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Humor and comedy

Humor and comedy

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Humor and comedy

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  1. Humor and comedy

  2. Humor • Humor can be seen as anything that makes us laugh or is amusing, or the ability to recognize what is funny about a situation or person

  3. Comedy • Comedy has taken different definitions through the ages • Aristotle defined comedy as one of two main forms of drama—comedy and tragedy • Most contemporary views see comedy as a form of humorous text

  4. Why are we amused? • Relief theory • Reducing physiological tension caused by the self-censoring of the baser instincts (Freud) • Sexual humor, bad behavior • Gross-out humor • Superiority theory • People feel superior or gain a victory over the victims • Cut-down humor, satire • Incongruity theory • Violation of an expected pattern “provokes humor in the mind of the receiver” • (Buijzen & Valkenburg) • Puns, irony, surprise

  5. High comedy • Some scholars retain a distinction between high and low comedy • High comedy provides a critique, often quite stinging, of human foibles and customs, social structure and power, etc. • Satire and irony • The Importance of Being Earnest • Dark comedy • Humor relating to subjects normally treated as very serious or somber

  6. Low comedy • Low comedy does not imply any social critique and is based on a wide range of topics • Romantic comedy • Sexual innuendo • Battle of the sexes • Sitcoms • Stupidity/Naiveté • Cut-downs (physical appearance, power differential) • Slapstick • The great majority of comedy in US mass media would be considered low comedy

  7. What makes a TV show or film funny? • Text must be perceived as funny by the audience member. • Unlike horror, action or tragedy, reaction to comedy/humor varies widely among audiences and audience members

  8. The same content may be hilarious or disgusting depending upon the characteristics and personality of the audience member, the circumstances of exposure or the cultural milieu • Men like more aggressive/meaner humor • The older you get, the more sophisticated your tastes for humor • Viewing context: • “You had to be there” • After tragedies, certain events, certain stories, narratives and comedies are cancelled because they are considered inappropriate

  9. Types of humor • Buijzen & Valkenburg’s (2004) Seven Categories of comedy used in advertising • Slapstick • Surprise • Irony • Clownish behavior • Satire • Misunderstanding • Parody

  10. Slapstick • Physical humor • Delight in the misfortunes of others • Unless it appears that really serious damage has been done • However, note dark (black) comedy • Physical incongruities

  11. Tim Conway • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSJw96SAeM

  12. Surprise • Nearly all humor can be said to have some element of surprise/incongruity • Expectations are not met, interpreted by audience members as ‘funny’ • Various forms of incongruity • Puns • Unexpected twists of fate • Strange or fantastic situations • Aliens on Earth

  13. Surprise/incongruity • The audience member is led to expect a certain behavior, statement, chain of events and then is surprised • Figuring out what the misperception or unrecognized meaning was and making a new connection is said to be the source of humor • The “Aha!” is the source of the Ha! Ha!

  14. Irony • There is some argument about what qualifies as ironic, but all senses of irony revolve around the perceived notion of an incongruity between what is said and what is meant; or between an understanding of reality, or an expectation of a reality, and what actually happens. • Wikipedia • Dependent entirely upon symbolic incongruity, etc. • More demanding of the audience member • High comedy/adult comedy

  15. Clownish behavior • Simple foolishness • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLi9Xa9EK-c

  16. Satire • The difference between a situation and the ideal or between what is claimed to be true and what is actually true provide the comic tension • Protagonists may either be those that challenge the hypocrisy or are hypocrites themselves • May not be aware of the incongruity between values and behavior, etc. • May be critical of individuals or of society as a whole • May attack deviants or may attack the system (neither necessarily conservative nor progressive)

  17. Dr. Strangelove/Some Like it Hot • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-B7l-ZMcN8

  18. Misunderstanding • Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg

  19. Parody • A parody (also called send-up or spoof), in contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, or author, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. Parody is not necessarily critical—it may be a loving parody. • For parody to work, the audience must understand the source material being parodied • Spaceballs • Often aimed at a genre rather than a single artifact • Young Frankenstein • Daily Show, Colbert Report, Onion

  20. Situation comedy • The great majority of television comedy is situation comedy • Sketch comedy, variety shows that were common at the outset of television gradually disappeared, with a few examples remaining • Saturday Night Live • Early examples were imported from radio

  21. Sitcoms • I Love Lucy • Developed the studio audience, three-camera format • Make Room for Daddy • Importance of children to domestic comedy • Andy Griffith • Rural setting • No studio audience (on-location filming) • The Dick Van Dyke Show • Work-based setting mixed with domestic

  22. Sitcoms • Mary Tyler Moore show • Single adult female • All in the Family • First significant discussion of social issues, especially in the sitcom genre • Spin-offs with social bite (Maude, The Jeffersons) • The Cosby Show • Successful, professional black parents • Happy Days • The dysfunctional family show • Married with Children • The Simpsons

  23. Longest running comedies • By number of seasons:  • 20  The Simpsons (Spring 2009)14  (The Adventures Of) Ozzie And Harriet13  King Of The Hill (Spring 2009), South Park (Spring 2009)12  My Three Sons11  M*A*S*H, Cheers, The Danny Thomas Show / Make Room For Daddy, Happy Days, The Jeffersons, Married ... With Children, Frasier10  Murphy Brown, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Friends9  The Beverly Hillbillies, The Love Boat, Alice, Roseanne, Family Matters, Coach, All In The Family, One Day At A Time, Night Court, The Drew Carey Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, The King Of Queens • Dr. Andrew Nestler, Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Santa Monica College.

  24. Longest running comedies • By number of episodes: 435 (The Adventures Of) Ozzie & Harriet  430+ The Simpsons (Spring 2009)380 My Three Sons336 The Danny Thomas Show / Make Room For Daddy275 The Donna Reed Show, Cheers 274 The Beverly Hillbillies 264 Frasier259 Married ... With Children256 M*A*S*H255 Happy Days253 The Jeffersons252 Bewitched249 The Andy Griffith Show247 Murphy Brown 245 The Love Boat244+ King Of The Hill (Spring 2009) 238 Friends234 Leave It To Beaver 233 The Drew Carey Show222 Roseanne214 Family Matters210 All In The Family209 One Day At A Time, The Facts Of Life, Everybody Loves Raymond207 The King Of Queens204 Home Improvement202 Alice201 The Cosby Show200 Coach 193 Night Court, Will & Grace • Dr. Andrew Nestler, Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Santa Monica College.

  25. Sitcoms • Racial and ethnic minority shows • Good Times • Chico and the Man • Sanford and Son • Family Matters • Diff’rent Strokes • Dramedy • M*A*S*H*

  26. Major sitcoms • Cheers • Seinfeld • Home Improvement • Friends • That 70s Show • The Office

  27. Features of the sitcom • Ensemble casts • At least a couple, usually several characters • Contemporary settings/realistic • Simple, flat characters • Don’t develop • Often a clownish character • Simple plots • Often driven by misunderstandings • Bad behavior, often punished • Cut-down humor is common • Often sexual • Happy resolutions

  28. Romantic comedy • Usually two attractive protagonists face a number of challenges in their quest (usually true love) and are able to overcome those challenges to reach a happy ending • It is the continued development of new obstacles and the actions of the protagonists or of fate to overcome those obstacles that provides the humor • Class differences • Bad luck

  29. Dark side of humor • Use of humor to assert dominance, superiority • The bully cuts the little kid down and everyone laughs • We snicker as someone makes a fool of himself or is publicly humiliated • Norm-breaking behavior seen as inherently funny • Someone engages in ‘inappropriate’ behavior • Sarah Silverman • Delight in the misfortune of others

  30. Factors often are combined • For example, surprise and ‘bad behavior’ may be mixed together

  31. Note • Humor does not ‘travel well’ compared to other types of content • Action/adventure, etc. are more likely to be successful in foreign markets • The more sophisticated the humor, the larger the portion of the audience that won’t ‘get it’ • This often leads to disappointment or upset