A Mental Riff

Leaving aside for a moment the question of these statements’ accuracy…

I wrote this mostly because I want to post something after a crazy-stressful week, and I feel both silly and serious.


This topic kinda did it for me.

I started a new book tonight– absolutely fascinating so far– and one statement got me following a winding track.

“Comedy comes out of anger, and interesting comes out of angry; otherwise there’s no conflict.”

–Hollywood producer Brian Grazer

Two thoughts came connected to that.

  1. So that’s why I’m not funny.  I’m not angry.
  2. This is a distinctly American observation.

One day at a library (actually, I was trying to map my climax’s time line and picked the wrong section to sit near– fat spines with enticing titles far too easy to read from 6 yards away) I picked up a book about comedy and the introduction observed that the humor of Great Britain and the United States are two entirely different animals: the British emphasis seems to be more on word-play, while American humor is distinctively violent.

Why do we laugh at slapstick, anyway?  What’s so funny about watching someone get beat up?

And that makes me wonder about an AP article I read about the difficulty of translating American comedies for the international market

The article was unfortunately poor– only one example, if I remember correctly, and it was of a comedy that was a flop even here at home, so I couldn’t understand the significance of it being a loser overseas.


Anyway, I’ve often wondered if there was a way to learn to be funny.  And now I’m wondering if there’s a way to learn different cultures’ funny the way you try to learn their mannerisms or gestures to match their language.

That would be so awesome– one could work at meshing the different types of comedy in the regions referenced in your story, and see how much could be amalgamated with the culture where the story is being told…

And, okay.   I’m done now.

Hope your week is more peaceful and less-hectic than mine was last week.

This entry was posted in Random.

8 thoughts on “A Mental Riff

  1. Word-play, or, at least, whatever one may call those verbal asides that are funny, are my favorite too.

    I can’t feel comfortable claiming just wordplay though, as I generally love catching any funny line.

  2. You would love Blackadder if you’ve not seen it before, especially seasons 3 and 4. You have to watch each episode numerous times to catch all the clever\funny lines and historical jokes.

    I’ve been noticing the violence in children’s humor since you mentioned that. K likes Tom & Jerry and Pink Panther on YouTube, but it’s all physical violence.

  3. Comment part 2, which I didn’t have time to finish earlier.

    I am currently reading the book “How to Be Funny” by Jon Macks. I too am unfunny, perhaps because I am unangry. :) It’s a very analytical and practical. I do think you can learn to be funny, or at least, funnier. Same with learning to be funny in another culture. I remember in college Matthew helped his friend Koes (Indonesian) learn American English and idioms. M was so proud when Koes learned to tell American jokes. M is a student of humor…he was delighted when he told a joke in a programming class that made all the Asian students laugh.
    When I was telling M about this post, he recalled when a Missionary once told him he had learned Fench well enough to be able to joke in it. M’s high school French, while good enough to win a National language prize, wasn’t good enough for him to get the joke. Eddie Izzard is a great example of this – he is a British comedian who also can perform hit standup in France.

  4. I tried a bit of the first season of Black Adder (it’s been mentioned to me before and I saw it at the library) but only found about 1 out of 5 jokes funny. I recognized them as jokes, and intellectually understood why they would be funny to someone, but they didn’t work for me.

    I’m working on a post about improv, and why it’s (basically) always funny. It has rules– like basketball– and it can hardly help being funny… I think. At least as far as I understand it so far.

    I’m on a roll for the novel, so I’ll not be blogging off-novel for a little. *So* close to the end. (You’ll have to tell me how useful the book ends up being!)

  5. So that’s why I’m not only not funny, but not interesting.

    And yet, situational humor. . .

    I’m much funnier in real life playing off of life than I am on my pre-conceived, well thought out (mostly) blog.

    I love British Comedy’s. A little dirty for my taste, but very funny.

  6. Pingback: Untangling Tales » Good Books!

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