Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What still works every time.

In Hobbes’ piece he discusses that laughter is produced by the new and unexpected. After reading this I agreed and immediately thought of clever television shows and movies in which the plot takes random twists and turns to challenge the characters. The movie “The Hangover” is probably the best example of this as the characters travel from a hotel room, to a wedding chapel, and even to Mike Tyson’s house. The humor is in the ridiculousness and absurdity of the events, which was another topic many of the authors discussed. However, while thinking of more classic examples of comedy, such as comic strips or cartoons, I could not help but think of the repetitious jokes that occur in every episode.

Wile E. Coyote has spent years chasing after the Roadrunner. He sets up traps that always seem to backfire and leave him falling off a cliff or exploding into millions of pieces. In comparison, the Roadrunner, and in this case the victim, is left safe and sound and living his life as usual. These two iconic characters seem to follow Plato’s model of laughing at someone’s misfortune. Wile E. Coyote is the bad guy and it is very satisfying that he does not catch the Roadrunner and is left hurt in the process. It is a very basic concept and a very basic sense of humor that also made me question why it ran for so long.

The audience knows, no matter what, that the Roadrunner will not be caught and something bad will happen to Wile E. Coyote. It seems that after a few episodes the satisfaction would be gone and the show would become too predictable. Kant describes that an important part of humor is the build up that results in the climax of the punch line, something that doesn’t seem to follow through in many shows that have repeating jokes. How can people still find the coyote’s methods funny when they know they’ll never work? In a more modern version: how do people still laugh when Kenny dies in every episode of South Park? Or Steve Urkle gets rejected from his neighbor that he is in love with? I think this may lie in the system of dramatic irony in which the audience is aware of what the characters are not. However, this method does not seem to follow what I originally thought about, and what these authors wrote, when discussing what is humorous.

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