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  #1    
Old September 20th, 2011, 02:59 PM
Mizan de la Plume Kuro's Avatar
Mizan de la Plume Kuro
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There are a lot of genres out there, but the one I find hardest to write is comedy because I generally consider myself to be an unfunny person. So then I got to wondering: does that necessarily stop me from writing something that's genuinely funny? If not, how would I go about doing that? Is comedy formulaic? I like to think that, to a certain degree, it's not, but I've never written anything incredibly lol-worthy, so I can't say.

In any case, my questions:
  • In writing comedy, how can you be funny and not just stupid? <-- There's also a great article for writing non-serious satire on Uncyclopedia.
  • Is your comedy planned or can you come up with jokes in a flash?
  • Any specific mechanical elements of comedic prose you might want to share? (eg. punch-line, twists, etc.)
  • How would you use the narrative in writing comedy? (Not necessarily using the narrative creatively, but more the tone in which you write.)
  • Do you have any advice for writing comedy, asides from just go with it, because that doesn't really help people who aren't funny and 'going with it' tends to just end in forced-humor.
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  #2    
Old September 21st, 2011, 02:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mizan de la Plume Kuro View Post
Is comedy formulaic? I like to think that, to a certain degree, it's not, but I've never written anything incredibly lol-worthy, so I can't say.
I'd say... yes and no, or basically to a degree it isn't. There's a bunch of things to it (say timing/delivery of the jokes) but sometimes it's hard to tell if something will be funny or not for something else... or rather sometimes (in my experience anyways) something which I wouldn't have thought to be that funny others did find it to be so.

It does take some trial and error though I feel, to get it 'right' for yourself.
Quote:
In writing comedy, how can you be funny and not just stupid? <-- There's also a great article for writing non-serious satire on Uncyclopedia.
By stupid, you mean...? As in, do you mean the bad lolrandom type of jokes or forced in the humour or something like that? Just that I see there being multiple potential meanings there which makes that not-easy question rather... harder. =p

But for how to be funny? I... am not really sure as there's a fair bit that can go into such an answer. I suppose the main things I would consider important is clarity (if your joke is hard to understand or requires external knowledge (in-jokes) the reader won't have, the joke will fall flat) and timing (because the best joke in the world can be told in an unfunny way and timing is one of the most important factors there; although I suppose it's more important in the spoken/visual form it still has its impact in writing). Also - does the joke make sense? If it feels out of place to the reader then it will not be as successful. To draw the first example to my head in writing I'll go with Cutlerine's SWC entry (sorry Cutlerine=p).
Spoiler:
The Celebi in the story was pretty amusing in set-up and delivery and all, but as it didn't match the rest of the story (which had a far more serious vibe) it felt a bit 'off', somewhat out of place, and so I preferred smaller jokes in the story to it (say the main character's reactions to Lorelei's appearence/teachings and so forth.

From there it basically depends on the joke itself - is it a situation (in which case setting/context come into play more so) or say a character's reaction (in which characterisation will be more of a factor both then and beforehand)... basically I feel this question is rather broad and so it's hard to give a satisfactory answer. That and one's idea of what is funny will differ to another's. (Also - what's funny now is different to what was funny ten years ago and will be different to what will be funny in ten years time too in various aspects. I would wager at the risk of being proven wrong that comedy in that respect has changed far more than say tragedy).

One thing that does help in knowing how to be funny though is to see how other people do it in various forms - fics, books (Terry Pratchet is always a good one), stand-up comedy (various), movies (Monty Python! Original Pink Panther!) and television shows (for modern stuff you've stuff like Arrested Development and Community off the top of my head as well as say Black Books; for older stuff there's...well, Blackadder is a must as is Mr Bean, Fawlty Towers, and Seinfeld is probably the best out of them imho - still aged fair well too and it's got a fair range within it. Watching that is something I certainly recommend. Studying the character of Kramar within it is another. ;p)

Quote:
Is your comedy planned or can you come up with jokes in a flash?
Both. A fair bit of the stuff I do is from planning (ie wondering how I could make this bit funny and going through potential ideas) and the rest is either ideas that just come to me when I'm trying to sleep/on a bus/train/etc without warning, or I just think of them as I'm writing and go with it, so to speak. I think it would be far harder for myself to rely just on spur-of-the-moment ideas though - needs to be some sort of planning and refinement of jokes unless you happen to be a comedic genius which are few and far between (say... Robin Williams is one of those sort of people. If you want to see a guy who can spew out a hundred jokes a minute for two hours straight with no plan, he's the prime guy to watch imho). Other instances involve a mix - I'll get the basis of a joke from nowhere, or a punchline, but need to plan out the rest to complete it; or while writing something I planned I'll suddenly have a new idea to throw into it.
Quote:
Any specific mechanical elements of comedic prose you might want to share? (eg. punch-line, twists, etc.)
I suppose I could say a fair bit but maybe later. =p One thing I will say is to not overuse jokes. Running gags are all well and good but need to stay 'fresh' to remain funny (say mixing up the joke/doing variations on it instead of doing it the exact same way every time) and not be repeated too frequently so to become predictable - running gaps can work especially well when you allow the audience to forget about it, or at least not bash them over the head with it every two pages. But going back to an earlier question - that can be easier said than done because comedy is not quite formulaic. You can't say a joke can only be repeated so often or in x number of ways as it'll always vary depending on a large number of factors, and there's no hard-and-fast version of it (there's usually more than one way to deliver a joke after all).

Somewhat related to that is an example I witnessed recently with the show Get Smart, a satire of the secret agents genre made back in the 60s. Great show. However it was remade badly... and I'm not talking about the movie. There was a newer version in the 90s made that didn't last very long (as a comparison - the original had 5 seasons, 138 episodes; the 90s version lasted a season consisting of seven episodes. That's including the pilot). They went with the same formula and structure of characters and same sort of jokes, but... it just lacked the charm the original had and was far too cheesy. Basically they shouldn't have tried to bring back the show in such a manner, as it had its time in the sun. You can say the same of say the later Pink Panther films, both the ones after the first 5-6 and the ones in the 2000's - Steve Martin isn't bad but a Jacques Clouseau he is not - Peter Sellers is the only one imo to do the character well.

Not terribly helpful with writing, admittedly, but darn it I felt like a short rant. =p
Quote:
How would you use the narrative in writing comedy? (Not necessarily using the narrative creatively, but more the tone in which you write.)
Depends really on the story and type of comedy tbh - say if it's dark comedy or crack or so forth - there's also no real set way imo to go about it for specific sub sections of comedy.
Quote:
Do you have any advice for writing comedy, asides from just go with it, because that doesn't really help people who aren't funny and 'going with it' tends to just end in forced-humor.
Besides stuff mentioned already somewhat haphazardly... refinement is necessary, or leastways considering 'this is okay/funny/unfunny, how can this be funnier' and just playing around with various ideas/versions of a scene or joke until it feels right. That and maybe judge for yourself what may be funny - idk how well it works for other people but if a joke I think of makes myself laugh I more than likely will use it and that seems to work well imo.

I foresee myself saying more at a later date here but for now have this clip from Seinfeld (mostly the last minute) which probably shows it's hard to state exactly how to do a genre (like comedy) well; a lot of it really comes by itself and when you try to show how something is funny like their take on the line there... yeah. There's a lot that goes into making something funny and unfortunately imo a lot of it is hard to explain. Case in point, this took myself nearly an hour to type (with breaks mind, but a fair bit of thinking during those).



Last edited by bobandbill; September 22nd, 2011 at 02:33 PM.
  #3    
Old September 22nd, 2011, 04:09 AM
Cutlerine
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Ouchies. You misspelled my name, bobandbill.

Yes, all right, Celebi fails in that context, but regardless of what anyone might have thought about that particular story, I do have some small experience of writing comedy. I'm even told that it's quite funny. (Not that I'm advertising The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World here. At all. I probably won't even mention it again.)

To get to the questions: yes, there is an extent to which comedy is formulaic. Incongruity is often a good basis for a joke; so is the interaction of two characters who can't stand each other, or are completely different from each other. That does have to be written in the right style, though, or it simply comes off as confrontational.

Style, of course, is pretty difficult to pin down. There are multiple comic styles, all of which are funny for different reasons. I tend towards a slightly over-lyrical style that owes a fair amount to the work of Robert Rankin and Douglas Adams; I started by looking at ways of writing that I thought were funny, and blending them into my own style. However, The Rocket Case (A Study in Saffron on Serebii), which was technically a rather black and very subtle comedy, used a completely different style that drew predominantly on the Louie Knight mysteries by Malcolm Pryce. (Which you should totally read, if you're into dark comedy.) I'm not sure that actually makes sense, so I'm going to pretend I didn't just write the word 'style' five times in four sentences and move on.

Anything can be funny. Absolutely anything, even tragedy. It's all to do with presentation, which is where the next big comedic device comes in: irony. One of the greatest masterworks of irony in English is Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, which is absolutely hilarious in that it seems entirely serious, while actually being very, very crude and sarcastic. For no adequately explained reason, this makes people laugh. From what I've read of your comedy (which is admittedly not much), Mizan, you do actually have some of that, as well as a distinctively comic style that acts as an effective vehicle for the irony by flagging it up for what it is, i.e. a humorous device.

Having said that, the situation can't be said to be less important than the presentation. There are a number of ways to go about it, one of the most well-known of which is the steady escalation of events until they are completely out of control; examples of this include a fair proportion of P. G. Wodehouse's works, most Fawlty Towers episodes (especially The Kipper and the Corpse) and... ah. I had three examples, but I can only remember two. Oh well, never mind. Another way to create an effective situation is to take what would be a very serious situation and alter it slightly. For instance, I recall once seeing a marvellous sketch in which two policemen were interviewing a suspect - only their suspect was a small teddy bear. The incongruity of this was funny enough in itself, but it got better: halfway through the interview, one cop snaps and tells the other that they should really be out catching real crooks, whereupon his partner breaks down and confesses that he knows, but it's just been so hard at home recently, what with his recent divorce... And so the sketch went on. Another example of that would be in Jasper Fforde's (actually, I owe a lot to him as well) excellent Shades of Grey, which has a wonderful scene in it that subverts the standard interview. As he himself put it: it's fairly serious if someone's suspected of murder, and has to talk his way out of it - but it's much, much better if that person has been found to have lied about seeing the Last Rabbit in the World, and has to talk his way out of it. So incongruity and the subversion of stock scenes is another way to generate comedy.

In addition to this, it has to be remembered that comedy isn't drama. In a regular story, a character might go on a journey and become a better person for it, or at least change in some way. But in a lot of great comedies, it's always a circle: Basil Fawlty will always be snobbish, rude and incompetent, and Bertie Wooster will always be twenty-seven, clueless and a moron. Comedic characters go on a journey, but always return to the starting point - partly because often comedies are episodic, but partly because they show people who are, through being what they are, completely incapable of change.

On the subject of characters, conflict is essential. In my story, the three protagonists are all fundamentally incompatible, at least to begin with. One is too arrogant to really connect with the others, one just wants to get away and go home and one is enjoying the conflict, and is clever enough to stoke it up for his own amusement. (This process actually also increases the reader's amusement.) Think of the great double acts: Laurel and Hardy, the Chuckle Brothers, the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges. OK, so the Chuckle Brothers aren't exactly great and two of the others were trios, but you get my point. Conflict drives everything forwards (and, in the case of the Stooges, brutal, hilarious violence). Laurel is dumb, Hardy is dumb but thinks he's smart; the same goes for Paul and Barry. This creates a lot of conflict between them, and therefore a lot of entertainment. In fact, I have a double act, a pair of bumbling Magma grunts, and they are pretty much entirely built after the same archetype.

Violence is funny. It's sad, but it's true; it's why we like the Three Stooges. Unfortunately, unless the reader has an exceptionally vivid imagination, it takes quite a lot of skill to pull off what is fundamentally a visual joke in words; I don't mean to discourage you, but thought I ought to point it out.

Where was I? Oh yeah, you actually had questions. Right: planned vs. instant comedy. I found that when I started, the majority of the jokes were planned; I'd think up a clever reference or just something funny during the day, and decide to chuck it in there somewhere. Once you get into the zone, as it were, you find that jokes come to you out of nowhere. 85% of everything in The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World was made up as I went along, and is completely unedited; that includes plot and jokes. I find that making things up as I go tends to increase the humour, but that may just be me, since I work best on the hoof.

Oh. That told you precisely nothing, didn't it? Let me rephrase: you should eventually find a balance between jokes you planned and jokes you make up as you go, assuming that you find the knack for writing comedy. At the beginning, though, it may well be that most of the jokes are planned.

Mechanically, comedic prose is a delicate sort of machine. Bobandbill has already mentioned timing, which is slightly less essential in written comedy than in stand-up or other spoken jokes, but still incredibly important. Jokes need to come at the right time, and they need to fit. (Much like Celebi didn't, in that horrendous story I wrote for the SWC.)

Being funny and not just stupid is slightly harder. I've no idea how I manage it, but I suspect it's years of practice; I'm the sort of person who people either think is very funny, or think is extremely weird. (The second estimation is right, but don't tell them that.) Presenting a serious situation in a stupid way is one way to go about it - but a way that I personally prefer is presenting a very, very stupid situation in such a well-thought-out and serious way that it sounds completely natural until you stop to think about what's actually happening. Everything I've written that could be considered comedy has revolved around this notion, The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World being the only one that anyone here is likely to be familiar with. As the story progresses, the situations that the heroes end up in become more and more nonsensical - ending with a literal threat of world destruction in the most ridiculous and far-fetched of ways - and yet (I hope) it all follows fairly naturally. The reader reads it, and halfway through a scene starts to think Wait a minute... What did I just read? This is the point when they realise that the story is actually incredibly stupid.

I really don't know if that answered the question or not, but it's certainly quite a lot of text. Intimidating.

To an unfunny person trying to write funny stuff: seriously, write what you think is funny, bounce it off someone else and see if it actually is. If you're doing it right, all's well and good; if not, you need to look it over and find out where exactly you're going wrong.

Being a serious sort of person also helps, in that you can present what appears to be a very serious situation with great ease, and then suddenly have it descend into ridiculous insanity (vide Tarantino's wonderful film From Dusk Til Dawn) or reveal it to have been rather silly all along.

And... I think that's it. That's what ten months of writing comedy has taught me, and I hope it provides some small modicum of help.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.

Last edited by Cutlerine; September 22nd, 2011 at 04:16 AM.
  #4    
Old September 22nd, 2011, 09:53 PM
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In writing comedy, how can you be funny and not just stupid? <-- There's also a great article for writing non-serious satire on Uncyclopedia.
Ah, Uncyc. I've had some Wilde times there over the years. Anyway, the one overbearing rule here (other than what you will find in said Uncyclopedia article, which I recall being rather accurate in most regards) is to always- er, never- Force your humour. If you look for a joke and you aren't following a method or inspiration, it will suck. This is why 95% (a real statistic from the bureau of my backside) of all pun based humour and double entendre is really terrible and makes you want to groan, or, if you are a more violent sort, punch the speaker in the face. They only work when apparently ad-libbed and pertinent to what has been said(see the second sentence I wrote). Most other humour works this way, too, but puns require searching for and exploiting a flaw in a language, which means that, since they are dependent on pre-existing conditions, they almost never fit fluidly into a conversation (on the obverse for the form, however, one sufficiently knowledgeable to an eclectic extent in the workings of one or more language(s) should have little difficulty peppering them in for the sheer volume of the average language's lexicon).

Er, kinda went off on a tangent about puns there. The point is, it shouldn't be out of place or rely on the principle of "lol I am dumb and this is funny" (a principle I am sad to see television and screenplays taking up more and more by the day). If your humour relies on degrading yourself, chances are you're being pretty stupid; And if it involves patronizing your audience (as with the pun) it isn't funny.

Quote:
Is your comedy planned or can you come up with jokes in a flash?
For me it's spontaneous. Planning for me is only either when I secretly do not want things to succeed (whether in art or in life), or when the only alternative is destructive inertia. I think my keen intuition helps me with this, though; I know a great deal of my very talented friends and acquaintances lose it if things aren't planned (which is why I never work with these people on pretty much anything). And I know a good deal of comedians and comedic individuals use formulaic or planned humour.

I don't try to be funny; I think that's the other important thing to note here. I have not since I was nine years old sat down and tried to think of ways to be funny or actively tried to come up with and perform jokes or humour of any kind. However, I have an innately foolish personality and constantly, maybe unconsciously, find opportunities for a sly remark or humourous observation of come kind. Recently I have noticed my humour becoming too subtle or dry for most people to catch, though. :\ There's the tragedy of being at the top.

Quote:
Any specific mechanical elements of comedic prose you might want to share? (eg. punch-line, twists, etc.)
Well, for me, at least, a punch-line is right out in prose. I just want to say that first. In dialogue it is okay (I'm pretty sure it was Bobandbill that was citing basically everything I have ever loved, especially Black Books, and therefore Pratchett as well? Pratchett has a lot of good examples of this). Otherwise, a no-go. It's amateurish, sloppy and contrived. Even Pratchett took a while to get the hang of it (and humour writing in general; Just try reading "The Color of Magic," it's terrible).

I use really subtle wordplay and lateral thinking-style twists of logic almost to an excess. I guess since (as I mentioned earlier) nobody seems to catch them most of the time, and I throw enough of them in that my text (for example, this text) is completely saturated in them, most people are bound to at least catch a couple. That's my comedy of choice in writing, but I don't really write comedy (or, I should say, to stop misusing that word for a t least a moment, I don't write humour); I just write tragedy (and also real comedy) that happens to be funny.

I've recently started my first-ever actual humour piece (and, true to my style, it's dark humour, noir), and though I'm not sure what I'm doing differently, it does seem much more humourous and the jokes easier to grasp.

Quote:
How would you use the narrative in writing comedy? (Not necessarily using the narrative creatively, but more the tone in which you write.)
Sarcastic and/or ironic as you can make it. Also, first-person works best for this and no other semi-respectable genre of prose. That way you can make the narrative wryly observant and even come to a complete immersion in your own bollocks, presupposing the existence of the fictional universe you craft, without seeming smugly patronizing or breaking the fourth wall accidentally (as in, the suspension of belief in particular).

Quote:
Do you have any advice for writing comedy, asides from just go with it, because that doesn't really help people who aren't funny and 'going with it' tends to just end in forced-humor.
Here we go, technical description is where I excel.

Spoilered for reading convenience.
Spoiler:
The first thing I am going to point out that there are multiple levels of humour. Though I call these "levels" for the very obvious reason that some are distinctly superior to others, IDEALLY, ALL SHOULD BE USED IN UNISON IF THE MEDIUM ALLOWS IT. I'm serious about that. I also believe all forms of debate should be used at once, from ad hominem to the well-formed logical parry and retort, but in the case of humour I have more reputable sources than myself backing me. Roughly, in ascending order, these levels are:
  • Physical humour - violence, sex, et cetera, as a direct form of humour. Don't bash it, Shakespeare used it excessively, as do a good deal of respectable playwrights.
  • Self-degradation or audience-degradation. That is, saying "yep, I'm an idiot" or making jokes at the expense of yourself or your audience; This more generally involves everything from racism to misogyny (and militant feminism) to general bigotry as a form of humour working doubly on this level (you are degrading the group in question, and degrading yourself by showing consciousness of your bigotry and pointing it out nonetheless, cementing it as a joke at your own expense as well and allowing you to skirt the line between "funny" and "offensive").
  • Build-up to a punchline; Aka the twist. This consists of making the audience think you are going to say one thing, which would be satisfying (like when a non-musical person listens to a new song and feels satisfaction when the notes fall into place in the way they expect them, not realizing that all songs use like the same twenty chords), then shocking their senses by substituting an unexpected, but equally suitable (in most cases) alternative. "The nagas of Upper Burma believe the Sun only comes out at day because, being a woman, it is frightened to be out alone at night." (That works on a lot of levels, including two not yet mentioned, observation and allusion; Nagas are a mythological beast that lives in tribal communities and has the body, head and arms of a man but a snake's tail or snake tails for legs, by the way. Joke courtesy of the Principia Discordia.) Or, "If a tree fall in a forest, and it hits a mime, does anybody care?" Or, "Roses are red/Violets are blue/Most poems rhyme/But this one does not." (Or you can double the humour of that one whilst taking a gamble on losing some interest by spinning it thus: "Roses are red/Violets are blue/Most poems rhyme/But this is an haiku." It's like a double bluff of humour, which will hopefully be enough to trick the audience into thinking the lie that it is an haiku is funny in an absurdist way rather than just dumb.)
  • Reference or Allusion. Usually placed higher, but I feel its overuse, misuse and dilution drags it down somewhat. This is basically referring to other works or mythos to bring more character into yours and appeal as amusing to those which are reminded of the other work, and thus feel a relation to the authour. This has grown to include Internet memes, unfortunately, which is the main factour in the lowering of the level for me.Whilst funny, memes and in-jokes are cheap humour.
  • Observation. Pointing out things that are real but do not make sense when another system (usually language) is applied to them. Some etymologist or philologist out there knows why you drive on a parkway but park on a driveway, or why when you oversee something you watch it but when you make an oversight you miss it, but for most of us it makes no sense, so the observation is funny. this can intermingle with the bigotry of degradation/deprecation humour to take more of the sting out (or making it more caustic, if you play it right), and to make it much funnier.
  • Deep or Intrinsic Truths. Taking Observation, and turning it from a technique to an entire art unto itself. This works on the same basic principle as the highest of Moses' Mystery Schools, the School of Metaphor, in that it seeks to make accessible through art certain pieces of knowledge which are impossible to explain or understand plainly, or that would not be believed without a logical example. In humour, this usually means taking something that people never realize (because any importance it has is illusory) or that people unconsciously know but will not admit, even to theirselves, and saying it in such a way that they laugh at it (and in most cases accidentally start believing it). It kind of skirts the line of NLP, sort of almost, in that regard. If you missed my example of it, look back to where I said "because any importance it has is illusory." Whilst apt, this would not immediately occur to the audience, and yet is actually of no real importance to the passage. It's also self-referential, which I didn't notice when writing it, but eh, whatever. In other words, it is an example of this form of humour. Use it wisely, Padawan.

Spoiler:
As for delivery, candor is important. There's two ways I know of to get it. A skilled worker in the medium may be able to take a flint axe and with two hard, fast cleaves make a spearhead out of a bone. That is similar tot he first way- If you are innately smooth of speech, you can just do it. On the other hand, someone that is weak and knows nothing about holding a flint axe or how to angle it to cut bone or how it will slip when it connects can still sit there with a knife and rag and whittle shards of bone away until it comes to a point and then polish it until the surfaces are smooth, and maybe even end up with a better product than our first hypothetical caveman. The downside of this is that it takes flipping forever and who has that kind of time anyway? NOT ME, AND PROBABLY NOT YOU. Well, I probably do, but my situation is most unique.


Er, I can't help but feel I haven't written everything I wanted to, but my mind is feeling fuzzy tonight and this post has gotten rather long anyway, so I will cut it here.


EDIT: Oh, yeah, I forgot to add. Cutlerine, another good example of escalation to the point of chaos is definitely the work of Molierre. Which also reminds me that I forgot to mention absurdist humour, which lets the authour throw any sort of rules to the wind and basically be completely random. The best part being that if you mess up here and there the reader will assume you did it ironically because clearly, being as funny as you are, you will not end up in the spiked pit of a faux pas unless you have climbed in intentionally. A great way to trick the audience into thinking they have been amused is to make a joke that will invariably go ver their heads because it really isn't there. (Have read/do you read Homestuck at all? Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff is a good example of absurdist humour, as well as some of the normal levels, and Dave in general is guilty of the "Make jokes that aren't really there" mindset in general.) Remember- The American system of currency is based on imaginary gold (it used to be based on real gold, and the English currency is a pound Stirling), and yet the dollar (while suffering at the moment) is historically strong. There doesn't have to actually be anything there for it to have merit.

Last edited by Putin; September 22nd, 2011 at 10:29 PM.
  #5    
Old September 23rd, 2011, 12:24 AM
bobandbill's Avatar
bobandbill
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Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
Ouchies. You misspelled my name, bobandbill.
Dang it, I knew I had to check something else. I ought to ban myself from making long posts when tired. Like that'll ever happen. Sorry about that.

Quote:
Yes, all right, Celebi fails in that context, but regardless of what anyone might have thought about that particular story, I do have some small experience of writing comedy.
Pfft, I'd hardly call The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World small experience. =p You're certainly one of the best comedy writers I've seen, for what it's worth.

Quote:
In addition to this, it has to be remembered that comedy isn't drama. In a regular story, a character might go on a journey and become a better person for it, or at least change in some way. But in a lot of great comedies, it's always a circle: Basil Fawlty will always be snobbish, rude and incompetent, and Bertie Wooster will always be twenty-seven, clueless and a moron. Comedic characters go on a journey, but always return to the starting point - partly because often comedies are episodic, but partly because they show people who are, through being what they are, completely incapable of change.
Yeah, that's certainly true for a lot of them - always wraps back to the beginning no matter if it takes an episode or a season. (Seinfeld, here's looking at you).

Quote:
Where was I? Oh yeah, you actually had questions. Right: planned vs. instant comedy. I found that when I started, the majority of the jokes were planned; I'd think up a clever reference or just something funny during the day, and decide to chuck it in there somewhere. Once you get into the zone, as it were, you find that jokes come to you out of nowhere. 85% of everything in The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World was made up as I went along, and is completely unedited; that includes plot and jokes. I find that making things up as I go tends to increase the humour, but that may just be me, since I work best on the hoof.
Hmm, I suppose this is true for myself as well; thinking how I'm currently going with my current chapter (in which my plan for the first part 'lol battle' in which my only planned details were how it ends, and so all my current ideas are on the go with the rest) and when I started the fic... certainly more on-the-go stuff nowadays. Plans are more for the big picture than anything now it seems, but still isn't always the case.
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I don't try to be funny; I think that's the other important thing to note here.
Yes, have to agree there and with the previous wording too of not forcing out humour. That just... won't work.

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EDIT: Oh, yeah, I forgot to add. Cutlerine, another good example of escalation to the point of chaos is definitely the work of Molierre. Which also reminds me that I forgot to mention absurdist humour, which lets the authour throw any sort of rules to the wind and basically be completely random. The best part being that if you mess up here and there the reader will assume you did it ironically because clearly, being as funny as you are, you will not end up in the spiked pit of a faux pas unless you have climbed in intentionally. A great way to trick the audience into thinking they have been amused is to make a joke that will invariably go ver their heads because it really isn't there. (Have read/do you read Homestuck at all? Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff is a good example of absurdist humour, as well as some of the normal levels, and Dave in general is guilty of the "Make jokes that aren't really there" mindset in general.) Remember- The American system of currency is based on imaginary gold (it used to be based on real gold, and the English currency is a pound Stirling), and yet the dollar (while suffering at the moment) is historically strong. There doesn't have to actually be anything there for it to have merit.
Gog damn, SB&HJ is a great example of that.


This made for good reading, have to say. =)


  #6    
Old September 23rd, 2011, 02:19 AM
(=Nemesis=)'s Avatar
(=Nemesis=)
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Blundering into the topic from nowhere in particular, I just have one thing to say, and it's that humour in prose often relies on subverting expectations of how a phrase will end ("the Vogon ships hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don't", H2G2) which is the written equivalent of a punch-line, and, rather than tedious description of an unusual subject of focus, highlight one striking resultant feature and let your imagination do the rest (almost every single line in the Discworld series ever spoken about the River Ankh).
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Last edited by (=Nemesis=); September 23rd, 2011 at 04:43 AM.
  #7    
Old September 23rd, 2011, 05:35 AM
Putin's Avatar
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Join Date: Dec 2010
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I just realized I said "in general" twice in the sentence about Dave and spelled "some" as "come." Don't post on forty hours awake to three of sleep, kids.

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Blundering into the topic from nowhere in particular, I just have one thing to say, and it's that humour in prose often relies on subverting expectations of how a phrase will end ("the Vogon ships hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don't", H2G2) which is the written equivalent of a punch-line, and, rather than tedious description of an unusual subject of focus, highlight one striking resultant feature and let your imagination do the rest (almost every single line in the Discworld series ever spoken about the River Ankh).
This is a reasonably good point to bring up. It's often poorly-executed, though, I guess because it's so easy and exploitable, and thus really easy to force. A good example of poor execution is the early mass of Discworld, again. In fact, the first four or five books are a great display of what NOT to do with humourous prose. They contain pretty much every faux pas, forced joke and poor structure you can imagine. They get pretty good after that, though.
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