Saturday, April 17, 2010


The beauty of weekend blogging? Very few people actually read your work. They are sleeping in or going out or making blueberry pancakes . . . My standards decline a bit on Saturday and Sunday, and I can write something ridiculous without feeling bad. Okay, prepare yourselves for my foray into mediocrity! (For those of you diligently blogging this weekend, my apologies.)

According to the old axiom from the book of Ecclesiastes, there's nothing new under the sun. I'd agree with Solomon on this, and so our topic today revolves around common experience as it applies to comedy. (There's a jarring non-sequitur if ever I wrote one!)

Let's look at the metaphorical ladder of comedy, why don't we? On the bottom rung there's Low Comedy. You don't need me to explain this. It's when you tell a dirty joke or do a pratfall. A step up from there? Farce. Actually, I kinda like Farce if truth be told. I relate well to farce. Next comes, Comedy of Manners. This is where you find the clever puns and insults, the impersonations, and witty dialogue. By and large, most popular comedians work here.

Think Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Martin, Hoops and Yoyo cards, etc. (I love me some Hoops and Yoyo. I will stay in the greeting card section of Walmart until I have looked at every Hoops and Yoyo card. Twice.)

The highest rung: Comedy of Ideas. This is a difficult level to pull off. It's dark, satyrical humor. These comedians turn death, poverty, war, class distinction and government into a joke. If they're successful, we smile at the terrible. We laugh at what they say, even though there's a current of tragedy running just under the smooth surface of the punch line. Think Sam Kinesin, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, George Carlin. These guys were brilliant. Not to stereotype them, but Idea comedians are often troubled, angry people. They walk a fine line between entertaining the audience and alienating them with insults. We think about their comments long after the standup is over.

The top two are my favorite rungs. Great comic writing reveals the everyday aspects of life in a new way. Take bacon for example. We've all heard of it, seen it, eaten it, but have we thought of bacon as particularly funny? I certainly didn't. Until I heard Jim Gaffigan's riff on this breakfast meat on youtube. So, so funny. "Thank you, Bacon. Sincerely, Water Chestnut the third." And his camping schtick. Amazing. "He's made hammocks a dirty thing." Brian Regan's inspired account of hospital emergency rooms makes me laugh until I can't breathe right. "Happy eight day! Happy eight day! Guess who's an eight again?" Steve Martin's Flydini is as clear in my mind today as it was the first time I saw him unzip his pants. Hilarious, smart humor. You all know how tech-challenged I am, I can't link to youtube to save my life. Go and see these snippets if you haven't watched them already.

By the way, comedians are dead serious about the art of the joke. It is not a laughing matter to them. It's perfect timing, precise wording, and the right choice of subject matter. (Sound familiar?) Not to mention: practice, practice, practice. Humor is a serious business.

When it's done well, comedy forces us to look at the human experience with a fresh perspective. That's what we do as writers. We reinvent the wheel, so to speak, and put an innovative, original slant on our version of Aristotle's seven basic plot lines.

What are your thoughts? Who are your favorite comedians?

Happy Saturday! (Have some bacon.)


  1. I LOVE Brian Regan! He is just soo funny! He doesn this awesome bit about being on an airplane, and how the captain comes over the loudspeaker after there's been a delay. He says "He nevers says "This is your captain speaking. Sorry about the delay. We found a huge bag of money, and we decided to divide it among the passengers...but the stacks keep falling over...It's never that."

    I also find the emergency room skit LOL. "Say eight! Say eight! Can I have some more eight?"
    Great post!

  2. Yum, thanks for the bacon! :) If this is mediocrity, you should write more of it!

    I love Seinfeld. LOVE IT! I also like Friends - I could watch it over and over.

    Happy weekend!

  3. I really envy those people who are so naturally funny! Like everything they say is just perfect and witty and makes you so glad you know them. I really like your kind of humor, it is perfect.

    My faves are Jack Black, Will Ferrel (I think it must be because I watched a lot of SNL in high school, when he was on) and Jim from the Office. We need some more Jim and Dwight moments on there!

    This is so not mediocre it's not even funny :)

  4. I have to admit I like Kathy Griffin. She's crude but so on the mark. Actually, if she were a man, I wouldn't be acknowledging the crude part, so I guess I'm sexist. Despite her series "Life on the 'D' list", I think she's an "A+" comedian.

  5. I think real life can be so funny... like you say, the "everyday". I went and watched Date Night last night, as you know, and the funniest parts were funny because they were so true to life! I loved the part when she went to bed with her retainer in her mouth and her husband was like, bummed because as he said, oh, it's just that when you put that in it usually means we're not going to do it. I think we laugh sometimes because we relate.

  6. Good insight. I know I will never be a comedian, but if I practice and learn and do it I am a writer and author. All things we want in life take the same dedication and God gave us each unique talents with which we each can accomplish the mission He has set before us.

  7. You had me at bacon. Have a great weekend!

  8. Roxy, for a 'foray into mediocrity' this was pretty darn thorough, well written and awesome!

    I enjoy all kinds and categories of comedy. I like it dry, soggy, low and high. Good is good and lousy is lousy on any rung of the ladder. And, subjective.

    Awesome post, Roxy.
    Happy Weekend,

  9. I find many comedians to be so intelligent and quick witted to boot. They make connections the rest of us often don't see. Great post :)

  10. I LOVE Brian Regan! I saw him perform live and he was amazing.

    Another one of my favorite comedians is the late Mitch Hedberg. He did a lot of one-liners that were hilarious.

    I love Hoops & Yo-Yo too! When someone (usually my sister) gets me a Hoops & Yo-Yo card, it makes my birthday THAT much better.

  11. Now I have to look up who Brian Regan is but I recently watched "Live at the Apollo" here - a 1/2 comedy showcase on the BBC and they had Gina Yashere - tears were streaming down my eyes and I wished I wasn't wearing my corset because she was very, very funny!

    I seem to remember really finding a very yound Robin Williams (at the height of his Mork and Mindy fame) to be very funny with his stand up routines.

    Now I've been a vegetarian since forever but I do like the smell of bacon frying..!


    Take care

  12. I will have to look those clips up. I'm always game for a good laugh. Took my sis to a comedy club in town awhile back and we laughed until we nearly wet ourselves. Don't know why we don't do that more often!

    I am highly envious of people who have an easy command of language. Whether they are comedians, motivational speakers, or writers. Some people just make it look so danged easy, don't they? I'm hoping that we just aren't seeing all the blood, sweat, and tears they put in behind the scenes. Please tell me there's blood, sweat and tears!

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  13. When I read humor blogs, at least, I think how hard it would be to always have to be funny. I could never do it, even though I am pretty funny in person.

    I laugh a lot at Jane Lynch lately. She is my current fave.

  14. I have to admit, once I saw bacon I immediately thought of Jim Gaffigan.He has forever changed how I think, eat, feel about bacon.
    So funny!

  15. I think Eddie Izzard is fabulous. Everything that comes out of his mouth during a routine cracks me up until my sides ache.

  16. So much for mediocrity. Great post, Roxy!! As for comedy, I think I tend to fall under the absurd as far as my own humor goes (would that be farce???). I don't know that I actually write absurdly, not in my books, but I certainly take enjoyment in being absurd.

    Anyway, got off track....

    I agree with you. Comedy is a serious business. It's writing, like anything else and must be carefully delivered. But the best comedy feels effortless and natural, even though you know a lot of thought went into it. Then again, there's improv, which omg, when it works? It's truly marvelous and even funnier because you know it's on the fly.

  17. I love funny people, lol... I saw Jay Medicine Hat in Des Moines one year and he was funny... kind of dirty, but funny too! I love to laugh!

    I love Saturday & Sunday rules!! I'm going to eat some bacon now! YUM!

  18. Oh yum, that bacon looks delicious! hehe

  19. Oh, I love comedians...and I love the top two rungs as well. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to write good material, but like you said, I imagine it takes a ton of practice. I think your weekend post was very well said!

  20. Elizabeth- I'm with you, Brian is too funny. I love the way his brain works. He is the prefect comedian for my kids and I to listen to together.

    Talli- In the 90's, I remember watching Friends and being so caught up in the Ross and Rachel thing. I didn't foresee the whole Monica and Chandler relationship however. I need to rent some Seinfeld and Friends and find a comfy sofa and a bowl of popcorn.

    Crystal- Jack Black and Will Ferrell are two of my favorites as well. Likable, funny guys! My son's favorite Office character is Jim.

    Karyn- I wish my real life were funnier. I must remind myself to apply my sense of humor to everyday situations. Sorry I couldn't make it to the movie.

    Chris- It's nice to develop our abilities and see where we grow.

    Alyson- Thanks for reminding me. Bacon+weekend= good times.

    Lola- Funny is funny. Humor is subjective and yet can also be very inclusive as well. Laughing draws us together and eliminates boundaries. You are awesome funny at your blog, Alpha-girl.

    Jemi- I like seeing things in a new way. That's why I love comedy, too.

    Shelley- Hoops and Yoyo! I have a crush on those guys. I could listen to their cards all day. I'll Google Mitch Hedburg because I haven't discoverd him yet.

    Old Kitty- It is never a good thing when you're wearing a corset and hear something funny. Ouchie! You are so funny. Dan told me that's one of the things he likes best about you. Gina Yashere? I'll check her out! I love Robin Williams, too.

    MissV- There are totally blood, sweat and tears involved when comedians make things look easy. See? It's not just us suffering away at our keyboards.

    Kazzy- Your comments often make me laugh out loud. Jane Lynch? I'm looking her up tomorrow.

    Terry's (Christine)- Our entire family thinks of bacon differently now. It's like it's become a precious metal or something. We're so easily influenced!

    Alleged Author- I can't wait to hear Eddie Izzard. I'm going to have a lot of fun tomorrow I can tell.

    Carolina- I love improv. It's genius. I read an article which said that even improv can be practiced. The situations may change but the outlook, mindset or persona are meticulously worked over.

    Jen- Jay Medicine Hat? Now that is an intriguing name. I'm looking for him on youtube!

    Niki- Of course it looks delicious. It's bacon!

    Lisa and Laura- Thanks for dropping by. I think you are both amazing comediennes in your own right. I love your hilarious yet helpful blog.

  21. Interesting thoughts on comedy.

    You're correct that not many people read the blogs on the weekend. That's why I post on Friday and keep that post up all weekend so people get a chance to look at it when they want. Then I post something new on Monday. Gives me a break too.


  22. Well...crap! Saw "Bacon," was armed with a classic line from Gaffigan, then glanced up and saw that someone already tossed his name out there. I always fall behind the pack over the weekend:)

  23. Good summaries of different types of comedy. I've never given the categories much thought.

    I love when comedians turn everything down and say things that are unexpected. I like Sarah Silverman. Shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Arrested Development, and 30 Rock are some of my favorites.

  24. My favorite Steve Martin moment was his Christmas List for SNL. Hil-freaking-arious.

    My fave comedians are Bill Engvall and Gabriel Iglesias. There are others but these two top the list.

    Great post, even if you think it's of "low rung" quality. Hehe.