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So maybe the Greeks couldn't have imagined a comedy starring action figures fornicating with wizardry, or a group of underachieving social misfits who are more comfortable interacting across miles of fiber optic cable than in the same room with each other, but today's modern web comedies are nevertheless funny. Have we changed, or has the comedy? Or both? What makes comedy funny, anyway? How do you know, as a comedian, if you've struck gold?
"If you're performing a joke live, it's all about whether people laugh. Period. The good Lord made it easy that way," says Parikh, whose career as a standup comedian has informed his role as Zaboo on The Guild, and led to the creation of his own website, effinfunny.com, and a web video series, The Legend of Neil, a parody of The Legend of Zelda. "If you're writing a joke or doing it on the 10th take, clearly people aren't going to laugh. You've got to believe in your own reaction to it. I guess I ultimately trust myself and what I think is funny. I think you have to. "
"I think your reaction to the material that you're going to perform is super important," says Robin Thorsen, who plays Clara the Mage on The Guild, "because if you don't believe in the joke it's going to be a flop! They can tell if you aren't 100 percent confident in your performance."
The Fine Bros. agree. "You start to get a pulse for what works and what doesn't. That said, it's always your own reaction that matters most. If you don't find it funny, it won't be funny."
As for what makes the comedians laugh, "repetition based humor," say The Fine Bros. "repetition based humor, repetition based humor, repetition based humor, repetition based humor, repetition based humor, repetition based humor, repetition based humor, repetition based humor."
"I really love seeing actors who can make you laugh without words, just on their facial expressions, like Steve Carrell," says Day. She also laughs at "farting and pooing and falling. I'm not that sophisticated."
Parikh asked his girlfriend what makes him laugh: "She says, 'You make you laugh; I've never seen anyone crack themselves up so much.' Thanks for making me look an ass, honey."
Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard
They make it sound easy - wake up, make some jokes, get a laugh and go home - but it isn't. For every joke that connects, there are a thousand more that go nowhere. Everyone thinks they're funny, and everyone is, but telling jokes at the water cooler, you may have an audience of five or 10, all people you know. Telling a joke to that crowd is a walk in the park; you know what they like and don't, and they've got a vested interest in making you feel like your efforts are appreciated. Especially if you're the boss.