They say it’s much harder to write comedy than tragedy – partly because there are certain rules for tragedy, while comedy is much more in the eye of the beholder. It’s certainly harder to write about it.
In its traditional Shakespearean form, comedy is the opposite of tragedy, a light-hearted drama that ends happily -i.e without lots of dead bodies littering the stage at the close of curtain (though there are quite a few movie comedies that finish that way…)
Slapstick, black comedy, screwball, spoof, punning, farce, political incorrectness, surreal comedy, the comedy of embarrassment – they all have their moments, but there is no universal funny thing – not even Charlie Chaplin, not even the most lethal joke in the world in the Monty Python sketch, and certainly not even one of those “$100 if this doesn’t make you laugh” clips on YouTube.
Why do we find some things funny and not others?
Like eroticism, there are triggers for what makes us laugh that go way back to childhood and the things that tickled us then – sometimes literally.
It’s amazing how culturally specific comedy can be. For Brits it’s The Beano, April Fools, music halls and working men’s clubs, slipping on banana skins, Fawlty Towers, Spoonerisms, Tony Hancock and The Goons, news satire shows, kittens falling off windowsills on “You’ve Been Framed”, Spitting Image, the Smash robots…most of them hitting the spot for a lot of people but by no means all.
And styles of comedy do date. Like a joke you’ve heard just too many times, things we once found side-splitting don’t always stand the test of time, or they’re lost on a modern audience with different perspectives.
So we are taking our chances on this month’s plotline choice: 1955 Ealing classic, ”The Ladykillers”, with Tommy Cooper originally envisaged in a leading role. You might not find yourself rolling in the aisles; but it’s a romp, a rib-tickler and a chuckle, with some wonderfully dry and clever lines as well as marvelous physical comedy moments. And of course, kicking off this summer of patriotic pride and joy, it’s quintessentially British.
Comedy takes us into a different bodily state – relaxes the muscles, makes us breathe more deeply, makes us feel happy. And there’s nowt wrong with that!
So, having somewhere in this article given you a tiny clue to what happens, come and join us for the next in our Plotlines series:
Alexander MacKendrick’s “The LadyKillers”
Sunday May 27th at the Lantern Theatre, Netheredge.
See our Coming Up page for more details.