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 What is Comedy?

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: What is Comedy?   Thu 28 Apr 2016, 12:39

There are many tracts to lead into this one but I shall use a banal one. A critic panned a new comedy sit-com  recently - and as I recall - most of similar were panned or disparaged for ages when first aired. Yet, many such programmes went on to become - shudder at the word - what they 'iconic' and master pieces.

It may be that comedy has to age, like stilton. Let's discuss comedy.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: What is Comedy?   Sat 30 Apr 2016, 16:31

Seems we've all lost our sense of humour.

Perhaps we could start with the Greeks - they liked comedy. They seemed particularly fond of satire - especially humour which targeted politicians. Oh and jokes about sex, of course. Nothing changes.


Last edited by Temperance on Sun 01 May 2016, 08:55; edited 1 time in total
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: What is Comedy?   Mon 02 May 2016, 12:40

We had a thread before about the oldest known jokes - and there is certainly something to be said about the view that nothing changes, at least when it comes to what might be considered the "classic" set-ups and punchline deliveries, as well as the tendency for sex and body functions to have retained a rather universal popularity throughout human history.

Yet when it comes to comedy the opposite could just as easily be maintained. Even in our own lifetimes and within our own private and - therefore by definition - narrow cultural experiences, the proverbial zeitgeist has accounted for and dispensed with so much, it seems. Things that had us flooring round the roll a few decades ago leave us very much in Victoria mode when we encounter them again these days, not just as individuals whose tastes have changed subjectively, but as entire societies which have, it appears, simply "moved on" from finding Reg Varney and Bob Grant discussing bus conductresses' mammary glands amusing, or for that matter sniggering heartily at Barry Evans' adult education officer "straight man", surrounded as he was by just about every racially offensive stereotype it was possible to think up in late 70s Britain (well, which hadn't been done to death already by "Love Thy Neighbour").

And don't even start with Punch magazine and other such 19th century cartoon captions ...

It's much easier to say what comedy isn't rather than what it ever is, since that which it is soon won't be, and that which it isn't now but once was it will scarcely be again, while that which it isn't now and as yet never was might it very well be soon. It's enough to make you cry. Or laugh. I haven't decided yet.
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PostSubject: Re: What is Comedy?   Mon 02 May 2016, 13:35

What people think of as funny certainly changes with time and place, but aren't there perhaps some underlying elements that remain essentially changeless? Might the essence of universal comedy be something along the lines of juxaposing what society (the audience) considers normal, against what isn't but logically could be ... presenting it in such a way as to lead the audience to the normal way of thinking and then, through action (eg. slapstick) or words (eg. the panda who, "eats, shoots and leaves"), change it all around. Even humour that relies on societal stereotyping ("An Englishman, Scotsman and Welshman go into a bar ...") usually relies on some twist or punchline that plays on our preconceived ideas, to either exaggerate them completely or flip them over entirely ..... and so ultimately the joke is on us the audience for our "societal" way of thinking. Although of course the joke itself still has to be widely/societally understood, otherwise one is just left laughing alone, at something that one alone finds funny ... and that unfortunately tends often to be the first step towards the asylum.

But I don't see why such comedy/humour might not date from the very beginnings of human/hominid communication. Are not the following, albeit fictional, scenarios plausible, even without sophisticated language?

"We saw Ug enter the cave alone but we stayed outside and were fearful for him. After some time we heard a terrible noise from within ... and then Ug came running out. We feared he had awoken a cave bear or lion, so we too all started to run away. But the animal chasing Ug was just a badger ... its noise had been made so loud by the cave. We all mocked Ug for running away from a little badger because really Ug is a very brave hunter. And we all pretended that we hadn't actually been frightened, although in truth we were. But we still all laughed about it with Ug for many days after."

Or just simply,

"We were very tired and just sat down where we'd stopped ... but mama wasn't really looking and she sat on a big heap of mammoth shit. She sank down in it up to her waist. It was very funny. She smelled of mammoth for days!"

Although these are fictional, to be humorous both those ancient 'ancedotes' rely on one expecting the usual ... only to find that suddenly the usual has been turned on its head and the unusual has occurred. This is a frequent dramatic, sometimes comedic, Homeric device, and so it would seem to have a long heritage. (Homer also includes a lot of punning and word play, but that only works in the original Greek - the humour isn't so obvious today. But although puns are supposedly, "the lowest form of wit", (or was that sarcasm?), they are nevertheless a regular Homeric, humeric, linguistic device).

Sorry for a rather disjointed, rather rambling, and perhaps somewhat frivolous response, but "What is comedy?" is a difficult question. I'm still thinking.

But in the meantime, "Mangoes in a pub ...."
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: What is Comedy?   Mon 02 May 2016, 23:12

Humpf. Be veerrrry careful how you finish that last joke,MM. The Mangoes Under Threat Society are watch....ing you.

Seems to me you might once have wanted to be a script writer - as I  did. To be a part of a group writing sit coms was a very secret wish in my youth. I suspected it could be great fun. Last year I saw a group doing just that and they were falling about over material they  dare not use - and somewhat scathing about what they finally decided on.

I would probably not have hacked it in reality. I was out of step with my childhood generation who found Chaplin, Hardy and that lot a riot. Some Radio comedy I did like.then ...... ITMA - for the repetition and such later stuff as Much Binding in the Marsh and many other such progs. I really disliked American films where people spoke too quickly, the slick-mouth wise guy was always small, jumping about and often put upon..... much like Sammy Davis Jnr eventually became in the Rat pack. I disliked it at the time and seeing it again recently, found it really squirmy watching.
So, other people's discomfort - badgers and big poo, you suggest,MM may have amused them way back  when - and you are right it still would. It's what I call the missionary position of humour - in my experience it was the only sort of stuff they would giggle about with cocky expressions of glee.

I ramble also  - and  also still thinking about it.


Last edited by Priscilla on Mon 02 May 2016, 23:14; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : A Comedy of Errors.)
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: What is Comedy?   Wed 04 May 2016, 13:00

The oldest jokes, according to this link:

Oldest Jokes

there is no truth in the rumour that they were written by Bruce Forsyth.

And some Medieval Jokes;

Medieval Jokes
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: What is Comedy?   Fri 06 May 2016, 12:30

Roman humour has not aged well;

Roman Humour
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