They say analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog, you might learn a thing or two about its anatomy, but you’ll have to kills it first. Comedy writers often take the risk murdering humour in order to understand how it is created. Comedy is more simple and effortless to feel, unlike its twin brother tragedy. Crying is a task, and it takes effort to control your tears. We do not like wearing our sad faces around. In fact we put on a lot of make up to hide our gloominess and we tuck-in all our sorrows away from the world. We even accessorize with logic and practicality to distract others from looking through us. Tragedy is that matured adult that we’d like to avoid and Comedy is more like that lost innocent childhood, we’d all like to go back to.
We all understand the importance of a good plot, funny scenes, and witty dialogues but there are few other layers within comedy that one must look into. There are a few other rules that define good comedy – conflict and irony.
All comedy is conflict. Irony is a type of conflict; the real situation is conflicting from what it ought to be. The degree of conflict between characters, situations or sometimes even the audience (seen in stand-up comedies) can determine the degree of laughter from the audience. Now let’s look at some of my favourite sitcoms. You will be surprised to learn, it not just the witty one-liners but the chemistry between the characters that gets people cracking.
In Sienfield, Jerry and George Constanza’s constipated irritation with each other and the rest of the characters. You wouldn’t be surprised if the characters slapped each other very often. Each of the characters were loud, obnoxious and filled with buffoonery. But it simply wouldn’t have worked if George and Jerry got along without any friction. And same holds true for other characters as well. In most of the scenes it felt like one of them is ready to burst out any moment. Because of the conflicting situations and conversations a show about absolutely ‘nothing’ is one of the most hilarious shows of all time.
On the side, we have yet another marvellous sitcom – Modern Family. It goes on one level higher. Apart from its cheeky fast paced humour here the characters cannot express themselves; they control their conflict because it’d hurt their spouse or family member’s emotions. The audience is fully aware of how annoyed Claire Dunphy is with her juvenile husband – Phil, but she controls herself from screaming out. Her silent gazes seem like she wants to breathe out fire on her husband. Well sometime she does burst out with anger but only when it’s too late. Similarly Jay finds his hot and spicy yet superstitions and loud wife Gloria extremely ridiculous and her son Manny is the oversensitive and over matured kid. The frustration of not being able to speak during the couch session gets you rolling in laughter.
The best example of a situational conflict is Arthur Fonzarelli from ‘Happy Days’. Apart being the epitome of coolness the Fonz could do the most unusual things at the snap of his fingers.
The most conflicting character amongst the main cast creates the most amount of laughter. Take for example, Joey and Chandler in ‘Friends’. They stood out as the best comic pair in a group of six. And the most legend -wait for it- dary Barny Stinson; it wouldn’t have been the sheer laugh riot that it is now without Barney. Not because he is unusual but because he is the most unusual within the gang.
The most conflicting or ironic setting of a sitcom was found in MASH – a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the American-Korean war. Quick witty dialogues were delivered with a straight face while the surgeons are operating in a make shift hospital. The episodes were bleeding with sarcasms, dry or black comedy. The one-lines flew around faster than the torpedoes in a war. And Alan Alda was brilliant in his craft than a brain surgeon.
They say it takes about 26 facial muscles to smile – though this is debated a lot over the net, we’ll just stick with this number for now – it takes your whole body to laugh. Because if you are watching world class sitcom on TV or a funny movie you are bound to exercise your gut muscles, move your hand in around like the house been set on fire and roll over the floor like your spouse pushed you from the sofa for not doing the dishes, again.
But comedy writing is not easy. It does not come naturally as laughing on others. A comedy writer needs to first understand the tragedies of life and then seek laughter in it. Everyday he peeks into others life, to find laughter. He searches on the net, watches online videos, talks to random people just out of curiosity. But in the end the part which touches him the most, is his own reality and somehow he turns it around for the outside world to create some laugh worthy comedy.
Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. Charlie Chaplin
On a cold winter afternoon, a group of snobbish, – drunk on their lethargy – hideously black buffaloes were crossing the path dug out between the rocky hills and the 15 story high-rise, which had just come up. The building was a work of beauty, equipped with luxurious amenities and was built to house those common people (aam aadmi) who after getting tired from the big city’s hustle bustle needed a small town tavern to rest, to get satiated on the unpolluted fresh air. The senior buffalo shrugged looking at the building watchmen; she didn’t have to look all the way up to see, just a side glance and she was convincingly ridiculed by humans. What do these weaklings understand about nature? The rest of the group nodded in affirmation ‘Yeah, what do they understand?’
The senior continued ‘They cut trees to build their houses, they cut mountains to build their roads, but the fact is they cannot do a thing with their bare hands, they need tools for every bit of work for them; to cook food, to construct, to walk. We on the other hand, live like one with nature, exactly how God made us, if we had those tools we could be much bigger and powerful then these humans. But we are wiser and we choose to remain humble within out limitations. Look at the these jokers coming towards us’
she pointed looking at a group of construction workers coming towards them, all of them armed with heavy construction tools. But the buffaloes didn’t flinch one bit. All of them spread like the mafia men, each marking their target and ready to take these men out. The men got worried and stood on their toes. They couldn’t understand the game strategy of these animals. One of them dropped a tool, they called it a gun but was in fact a smaller version of a sledgehammer. The smaller buffalo quickly seeking the opportunity moved one step ahead and seized the tool.
This one seemed inspired by David Beckham, she was too quick with her feet and before the men could realize tool was passed from the 1st buffalo to the 7th one, in quick passes – as if they were coached by the Barca coach. The final pass went to the senior player, who stood right in the centre, waiting to shoot the tool into the goal. She had the look of a captain, who had lost the last world cup four years back and this was the only opportunity toreclaim the lost glory. As she was about to kick, the men grew weary and ran for their lives, dropping all their tools. The buffaloes grunted in victory. Even the building watchmen ran inside and hid himself behind his booth. The buffaloes bellowed in laughter, leaving the tools behind and walked snobbishly straight in the middle of the under-construction road. At that moment a few rocks from the edge of the mountain began sliding through the mud and were landing on the road. The buffalo ran as fast as their heavy bodies could permit. The senior gnawing – ‘Damn you most strongest and monstrous Mountain’.
The Mountain looked down at the commotion and realised he was leaking from its edges, there was nothing he could do. The men had performed an amputation surgery around the edges to construct a road and left some live tissue lying around which leaked stones, pebbles and sometimes bigger rocks. But looking at the fat girls run like that, did give the Mountain an innocent chuckle. He knew he was the mightiest and the strongest of all the creations of God. If there was anybody stronger then him, he wasn’t simply aware, for he never went out of his ground and challenged a worthy opponent. He was too modest, and always said to the little ants who crawled on him and questioned him regularly ‘Dude, we being so tiny do so much work, build our houses, provide food to our siblings and children, why don’t you step out and do something’
The mountain replied ‘Like what? I don’t eat anything, I do not copulate and multiply. I am a simple being meant to be single on this planet from the beginning till the end. I have been waiting for the end for last 300 years but the earth seems get extensions every 100 years.
The ant answered ‘But these men keep killing your brothers and look they have already began killing you too, do something before they finish you.’
The mountain replied ‘ Oh life generally is meaningless and purposeless, let them do what they want. We simpletons try to define life’s meanings in words, expressions, emotions, logic and what not. The truth is life starts with Nothing and ends with Nothing. I don’t care one way or the other. I need the world to end, if these men folk kill me and my brothers and the rest of the species, they’d die sooner then they think’. Besides I am the biggest mountain in this region, even these fools would think 100 times before they decide to kill me.
The ant replied ‘Oh, yes you are the strongest and the mightiest of them all. Hail oh mountain, please keep our houses safe. Hail oh mountain’
The mountain wondered and his mind wandered in loneliness. He wasn’t built to fall in love, or have dreams and aspirations. There wasn’t much excitement and he was too lonely a being. But he was always surrounded by other beings around him; the ants, the frogs, plants, trees and insects. Even at nights the crickets and the frogs kept him awake with their cacophonous symphonies. During the day a few fat buffaloes or a couple of scoundrel dog would climb up and fight amongst each other on some stupid property issues.
But lately the mountain had grown fond of his loneliness, there were moments when he was undisturbed and that gave him time to think. Think and ponder over the most banal things; His size, his years of existence, he service to the earth and mostly about himself. But on the other side he also pondered over his weaknesses and his fears. Of all the beings he was surrounded by, he never bothered about any of them, except for the black winged kite. He grew more and more scared of the bird in the recent years. Something about that being was not al-right.
It was as if the kite possessed some dark powers, and was a messenger of dark lord. Not that the mountain knew anything about the existence of any such thing, because he never bothered to move around or enquire. But now in his old age, he wanted to know where did this kite creature come from? The mountain did not have any control over the kite. The kite came as he pleased and ate whatever he pleased; sometimes it was those noisy crickets, them folks the mountain did not mind so much being attacked. But something the kite also hunted other large insects, lizards, snakes, frogs and some smaller birds. The vile kite would fly so high up in the sky to show his superiority and then with his dark powers target a prey and then come down with full throttled – faster than the F 16’s – to capture its prey.
The mountain hated the kite, and his hatred grew stronger during their breeding period, which lasts for several months during the year. He was irritated with their contemptible noise they made during courtship and the eggs that were left behind in the special pockets they called nests. The mountain could have just smashed the eggs if he wanted to, but it wasn’t in his nature to hit any other creature. After making several enquiries at the base, the chirpy white flamingos advised him not to take any measures against the kite. They said that their cousins in Australia and some other lands, told about legends where they these vengeful creatures captured the mountains and made their permanent homes. All their 200 hundred brothers and sisters occupy a single mountain and keep torturing the poor soul for years. It’s better to be away from these evil folks. Even we flamingos do not talk to them and keep away from any interaction whatsoever.
The kite was gliding in circles at 2000 ft, changing its altitude as he pleased. He was speaking to himself, loudly enough for anybody to hear him, but there wasn’t anybody around him.
He said ‘It’s fu*king lonely up here’
He looked down at other white birds flying in groups with envy. He continued his banter in the empty sky ‘Damn you, white little geese, you irritatingly white creatures. How can you be so white? God damn…it’s preposterous…what do the men feel like in your community…white is such a feminine colour…black is a man’s colour…have you heard any charmingly handsome male walking into an evening party in a white suit…God awful…Damn you losers…Uff it’s also hot up here…and this God-forsaken black colour retains so much of this bloody heat…why does the Sun has to be so fucking bright all the time…it hurts my eyes and I cannot concentrate on my prey’.
The kite has become irritatingly nagging lately. He was most upset with God, as there was nobody in his life he could call a friend or family. He thought a couple of times to fly high and move beyond the blue sky and have serious conversation with God. But every time flew above his permissible range, he had difficulty breathing. He tried several tricks, controlling his breathing, yoga, meditation but couldn’t cross the clouds above. He then realized that to meet God he must die. One of these days, he will take a break from him routine and die and go see him.
‘God knows when will I ever get to eat again…? He made it so easy for these folks…’ The kite said looking down at the snake sexily walking on one side of the mountain, and a rat quietly galloping on the other side of mountain – Don’t know why the stupid rat always felt he was galloping, he should get acquainted with the horses sometime – ‘these idiots don’t have to worry about their foods, it’s right there where they live and if you are a vegetarian and God has given them food everywhere. Why didn’t he make us a vegetarian? I on the other hand have to wander around for hours to find food? Damn you God and your good-of-nothing creatures… So the kite couldn’t decide which one to eat today? Who had more nutrition?
The rat eats all the left-overs, there couldn’t be any protein, plus he is too fat for his size, so there will be a lot of excess fat. All the fat would give me acidity in the night. I think I’d settle down for the snake for lunch’. This was his daily routine. He’d start off for work very early in the day. Roam about a few kilometres, in between rest a little, have some water in some pond and then hold a meeting with himself under the open sky around 11.00 am and by 1.00 pm he’d decide about the day’s lunch. Hunt at 2.00 pm, and finish eating by 4.00 pm, by 6.00 pm he is back home and tired to go to sleep. As he was done with the decision, he began to get ready for the landing. His landing gears, the legs, will come down only few seconds before hitting the ground, he adjusted the feathers on his wings to begin the downward slide toward its target.