One of my dirty little secrets is I used to produce a sketch comedy show. This was before my television career took a turn for the weird, and I ended up producing live TV about computers. This was even a little bit before I founded a theater company, specializing in live movie parodies performed late at night with free beer. This was almost 15 years ago, and was one of the best times of my life.
One of the extremely talented comedians I worked with on that show had a theory: He believed everything was funny. Everything. The inevitable comeback to this was “Well, what about the Holocaust?” His reply: “Hilarious.” He then went on to do a one-man show, a musical revue of the Holocaust. We were skeptical, especially those with Jewish ancestry, but by the end of his performance, we were in stitches. Sadly, he and I parted ways well before we could begin production of “Holocaust: The Musical,” but I have no doubt it would have been a critical and commercial success.
The lesson is this: Although comedy may be subjective, to the point that certain things are funnier at certain times, or to certain people, everything can be funny. Porky Pig raping Daffy Duck, for example, suggested in the movie Stand By Me, is an instance where rape would be hilarious. Similarly, the infamous rape scene from the film Deliverance, terrifying when the film was first released, has since become a punchline, making it impossible to listen to the song “Dueling Banjos” without wanting to imitate a squealing pig. (To wit: If you’re being held at gunpoint by a gap-toothed, backwoods hick, the suggestion you’ve “got a purty mouth” would be terrifying. To those of us not in that situation, however, it’s hilarious.)
This week, drawing on the theory that everything is or can be funny, The Escapist is exploring comedy at our own (that is, gamers’) expense, whether it’s comedy in a game, about a game, or as a result of a game.
John Evans explains how the comedy he creates is a thousand times funnier than the game designers intended; Ronald Meeus interviews the man behind Leisure Suit Larry, arguably the hardest (pun intended) game character to take seriously; Colin Rowsell explores alternative methods for entertaining oneself online; Kieron Gillen profiles the fathers of the improv griefing movement, Team Roomba; and I’ve spoken with the creators and stars of two of the funniest web video series currently running (The Guild and LOST) to understand what makes good comedy and why some people are better at it than others.