Thursday, October 25, 2007

Comedy With a Point?

A new series of The Armstrong and Miller Show begins tomorrow on BBC1 (a television channel, for those of you who have lost touch). It's sketch comedy - surprisingly funny, much of it - and the recurrent sketch that everyone's going to be talking about features a pair of stereotypical World War II fighter pilots talking over the day's action. The joke is that they do this entirely in present-day pseudo-black teenage street talk - and the result is quite alarmingly funny. This is, of course, comedy with a point - the point being the immense gulf in attitudes, language and world view between those young men, many of whom died in action in their teens, and today's teenagers. The steepness of our national decline could hardly be more eloquently embodied. But is it the point that makes it funny? Picking up from comments after yesterday's Alan Coren post, I think we should always be cautious about finding a point, or a message, in comedy. Real comedy cuts so much deeper than that - which is what Wilde meant when he said that 'Life is too important to be taken seriously'. Serious consideration tends to throw the obvious back at us - comedy, at its best, is an act of oblique reimagination that yields something altogether new, a second creation.

18 comments:

  1. You risk setting me off again, Nige, but I agree totally. It's about those little dislocations from normality. It's not discovering new newsness but looking afresh at things we thought we understood. Rory Bremner at his best makes us slap our heads and say 'of course, he does have that mannerism'. All comedy is a bit like that, I think.

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  2. Well said David - and I love your website by the way.

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  3. yes, not only is it racist but it pokes fun at the ultimate sacrifice. are you still laughing? that is, of course, the true test of humour.

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  4. Very nice of you to say that, Nige. When I slipped 230 places in Iain Dale's list, I thought of giving it all up in order to raise chickens.

    Ian, for a moment, I was thinking: 'is my website really racist and does it poke fun at the ultimate sacrifice?' Though I thought my picture of the outed Dumbledore would raise more complaints than it did.

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  5. I will look at your website directly, David.

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  6. The point of comedy is to make things funny with the brain.

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  7. I will look at your website indirectly, David.

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  8. I saw what you did there, Tom. You made something funny with your brain. Very good.

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  9. Funnily enough Ian, the pilots complain about the enemy being 'dead racist' by shooting at them.

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  10. I just ran across your site, David, and loved it. (In fact, I borrowed (with attribution) your Booker Prize Free Gift piece.)

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  11. Thank you, David. I was merely trying to be critically astute, but that's the funny thing about humour. It creeps in where you expect it to be not where it is.

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  12. As Homer Simpson says, 'If the Flintstones have taught us anything, it's that pelicans can be used to mix cement.' Incidentally, today is the 50th birthday of Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart, Nelson and Ralph.

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  13. I thought the point of comedy was to be funny, but perhaps that is simple-minded. Are allowed to laugh or merely admire? Good point about oblique, though. Some of my favourite comic writing is in crime novels by Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke (less so, unless we are contemplating the preposterous Cletus Purcell) and Carl Hiassen. The comedy works because like the best of Wodehouse it is set in a perfectly realized world. Alas, Stephen Fry, Ben Elton and co just aren't up to creating their enchanted gardens with anything like the same finesse, and so aren't all that funny in my experience.

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  14. Were the British pilots racist when they called the Luftwaffe pilots "Hun", "Bosche" and "fucking Germans"?

    As for the reimagining, you must become an ignorant man again, and see the sun with an ignorant eye.

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  16. As Homer Simpson says, 'If the Flintstones have taught us anything, it's that pelicans can be used to mix cement.'

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