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Sunday, October 24, 2010

#SIWC2010 Notes - 2

I chose some great workshops yesterday! Unfortunately, the Internet has been dicey, so it's been difficult to get any notes up and posted. I didn't make it to the social media workshop yesterday, but I heard that they put twitter up on the overhead projector. While exploring hashtags, they looked up #siwc2010 (by the way, if you haven't been watching this hashtag, you should! Lots of interesting little bits from the conference there.) Anyway, while looking up #siwc2010, my blog post happened to have been the latest tweet up on the screen, and KC Dyer clicked on the link to my blog! I'm very sad that I missed out on seeing this, but not completely sad, because I was at another AWESOME workshop.

What’s So Funny?
by Senior vice-president of theatrical production at MGM, Luke Ryan!

Too cool, right? Luke started as a screenwriter, so he had plenty of insight on the writing, and some wonderfully funny things to say about humor. I don't want to give away all of his notes here, but I'll pass along a few highlights. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, I highly recommend it!

Out of the top 50 movies of all time, only 6 were comedies. It costs much less to make comedy than action/fantasy/adventure.

Luke asked the group in the workshop what’s funny to them, and this is what they came up with: the unexpected, slapstick, sarcasm, black humor- making fun of something nobody would normally make fun of. The joke you can feel coming, exaggerated personalities, absurdity.

But Luke brought it down to three main points:
1.    Pain
2.    Awkwardness
3.    Discomfort

Develop character we care about and then beat the snot out of them. (One of my favorite lines of the class!)

It's easy to have a good comedy idea, hard to come up with good comic writing.

Two types of Diminishment
1.    Physical – bathroom humor, bonked on head humor, can’t control himself
2.    Emotional- over-reactive/under-reactive – character responds with more or less emotion than expected. Witty banter/dialogue.

Everybody loves it when a fat guy falls down. Jim Carrey.
Over-reactive – Will Ferrell, Chris Farley.
Under-reactive  - Bob Newhart, Chevy Chase
Bill Murray/Steve Martin – can do both.
2 or more people – usually one over and one under reactive.
Beat - unit of narrative measurement that expresses a specific idea or action
Single beat jokes – no set up, and seldom very effective. Incidental comedy.
Two-beat jokes – set up to prepare jokes, follows with a payoff. The beats can come right next to each other or separated.
Resonance – like two old friends that show a joke over time.
Multi-beat jokes – still starts with a set-up, ends with a payoff but inserts anticipation beats in between to heighten interest and add information. Rule of 3.
The longer of setup and anticipation beats, the greater the payoff.

Make a comedic spine to run over the course of the movie.

Luke also gave us 21 things that are always funny. Here are a few highlights:
1.    I’m not going to… - character swears he won’t do something, cut to where he does.
2.    Physical comedy – head bonks, contorting in impossible way, falling down, impossible physical challenges. He showed a clip/montage from Dumb and Dumber – tongue stuck to pole in winter, carrot on snowman, throwing snowball too hard, tackle girl he likes. Over-reactive comedy.
5.    Gross-out Humor – bodily functions and secretions. Always have to outdo last, but can’t go too far. Comic suspense starts in Dumb and Dumber scene when Lloyd Christmas gives Harry Turbo-Lax. Then we wait for the payoff. Waiting to laugh. We don’t see what’s so gross (that would be too much). Embarrassment sets in when he cracks the window, Invasion of Privacy when Mary knocks.
10.    Doing exactly what he’s told (instead of the implied).
11.    Playing To/ Playing against – well-known stereotypes. Race or gender things work well here.
13.    Comic Reveal – reveals a hidden truth to audience that character doesn’t know.
16.    Defining the Underdog – we find humor in what’s expected and what they’ll actually be able to do. (My Cousin Vinnie – unskilled lawyer, failed Bar 6 times, needs to get them out of jail).
19.    Vulgarity
20.    Comic Repetition – use it until it’s not funny anymore, then digging it up and using it to a greater degree until it’s funny again.
21.    Obsessive Drive – can’t control himself and tries everything to complete goal, may actually bring him further from his goal.

I hope that's helpful! Do you have any favorite types of comedy or favorite comic movies? What about comic novels? I've been reading AUDREY WAIT! by Robin Benway, and it's hilarious! It's a nice change of pace to be reading something funny after a lot of darker reads. I'd love to hear if you have any recommendations!


  1. Great notes, there's definitely an art to humour!

  2. Thanks for this denise! :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse