Elements of Comedy With a Focus on Satire
Caveat: • The best way to kill a joke is to analyze it. • Comedy is the hardest genre to create—partly because everyone thinks it’s easy.
So Why Risk It? • We all have different ideas of what is funny…but there are some common elements or building blocks of classic comedy that we can at least understand and identify. • As with camera angles and exposing invisible editing, understanding what is there may help you to better write and appreciate comedy.
Basic Concepts for Creating Humor From “How To Be Funny” by Steve Allen
Play On Words • usually builds on homonyms • understanding a second definition than what was intended • misusing the intended definition • etc. • A dime and a nickel were on top of the empire state building. The nickel jumped but the dime didn’t. Why?
Reverse Formula • Saying or doing the opposite of what is expected • Presenting something that is the opposite of the normal order (order of events, hierarchical order, etc.)
Exaggeration • To enlarge, increase, or represent something beyond normal bounds • Result: it becomes ridiculous and its faults can be seen • Examples:
Incongruity • To present things that are out of place or are absurd in relation to their surroundings • Monty Python uses this a lot
Parody • To imitate the techniques and/or style of some person, place or thing
Implication • Makes the viewer make a leap between the last part of the statement and the implicit meaning • “Mommy, Mommy” jokes • Example from Annie Hall
Visualization • An exercise of the visual imagination • “Mommy, mommy, my pigtails are too tight.”
Satire Definition and Key Techniques
Definition of Satire • A literary work that ridicules its subject through the use of specific techniques:
Exaggeration • To enlarge, increase, or represent something beyond normal bounds so that it becomes ridiculous and its faults can be seen
Incongruity • To present things that are out of place or are absurd in relation to their surroundings
Reversal • To present the opposite of the normal or expected order
Parody • To imitate the style or technique of some person, place or thing.