11 April 2010

What is the comedy ethos?

Thanks to Tina Fey and her awesome TV sitcom 30 Rock, I've become interested and even excited about comedy. I was a big fan of Scrubs for the past couple years, but that show focuses on a narrow brand of comedy: outrageous fantasy sequences and slapstick. 30 Rock has much more variety and takes far more risks.

I've been so impressed by Fey's work and reputation that I even gave Saturday Night Live (SNL) a second chance. I prefer longer-form, character-driven comedy, so the sketch comedy of SNL doesn't really appeal to me. But now I can appreciate sketch comedy in the broader context of the comedy ethos.

I may very well be wrong, but this is what I think the comedy ethos is: First, you can do whatever you want as long as you insult everyone/everything equally. In other words, you can insult whoever you like as long as you spare no one. Second, a true professional will do whatever it takes to make the audience laugh, no matter how disgusting/offensive/disturbing/insulting. Sometimes the goal is not to make people laugh in the "haha" sense, but to shock them or make them think about a topic they ignore or avoid.

I now understand the appeal of being a comedy performer. You are allowed to behave in crazy ways that you'd never get away with in proper society.

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