Comedy; It’s No Laughing Matter

I was having a conversation with someone yesterday about script ideas when I mentioned I was working on a romantic comedy. The response I got was pretty much “why don’t you aim higher?”. I find that a little bit insulting, not to me, (I’m rather glad they think I’m worth something), but to comedy. People dismiss comedy far too easily; it’s rarely nominated for any major film awards (for example; the last comedy to win Best Picture Oscar was Annie Hall in 1977, unless you count The Artist, which I don’t, because the first thing you think of when you think of that film isn’t laughter). When people ask for the best films they’ve seen they tend to go with the serious artsy ones, maybe because they actually like them, maybe because they feel that’s what they should be saying. 

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“Ass-ablanca is the best movie ever made” “don’t you mean-” “I know what I said”

I don’t know why people are so dismissive of comedy. I suspect it has something to do with people assuming it’s too lowbrow. That “comedy” is just made up of swear words and slapstick; which is ridiculous (for one thing; they’re completely missing “puns” and “racial stereotypes that white people find funny”). I will freely admit that most of my favourite tv shows and films are comedies. And it’s not just because I haven’t seen the “classics”. I’ve watched Citizen Kane, I’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I’ve watched Full Metal Jacket, and I did really appreciate them and loved them, but I didn’t ENJOY any of them half as much as I enjoyed films like Airplane, Lego Batman Movie or In The Loop. 

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Comedy can do (and does) a lot more than people think. It can change the way people think about the world, it can inspire ideas, it can affect you in ways that leave you emotionally devastated (I’m looking at you 50/50)

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I’m then looking away, because if I look too long I’ll cry

It’s not just comedy that gets a bad rap; anybody involved in comedy does too. If an actor known for comedy makes a comment about something he is instantly dismissed. We need to start taking things like that more seriously; let’s not dismiss Jim Carrey’s thoughts about vaccines causing autism just because he’s a comedian, let’s dismiss his thoughts because they’re wrong and he’s a fucking idiot about it.

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And for being a prick

Personally, I love it when comedy and comedians effect me in an emotional way. If something includes a little bit of light it makes the darkness seem more extreme (and therefore effective). On the flipside; laughter can also make something easier to take in. It’s why people will watch and read Horrible Histories and learn more from that than from A Complete History Of British Rulers.  One of the best examples of a comedian embracing the darkness a few years ago came from American tv personality Stephen Colbert. He took a week off from The Colbert Report to deal with his mum and her death. When he came back he opened the show, not with a roundup of the show ahead, not of a bunch of silly jokes, but with a heartfelt tribute. Here’s a condensed version:

She was born just a little ways from here in Larchmont, NY on Chatsworth Ave. in 1920, the same week women first got the right to vote. She spent her summers in the Adirondacks with her older sister Colleen and her younger brother Ed, who called her Snodgrass. She met my father James at age 12 at cotillion and she liked him, but she didn’t want him to know how much, so she would make her friends ride their bikes all the way across town to pass by his house, but then she’d never look to see if he was in the front yard, which of course drove her friends crazy. And evidently, she also drove my father crazy because they were married and promptly had 11 children. She made a very loving home for us. No fight between siblings could end without hugs and kisses, although hugs never needed a reason in her house. Singing and dancing were encouraged, except at the dinner table. She knew more than her share of tragedy, losing her brother and her husband and three of her sons. But her love for her family and her faith in God somehow gave her the strength not only to go on but to love life without bitterness and instil in all of us a gratitude for every day we have together. And I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish, it only magnifies, the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut. In her last days, my mother occasionally became confused, and to try to ground her we asked simple questions, like what’s your favourite colour, what’s your favourite song. She couldn’t answer these. But when asked what her favourite prayer was, she immediately recited A Child’s Prayer, in German, that she used to say to my eldest brothers and sisters at bedtime when they were living in Munich in the late 1940s. Her favourite memory of prayer was a young mother tucking in her children. We were the light of her life, and she let us know it ‘til the end. 

The fact that he went from this straight back to his usual jokey self made it mean more; the sudden mood whiplash caught you by surprise, and I only hope I could write anything half as beautiful. Until then, I’ll just have to settle for watching it here.

2015 In TV

2015 was a weird time for television. Channels were still attempting to figure out how to adapt to a new digital commercial model. But despite people proclaiming that television is (or will soon be) dead, it seems like a new dawn of television is coming. Thanks to netflix (specifically Breaking Bad and its ilk) people are taking episodic dramas more seriously.

But going to start with political comedy. Two major shifts happened in the American political comedy landscape this year. After The Colbert Report ended last year, Comedy Central needed a new show to fill the gap and partner The Daily Show, and it happened with The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. Something very different from both Colbert and Daily Show . It had an odd start but soon defined itself as something truly funny. It was oddly helped by something truly awful: Bill Cosby.

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Later on in the year something bigger happened: Jon Stewart left The Daily Show after 16 and a half years. The new host of this had a hell of a job forced upon them, so the fact it went to an almost unknown Trevor Noah says a lot about how highly Stewart held Noah. And Noah’s doing well, despite needing an almost all-new news team. Since he started he’s had to do stories about terrorism, mass shootings, and Donald Trump. And he’s done well. His interview techniques aren’t quite Stewart yet, but he shows great potential.

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Empire turned out to be the first major drama of the year, with the highest rated debut on Fox in three years with ratings steadily climbing since, culminating in the highest ratings for a debut seasons season finale since Grey’s Anatomy in 2005.

Netflix brought the style this year: Better Call Saul, Scream, Sense8, Daredevil and Jessica Jones were well received dramas whilst Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was one of the finest new comedies of the year, featuring adorable Erin (which is now her official name) from The Office.

In other comedy news, a remake of The Odd Couple starring Matthew Perry launched this year. Anybody know that? That should tell you how well it was received.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend debuted late in the year on The CW. This should be awful based on the title alone but it’s actually quite good. It’s a musical sitcom, which should get your attention if nothing else does. The songs are actually really good too. They range from the annoyingly catchy (I Have Friends), the very inappropriate (Sex With A Stranger) to the annoyingly catchy and inappropriate (Feeling Kinda Naughty). Luckily it’s not just me, critics agree. Which is a relief as it decreases the chances of it being cancelled. Also showed the weirdness of TV censorship. “Anal doesn’t hurt at all” is a big no no, but “butt stuff doesn’t hurt at all” is fine, despite being exactly the same.

Community took a risk this year, forgoing the usual network television root, and having it’s new series take place on Yahoo! A risk which early indicators seem to indicate paid off.

Glee ended this year, to the angry cries of about 80% less people who would have cried if it ended 5 years ago. No, that’s not me being needlessly bitchy, that’s the actual difference in viewing figures. If it was anything less than 60% less viewers I would’ve gone with “”Glee ended this year, provoking cries of “wait, that’s still on?””. But 2.3 million viewers, down from 12.45 isn’t something that can go without being mentioned. Especially since it’s actually lower than its debut season. It’s a warning tale not to let series go on too long. Glee really fell, and fell hard, and not all of it can be down to viewers changing how they watch. It fell comparatively to other shows as well. It was the 15th most watched show when it debuted, this year it ranked 148th.

With those figures, you’d think Glee mainstay Lea Michele would be worried that her career could be tainted by it. Luckily for her she was cast in Scream Queens. Which is, well, kind of amazing. A well-crafted murder based comedy. It’s dark, it’s twisted and it’s genuinely laugh out loud funny in parts. I feel this show should be commended for it’s use of music which has been amazing. From Beware Of Young Girls through to Forever Young the music on this show has been top class.

Gotham seems to be finding its feet this season by having one series-long arc to focus on which has an actual end point. And by having more Penguin, who’s been an amazing character. On the downside: Bruce Wayne himself is still a really boring character. Part of it is because the story is based around a plot on his life, yet we know he won’t die so it doesn’t really work. The death of the guy we assumed to be the Joker was marvellous though, we didn’t think they’d dare to kill off a guy who was that damn good.

It wasn’t just Glee that ended this year, Hannibal ended this year. To the utter dismay of the entire internet. This was a show which both audiences and critics loved but for some reason never scored high viewer numbers which sadly means the end of it.

As usual American HandEgg ruled the televisions in America this year with viewing figures of don’t care and an audience share of who gives a fuck?

The most watched show in Britain this year? Would it be a christmas special? The Queen concert at new years? A major sporting event? Nope, the most watched television episode of 2015 in Britain:

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Could it get more British than that? More people watched this show than voted in the last elections. And the right person won, and everybody agrees with that except the Daily Mail, who are being cunts about the fact she’s not white.

Thunderbirds was rebooted this year, but on ITV so nobody cared.

 

And that’s the year in TV.