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137 Posts in 28 Topics by 26 members

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  • immortalfrieza
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    About Comedy Link to this post

    This thread is a place for the continuation for a discussion between Robin and myself in the comment section of How I Met Your Mother season 8 episode 21. Anyone else who wishes to contribute is welcome.

  • TheTVCritic
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    Re: About Comedy Link to this post

    Great idea to move the discussion here...

    I appreciate that you responded to each of my paragraphs in turn and I'm happy to respond to each. However I'd rather take each in turn and not keep writing epic length posts.

    So can we start again with the basic idea that comedy is based on reality. I can see from your response that you think I'm making a very simplistic point, and it is. But I need you to make a case for how Family Guy or South Park are making jokes that are "unrealistic to the extreme."

    I really think its important to define where we differ in how we view comedy. Because I have no problem with extreme exaggerations but they are always a reflection of reality. South Park is actually one of the most grounded of all comedies. No matter how silly or surreal the content of its stories, the writers always underline the point they are making and how it connects to whatever's happening in the news. As for Family Guy, even the most silly cutaway gag is based on our understanding of reality. A character will randomly explode or kill someone and the entire basis for you finding that funny is that you weren't expecting the laws of physics or reality to function that way.

    Exaggerations like that need reality at their core to function. The comedy comes from the contrast. I need you to either disprove that or accept it. Because I can't build a case that How I Met Your Mother is doing a bad job if we are disagreeing about how comedy exists in the world.

  • RomitComet
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    Re: About Comedy Link to this post

    Robin, if I'm understanding you correctly, does that mean in addition to How I Met Your Mother, Community could also be considered a TV show that lacks realism in its comedy and is therefore harder to laugh at? Because I think I would agree with that.

    I think it's okay to have completely unrealistic episodes now and then, but when it's the bulk of a show's body it makes it hard to engage with.

  • TheTVCritic
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    Re: About Comedy Link to this post

    Yes I would make the same case for Community but in a different way. I would make the argument that all my likes and dislikes when it comes to comedy surround how they handle the sense of reality.

    I'm still waiting for immortalfrieza to respond on this. Which comedies are your favourites Romit?

  • immortalfrieza
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    Re: About Comedy Link to this post

    Sorry, I had forgotten about this, but anyway...

    I don't really know if I can make my thoughts on the subject clear or not, but I'll try.

    Realism isn't a necessity to comedy, but since art imitates life there is always going to be something that one can recognize as true to real life, but that doesn't necessarily mean the comedy is realistic. Comedy exists to provide laughs, and how they accomplish this runs the gauntlet anywhere from "it looks like you could go down the street and see that happening" (like Friends or Cheers) to "you'd expect to see this in a fevered dreams of a meth addict" (like anything on Adult Swim or MAD pretty much) but neither extremes nor anything in the middle is any less valid a form of comedy than the other, they're trying to get laughs, and since these kinds of Comedies exist to begin with and continue to exist they are obviously making SOME people laugh.

    When say, Peter Griffin does bizzare things that hurt other people, or Stewie pulls out a gun and starts randomly shooting things and there's no retribution of any form for either of them, how is it in any way realistic? When a show has cows flying around randomly while bizzare things happen all around them, how is that in any way realistic? The guns are obviously real, the cow is real, but everything else around these aren't, and it doesn't have to be.

  • Moustached48
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    Re: About Comedy Link to this post

    A definition of comedy according to a The Teaching Company lecture I downloaded is that comedy lies in “an inversion or an undermining of expectation” I like this definition because our expectations can only come from reality as it’s our only frame of reference to draw from and further still it is inevitably our own subjective “take” on it;
    For instance something that really made me laugh recently came from the most unlikely of places (for me) and I fully recognise that it won’t be for a lot of people and that my finding it funny is wholly a product of my own mind, say what you will about Seth McFarlane (probably needs a new thread) however it was in an episode of American Dad;

    The irreverent storyline saw the son Steve purchasing some hot pants from a slick, smooth talking salesman who promised it would bring them popularity with girls or something, later when it really works Steve is celebrating with his friends when one of them say’s fondly “I wonder if we’ll ever see that saleman again” and Steve confidently and wistfully reply’s “Something tells me we will” We then cut to the sales man in the back of a cargo train slumped in a coma, frothing at the mouth, the hotpants strewn everywhere with needles up his arm, the carriage shakes violently and his body is thrown off a really high bridge into a lake. I found this hilarious as it was firstly very much an inversion of my expectations following Steve’s romanticism and furthermore the depiction of a shyster salesman drugging himself to death whilst presumably skipping town rang very true for me. Sure the episode as a whole was forgettable and exaggerated as they come but it was the little bit of reality within all of that that caused me to find it so darkly amusing.

    A friend of mine always says “it’s funny because it’s true” so his definition of what’s funny lies in his identifying with certain situations or characters, for instance he doesn‘t necessarily appreciate it when Peter fights a chicken for ten minutes, neither do I that being said if you weren’t expecting it then it is still consistent with the definition of comedy as stated above, some people won’t find it funny because they do expect it because they know Seth Mcfarlane, in which case the joke becomes the audacity with which it’s drawn out the most recent case being almost half an episode. I think this is why so many shows in general seem to diminish in quality over time they hit upon a formula that works (or is at least marketable), it gets done to death and by season 10 we all know what to expect and have grown tired with it’s tricks. I’d wager this would still be the case in a perfect world where writers don’t change, run out of ideas, die or continuity doesn’t get spoiled; even in that world a Breaking Bad faithfully continued to Season 20 by Gilligan himself would still suck I bet because people get bored and need new things or else you might as well watch Coronation Street. Sorry tangent over.

    With any Comedy you will constantly refer to your knowledge of the real world by default and therein lies the basis for the laughs, your real world knowledge of the workings between these types of people or that kind of situation and it’s almost always amusing when you identify something to be true and/ or have your expectations undermined. I stand by that!

    To try and expand on and thus complicate Robin’s purple apple example here’s a dialogue where the purple apple, ‘purple’ being the exaggerated element, could be used for comic effect:

    Robin “Hey Jim, you’ll never guess what”

    Jimmy (Sigh) “What is it now?”

    Robin “I just ate a purple apple… and it was rotten inside”

    Jimmy “Err Robin… those weren’t apples”

    Robin “Aww Jeez!”

    The comedic element here is no longer the purple apple for which we have no frame of reference but rather the inversion of the expectation that the apple was indeed something else, potentially harmful and Robin’s misconstruence of it to be an apple to the annoyance of Jimmy the humour therefore is derived from Robin’s cluelessness of what an apple looks like and Jimmy’s reaction to this. Ok if I saw this in a show I would put something through my screen, I also don’t mean to imply Robin can’t identify an apple I am however making the point that by including the elements of real world identification and an inversion of expectation we can make something seemingly random adhere to the “funny” formula.

    I don’t watch HIMYM simply because the unreality and randomness of it is a reason not to invest in the characters for me and so nothing makes me laugh. I very much adore early Frasier and Friends simply because whilst having the exaggerated elements thrown in at times, the joke isn’t just the exaggerated element the crux of the comedy lies in the coherence of the plot, the consistency of the characters and the way the punch lines are woven in naturally with the dialogue and the way the world reacts to it. Frasier resorts to wordplay all the time but it is done in such a way that isn’t a jarring list of puns being reeled off in the vague hope that one sticks, his wordplay is portrayed as a very real character quirk that everyone around him can’t stand and that makes it funny because we’ve all met an incessant Punslinger at some point (I’m betting) and so aren’t constantly reminded that the show’s “strings” are there every time a character gets away with something zany in front of a nonchalant world (Dwight comes to mind).

    I would finish by referring to the British Office and why that was so successful as a comedy but the case for comedy being grounded in reality is made much more strongly if you just watch it!

    Apologies for the epic length of this post and for any lack of clarity in it’s points. I see where you’re coming from Immortalfreiza however I have to say I’m with Robin on this one, I’ve been following this site for a few years now and he is a man who clearly knows his television and he has a habit of getting straight to the point of what makes something work or not work and can articulate it perfectly right after watching it. I think the main point of contention here is a difference in taste, where some might like the edgy randomness and throwaway exaggerations of HIMYM or Family Guy (and sadly The Simpsons for the last ten plus years) Robin appreciates comedy which gives you a reason to care and that just happens to mean good script writing, a solid narrative oh and funny jokes based on good realistic observations. That doesn’t necessarily mean one show is ‘better’ than the other, it just depends what you watch television for, if you watch a lot of it and like to give it some thought, you tend to want something with more substance that holds up to scrutiny as it aids your suspension of disbelief and can only work to heighten your enjoyment whilst still being relatable.

  • immortalfrieza
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    Re: About Comedy Link to this post

    That's ONE definition of Comedy, but Comedy is far far more complicated than that, most genres are more complicated than that in fact. Every Comedy has a style that they usually adhere to the entire run of the stand up/movie/TV Show/whatever, and realisim only factors into that as much as the writers want it to. Whether "it's funny because it's true" is played straight or not, it doesn't have to apply to all Comedy, in fact, Comedy as a whole would be a lot worse if it were that limited. Some Comedies will derive their humor from "undermining most people's expectations" others will get laughs from following most people's expectations, and still others will flip-flop between the 2 to keep the audience guessing (I think HIMYM drifts towards the last of the 3.) Whether these styles work for you or not is a matter of personal preference, but none of them are any less valid or good, it's how well the writers make use of their typical comedic styles that make the difference.

  • TheTVCritic
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    Re: About Comedy Link to this post

    Well I'm very grateful to Moustached48 for elaborating on the argument about comedy. And I very much appreciate you supporting the site.

    As I mentioned at the start I still think we are arguing about definitions and aren't close to actually debating what works and doesn't about "How I Met Your Mother."

    Moustached has restated the case I made about comedy in a different way which is that humour is derived from some kind of warping of our expectations of reality.

    Immortalfrieza - you seem to have trouble accepting this basic point. And it really is a very basic one, it's not a trap to try and get you to admit that one form of comedy is better than another. My reviews of HIMYM are simply my opinion no matter how much I believe in them.

    You gave examples of Peter or Stewie doing physically impossible things. But the core of those jokes is still an exaggeration of reality. I can't speak for MAD or Adult Swim specifically but all surreal or exaggerated humour is playing on what you did or didn't expect to happen.

    Of course you can then become as strange and warped as you like with your comedy. And for me when things no longer connect to my reality I don't find them funny. But that's all I'm saying - I don't find those exaggerations funny. If you do that's absolutely fine. But this discussion began because you questioned my understanding of humour.

    I'd like to think we've reached a point where we can agree what humour is and that my limits of enjoyment of it are fairly strictly defined compared to yours. I really do think I have a case to make (and it's throughout my reviews) that in the specific case of HIMYM the comedy is jarring in a way it wasn't on Friends and Frasier and other shows as Moustached made a case for. If you want to debate that then lets do it but if you want to leave it at "reasonable people disagree" then I'm happy too.

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