Comedy: What Works? (Pt. 1)

Since the beginning of the semester, my film society at school has been assembling every other week to discuss an agreed upon film and share our opinions. The topic for the meetings circle around films you tell others to watch, but they never do, e.g. “You should watch Gone with the Wind. What? You don’t have 4 hours of your life to dedicate? Poppycock!” The films chosen just happened to be a series of comedy films from various decades and I found it intriguing that the films people neglect to watch involve comedy. I began to wonder why comedy is such a turn off for film recommendations and I was reminded of a quote from Tina Fey in an interview with Oprah:

“I know for sure that you can tell how smart people are by what they laugh at.”

Far be it for me to question my Queen, Tina, but I do think she’s onto something. Not necessarily on an intellectual basis, but perhaps an experiential foundation. For instance, if you haven’t seen many Westerns in your life… Blazing Saddles might be completely lost on you. Or, again, if you were raised in the Bible Belt… Superbad might make your skin crawl. I think comedy is such a subjective experience to suggest to others and the reason why we become prone to recommend these films is because we all want our friends to laugh. The problem is… will they laugh with you? Then the question becomes, what works? How and why does comedy work? Furthermore, what comedy works for our generation? First, I would like to share a clip of Lucille Ball dancing in a suit of armor on the Lucy Desi Comedy Hour.

In the silent era, physical comedy was a staple in demonstrating a joke which is why Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin were so successful in their careers. They all had the physical element to their acting style and their delivery made audiences roar. With the advent of sound, new ways of conveying the comedic message surfaced and the Depression Era called for a different type of humour, a fast-paced humor… think Marx Brothers! From this shift alone, a person can see that comedy tailors to its historical audience and maybe that’s why I can’t get anyone to sit down and watch I Love Lucy with me because there are hilarious progressive women in comedy currently, like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

I believe comedy works for what is currently the socially agreed upon style of humour, if we’re referring the masses. But when it comes to personal recommendations, comedy is based on a person’s experience and, heck, it might be their level of intellect. I was raised by baby boomers with a subscription to TV Land and I got my fill of Hogan’s Heroes, but I’m not about to recommend it to my peers. Then again, this is just one woman’s opinion.

My next post will be about my favourite television series of all time and why I believe its comedy works (forever and always) for me. The shocking part? It’s contemporary. I’ll always love Lucy, but there’s another set of women I adore just as much (or more).

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One comment

  1. Hogan’s Heroes rocks

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