the joke.

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