For our humor project, we had to choose a project based around humor. Our options were standup, a skit, satire, or something else. I feel that this project is important because we don’t get a lot of chances to practice being funny in school. Being funny and writing humorous material is challenging, and I’m glad that we have the opportunity to practice these skills.
Humor can come in many different forms, and is also incredibly subjective. Chances are that something that is hilarious to one person isn’t funny to everyone. For me, my taste in comedy ranges from absurdist anti-humor to traditional standup. For this analysis, I wanted to compare Eric Andre and John Mulaney not only because they’re two of my favorite comedians, but also because their approaches to comedy are so different.
Eric Andre is a controversial figure within the world of comedy. His outlandish, absurdist humor can be offensive to many due to the subject matter and his use of blue humor. A great example of this kind of approach is when Andre visited the Republican National Convention in 2016. In this video, he walks around the RNC talking to various people and even getting on stage with Alex Jones, a well-known conspiracy theorist. He utilizes blue humor quite a bit; a quote that particularly sticks out in my mind is “Are you anti abortion? ‘Cause I’m uncle abortion. How ‘bout I knock you up and let’s get rid of the dang thing?” This not only works because of the black/blue humor, but it also works due to the shock value that he actually said this to a person in real life. It also works because of the contrast against the rest of the RNC, who are either presented as uptight, or in the case of the Jones rally, insane conspiracy theorists. Nothing is off-limits for Andre; his comedic persona comes across as untouchable because nothing anyone says seems to matter to him.
John Mulaney is very far-removed from Eric Andre. Unlike the former, Mulaney seems to be universally adored. He does more of a traditional standup act in which he recounts stories from his childhood, encounters with quirky individuals, and general commentary and anecdotes. The subject matter may not be particularly funny on its own sometimes, but the way he delivers it sets him apart from other comedians. Some of his best bits include caricatures of unusual people he’s met. One of my favorites is his J.J. Bittenbinder bit. Bittenbinder was a former cop who would come to Mulaney’s elementary school and discuss the horrors of living out in the world. His catchphrase was “street smarts!” and the way Mulaney delivers this line is so true to himself; he utilizes exaggerism quite a bit, painting Bittenbinder as, quite frankly, insane.
These two comedians are probably as different as you can get. While Andre excels in making the audience and those in his presence uncomfortable, Mulaney is great at making people feel like they’re listening to their eccentric uncle tell them a story about some crazy lady he met on the subway (in the best way possible). While they both utilize black and blue humor to some degree, Andre utilizes it in order to completely shock the audience, like when he threw up on his desk and slurped it back up. John Mulaney uses it in a more refined way as part of stories. This is not to say that either one is better than the other, they’re just different. Mulaney and Andre both know how to make an audience laugh, even though they have almost no similarities in their approaches to achieving that goal.
Description of Project
- Which form of humor are you planning to develop? (See menu.) Will it be a LIVE or pre-recorded performance?
- What is the subject (or, in the case of satire, the target)? Why did your choose this subject?
I was thinking of maybe doing something making fun of certain animation studios, particularly illumination. I chose this project because i really don’t like illumination and it seems to value money over actually telling a story.
- Which comedic tools/techniques do you plan to use, and why? (List at least 3 main ones):
I want to use hyperbole because obviously illumination is not a global human rights crisis but i want to make it seem like it is. Clearly i want to use satire because the whole project is based off of ridiculing bad animation. Wit should probably play a role too because i want to make funny comments about the movies.
- Why do you think this is the right humor project for you? (If you have a group, can you assure me that everyone is invested in this idea and you won’t have trouble getting everyone to contribute meaningfully?) What makes you excited about this idea? What are some potential pitfalls you wish to avoid?
I think that this is the right project for me because animation purely for the sake of profit is really annoying to me. Some pitfalls might be repeating stuff that’s already been said
- If you get approval today, what’s your next step?
My next step is probably to make a script.
Amy Schumer recently released a new special on Netflix. She also happens to be one of my least-favorite comedians of all time because of her unoriginality and onenote humor. Based on this information, there would be no reason for me to watch this special. However, due to my levels of self-hatred being particularly high one day, I watched it all the way through. And although sitting through an hour and a half of pure, unadulterated Schumer was torture comparable to that experienced by residents of a medieval dungeon, it did get me thinking of other forms of bad, low-brow comedy in today’s spotlight. Particularly… minions. Now, these abominations spawned from the bowels of Illumination Studios are not nearly as prevalent as they once were, fortunately. However, they did create something that I like to call the Minion Industrial Complex. If you’ve ever taken a US History class, you’re probably familiar with the Military Industrial Complex, a term coined by Eisenhower. Essentially, it is the different industries that depend on the military to make a profit. Minions, in this case, are the military. Being a very simple design, they could not be easier to market. This leads me to the first branch of the Minion Industrial Complex: Merchandising.
If you happen to stay at Universal Studios Orlando, you have the option to stay in the Minion Suite. Who wouldn’t be enticed by having the hauntingly empty eyes of a minion watch you in your most vulnerable state, a mural of the round yellow monsters watching over your peaceful slumber? And the real kicker is, this room goes for around $700/night. Why pay almost a grand for hundreds of lifeless, watchful eyes to stare at you while you sleep when you can get the same experience by passing out in the middle of a nursing home?
Universal seems to sense that the horde of facebook-obsessed baby boomers who adore the minions will pay almost anything for merchandise that sports their favorite Illumination mascot. At Universal, you can even purchase a shot glass with the minions on it for nine dollars. This just raises the question: who is old enough to drink hard liquor and actively makes the decision to buy a shot glass with minions on it? MINIONS? The only people I can believe would do this are septuagenarians whose brains are already completely destroyed by alcoholism and lack the cognitive ability to make decisions that don’t involve the purchase of minion paraphernalia. I would rather buy a poster of Mussolini and super-glue it to the front of my house than be seen buying a minion shot glass.
The second branch of the Minion Industrial Complex that I’d like to talk about is the impact they’ve had on Illumination as a studio. As much as it pains me to say this, Despicable Me was not a completely bad movie and overall received ok reviews from critics. However, the fact that the executives at Illumination decided to make the worst part of that movie the face of their company shows how out of touch and cynical that studio is. This action is the equivalent of the studio heads at Marvel thinking “oh wow everyone loves that ant from Ant-Man! Let’s give him a trilogy even though his only purpose was to carry Scott Lang around!” and even that would be better than what the Illumination execs did. The minions are such a central part of the studio that if you ever suffer the misfortune to watch a movie created by Illumination, the logo in the beginning is accompanied by the haunting cry of the minions reminiscent of a barbershop quartet in a gas chamber.
Something that can’t be ignored is how cheap Illumination’s films are. 2015’s Minions’ budget was only $74 million, incredibly low for an animated film compared to studios like pixar routinely spending upwards of $150 million on the production of a film. However, Universal, Illumination’s parent company, spent $593 million on marketing. They spent eight times more money trying to get people to watch their garbage product than they did trying to make their garbage product not garbage! If that’s not a commentary on how Illumination is hell-bent on not only brutally murdering animation as an art form, but also unleashing a wave of raw sewage on its grave, i don’t know what is.
The minions have some sort of unthinkable power, something bestowed upon them by an eldritch god that makes
Comparing Slaughterhouse Five and Rhinoceros (Honors)
For my English comparison essay, I wanted to compare Slaughterhouse Five and Rhinoceros because they both have themes of fascism and conformity.
The early part of the 20th century had some of the most large-scale destruction and loss of life in human history. Economic struggles resulting from the WWI and nationalistic mindsets caused a dramatic climb of fascism in Europe in countries like Germany, Italy, and present-day Turkey. Slaughterhouse Five and Rhinoceros both serve as critiques on the mindset of conformity and glorification of death and violence that was common in the early-to-mid 20th century and still persists in the present day. Both of these works force the reader to question traditional beliefs through comedic techniques, but have different approaches; Rhinoceros uses the symbolism of the rhinoceros to represent how fascism can spread alarmingly quickly and Slaughterhouse Five utilizes brutal images of war to counteract the effects propaganda can have on how the public views war.
Eugene Ionesco grew up in Romania in the ‘30s at a time when the Iron Guard, a fascist movement, was at its peak. Growing up witnessing the effects of fascism affected him deeply, and led him to write Rhinoceros, a critique of fascism. Ionesco uses many comedic techniques to get his point across, although absurdity is obviously the most prevalent. One quote from Rhinoceros that demonstrates absurdity is “It’s got two horns. It’s an African rhinoceros, or Asiatic rather. Oh! I don’t know whether the African rhinoceros has one horn or two” (Ionesco, 54). Clearly, focusing on the species of rhinoceros is absurd because there is a clear and present danger purely from it being there. This can make the reader think about how the people who got caught up in fascism were completely caught up because they didn’t think to question what was causing the problem and instead focused on trivial issues. Another technique used by Ionesco is satire. An example of this can be seen in the quote “They’re a pretty big minority, and getting bigger all the time. My cousin’s a rhinoceros now, and his wife. Not to mention leading personalities like the Cardinal de Retz…” (Ionesco, 95). This can be seen as a commentary on how fascism can start off with a few people who were originally seen as a loud minority, but as more people become radicalized, it can spread alarmingly quickly. Notable people can also accelerate the spread of fascism by their power of influence. Rhinoceros also offers a commentary on free will and how certain people may want to conform but are simply unable to. At the end of the play, everyone has become a rhinoceros except for Berenger, who speaks about how he would like to become a rhinoceros, but then comes to a realization, saying
People who try to hang on to their individuality always come to a bad end! [he suddenly snaps out of it] Oh well, too bad! I’ll take on the whole of them! I’ll put up a fight against the lot of them, the whole lot of them! I’m the last man left, and I’m staying that way until the end! I’m not capitulating! (Ionesco, 112).
Being that this is the last quote of the play, it’s clearly important to the overall message. It’s Ionesco’s way of saying that although it’s difficult to go against a crowd, sometimes it’s essential to do so because the crowd is fundamentally wrong. Another way that Ionesco comments on fascism is the development of all of the characters’ views on becoming a rhinoceros. In the beginning of the play, Jean states, “But you must see it’s fantastic! A rhinoceros loose in the town, and you don’t bat an eyelid! It shouldn’t be allowed!” (Ionesco, 18). He is completely against it, and shocked that a rhinoceros is in their town. However, by the end of the play, shortly before he becomes a rhinoceros, Jean says, “Keep your ears open. I said what’s wrong with being a rhinoceros? I’m all for change.” (Ionesco, 73). This shows how if most people share destructive ideas and are very vocal about them, they can begin to seem appealing even to seemingly rational people, like Jean.
Kurt Vonnegut served in WWII from 1943-1945 and was a prisoner of war during the bombing of Dresden, the experience which later inspired Slaughterhouse Five. His experiences in the war led to his message against the glorification of war and violence that is so prevalent in his book. World War II was one of the most devastating conflicts ever, but it was and continues to be glorified through propaganda like posters and movies. In his book, it seems that Vonnegut seeks to remove the heroic filter through which we sometimes view war and portray it as it truly is: brutal, devastating, and disgusting. A comedic technique Vonnegut employs to get his point across is irony. This can be seen when a homeless man on the train with Billy Pilgrim says “I been hungrier than this… I been in worse places than this. This ain’t so bad” (Vonnegut 68), before subsequently dying. The dramatic irony in this is effective because it shows how people can be in denial until the very end, and can also be extended to the denial of the American public when the nation’s at war, or the mentality of “out of sight, out of mind”. Another comedic tool Vonnegut uses is the anti-hero in Billy Pilgrim. While he’s at war, Billy is completely out of place and Vonnegut emphasizes this by writing “He didn’t look like a soldier at all. He looked like a filthy flamingo.” (Vonnegut, 83). This sort of absurdist imagery is very effective in terms of portraying Billy as a sort of pathetic, scrawny college kid who is completely out of place on a battlefield. It also completely clears away some of the preconceptions about WWII soldiers that the reader may have picked up from war movies or propaganda posters. Pilgrim is the opposite of the stereotypical strong, brave person that is so prevalent in propaganda posters of the time. He’s cowardly and ineptnot capable at all, which works to deconstruct the heroism associated with war sometimes. Vonnegut also uses black and blue humor throughout the book very consistently to get his point across. An example of black humor that Vonnegut uses in his book is the matter-of-fact way that death is addressed through the use of “so it goes”. The way “so it goes” is used can be seen as a commentary on how people can be desensitized to atrocities and death either through actually being on the front lines or just being constantly exposed to said atrocities through the media. Vonnegut also seeks to remove the rose-colored glasses people often wear during wartime by describing the reality of what kind of people fight in the war and how they are usually not the idealized people that the government likes to try and convince us that they are. An example of one of these people is Roland Weary, someone who was very cruel and took pleasure in the misfortune and pain of others. He, of course, dies of gangrene due to being forced to wear clogs by the Ggermans. Another example is Paul Lazzaro, an injured soldier obsessed with revenge. Lazzaro described in graphic detail the fate that befell a dog that bit him, saying
… I got me some steak, and I got me the spring of a clock. I cut that spring up into little pieces. I put points on the ends of the pieces. They were sharp as razor blades. I stuck ‘em into the steak-way inside… Blood started coming out of his mouth. He started crying, and he rolled on the ground, as though the knives were on the outside of him instead of on the inside of him. (Vonnegut, 139).
This excerpt demonstrates how not everyone in a war is Captain America; in fact, people like that are few and far between. Many soldiers in a war are cowardly, weak people like Billy Pilgrim, and some are despicable people who take pleasure in other’s suffering and pain, like Lazzaro. Vonnegut’s counterargument to propaganda put out by the media and the government that exists in Slaughterhouse Five is extremely effective because he not only speaks from experience, he also includes humor and satire in his writing style so that the reader is able to interpret his message in their own way. Vonnegut and Ionesco have slightly different topics that they center their stories around, but both of the issues are extremely prevalent in today’s world. A modern-day example of rhinoceros could have been the craze around Trump in 2016. There was this group of people who felt like they’d been ignored by the government and the country as a whole for so long, and were petrified of the change that they thought threatened their way of life, but now there was this person who was promising to “make america great again”. His ideas, though they were completely irrational and impractical to an outsider, made sense to them because it was different, and they didn’t think critically about the negative impact electing this person could have on large demographics of people. This can be seen as similar to Rhinoceros because there was a sort of mob mentality that Trump sparked that had a very destructive impact on American politics as a whole and promoted a lot of extremism on both sides of the political spectrum.