Previously, we established that truth plays a very strong part in comedy, but truth is still optional. Perhaps the second strongest theory, and one professed by many very talented comedians and comedy writers is:
Comedy is pain.
Sorry. Not always.
Note that the terms pain and cruelty are sometimes used synonymously in this regard. Cruelty being to cause someone else pain.
Granted, pain plays a part in humor, especially slapstick. However, the relationship in slapstick is often between a person and an object, for example, the oblivious victim slipping on a banana peel, which is still funny if you’re a child, or if presented in a novel way, such as the macabre and most unlikely use of a banana peel in the pilot episode of Dead Like Me (2003). I won’t spoil this show for you, let’s just say that the banana peel was robbed at the Emmys.
Forget the sealed envelopes with the winner’s names! The tremendous suspense at a Hollywood awards show is actually due to flimsy, filmy, revealing gowns worn by hard-bodied young actresses who are one sneeze away from becoming centerfolds.
Pain also plays a part in those funny relationships that are contentious by design, such as Al and Peg Bundy, who scheme against one another, often consider sex a punishment, and are rarely concerned with each other’s discomfort or even possible demise!
Every couple living together for even a short span knows each other so well that pushing each other’s buttons becomes almost automatic in an argument. Is intimacy therefore an invitation to pain? Certainly not!
And neither is humor.
You’ve been married much too long when an intensely personal discussion means that you’re talking about denture adhesive.
A more centrist view is that it’s normal for an average couple to have ups and downs, joys and pains, triumphs and mishaps. Are only the negative, more painful aspects funny?
When J.D. beds his lovely and lusty Dr. Elliot Reid, their antics are often some of the funniest between-the-covers scenes ever broadcast. No one is hurt beyond a bit of exhaustion.
Will Truman and Grace Adler are a funny couple\non-couple who support each other and share the intimate details of entirely separate relationships and lifestyles. I’ll support your latest screw up is a fabulous formula for funny, but if the characters stub a toe, they have to do it themselves.
Niles Crane pines for his true love, Daphne Moon, while married to Maris, who never appears on the show. Non-existent Maris is incapable of producing pain without the collusion of the characters who do exist.
Pain is not a requirement for funny.
Are there more theories available? You betcha!
Comedy is feeling superior.
So, who’s on top?
Obviously, there is no enduring superiority to be found in gender-specific traits, intelligence or wisdom. Superiority is only decided in the moment. It changes hands more often than a hotel doorknob.
Positional superiority also fails.
Frank and Marie Barone were supporting characters on Everybody Loves Raymond, but at times were easily the show’s funniest couple by far. How actors Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts managed to deadpan some of those hilarious lines is a genuine mystery!
And, they’re not alone!
Meeting for a let’s make a baby nooner and realizing there’d be no time for foreplay, Carla makes Turk a sandwich to set the mood.
Funny does not belong to stars or main characters alone.
How about surprise?
Sure, let’s throw some of that in, too.
How about embarrassment?
Sure, why not?
How about _____________. [Fill in the blank.]
Let’s add nearly anything you’d like!
Funny is a mutt — a definitive mixed breed. Its mother can be a lady or a tramp, but there actually is a good bit of method to the madness.
To be continued…
Parting Funny: A truly honest personal ad would say, “I want to date myself, only with more money.” – Maureen Brownsey
Next Up: Funny, Funny Relationships – Part 3
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