I’m a big fan of 30 Rock, and every time Liz wants to toss out ideas for sketches, there are always really bad ones – some of which make it into the show. Not until we tried to write jokes in class on Monday did I realize how hard it would be to be current AND humorous.
I’ve never thought of jokes as having to follow some sort of formula, a step-by-step, if X then Y situation, but after reading, it made it more clear and apparent to me when I watch monologues and all – there is some sort of agreed upon formula, and when one deviates from that formula, it’s awkward and there’s backlash and weirdness. There are countless examples of good monologues and monologues that follow the directions of Toplyn, but I really enjoyed this brief clip from The Eric Andre Show:
He turns this situation that we’re so used to on its head, not finishing a joke – not even STARTING a joke. I found it interesting because to me, this was him calling us out on the fact that we always want/need to know where something is going. If someone starts a joke, you (or at least I do) want to know how it ends, you’re making that assumption as soon as the joke even starts. The idea that we could potentially NOT know how something ends, especially something as “trivial” as a joke, is unnerving and uncomfortable, and makes US instead the butt of the joke.
During the readings, I found myself wondering whether or not the formulaic approach works for any kind of joke, or if there are situations where it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t work. Can you think of any? Where do anti-jokes fall in this category – they don’t follow that structure, but we still laugh – why? Does NOT knowing where a joke is going make the ending more funny or less funny?