The Humor Project is an assignment we completed based off of various comedic techniques we learned during English. In class, we examined comedy through visual, written, and spoken humor. Through these techniques, we had the opportunity to create and deliver a live comedic performance of any sort in front of our peers. We did this project because it was a way to engage with different methods in humor, a topic that none of us have ever learned about before.
Humor Project Proposal
Your humor proposal contains two essential parts: 1.) a 2-page study of two humorists of your choice; 2.) a description of your project for teacher approval. Both parts of the Proposal assignment must be fully completed by the due date listed on the calendar in order to avoid late penalties.
Part 1 – The Humorist Study (2 pages)
One professional humorist that I studied was Robin Williams who was an American comedian who participated in stand up comedy and performed televised performances from a young age. The legendary actor was a star in the classic show “Mork and Mindy.” As described by Chris Rock, “Robin was, is, I hate to say was, is one of the funniest guys I ever saw in my life.” Although Williams starred in major films such as “Mrs. Doubtfire,” it was his stand-up comedy routines that made him stand out as a unique talent. One thing about William’s comedy that made it stand out was that it was weird and sometimes frightening. It was his manic performances that made people laugh so much and proved him to be a genius. Specifically, one of the techniques Robin uses is Exagerism which is “an exaggerated witticism that overstates the features, defects, or the strangeness of someone or something.” His standup routines never stopped being hilarious and were greatly improvised. Williams’ form of comedy in his standup acts were based off of improvisation and physical comedy. In his improvisational comedy, Williams was able to rapidly come up with hilarious impressions and jokes on the spot. In fact, over half of all his movies and television appearances were improv’d off the top of his head. Williams also used physical comedy which was entirely from his improvisation techniques. His physical comedy techniques could be compared to that of the style of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and even Mr. Bean. Another comedic legend that I analyzed was Chris Rock. Some distinctive components of Rock’s performance include voicing his opinions about racial differences, poverty, moral lessons, rap music, etc. He is mainly known for repeating his statements which are meant to validate his argument. Rock uses blue humor which is based on easily offensive subjects. In his case, Rock incorporated political humor and addressed current events. For example, his stand up routine in South Africa was about the presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. In addition, Rock uses a lot of obscene language and unlike Robin Williams, he does not use any improvisation at all. Above all, Rock was able to reach his audience very effectively and managed to address controversial issues while simultaneously making the audience break out in an endless roar of laughter. Even though Chris Rock and Robin Williams differed in that Rock voiced his opinions while making the audience laugh and Williams created manic impressions, both were able to effectively relate to a progressive audience and create lasting legacies that will live on forever.
The type of comedy that I am most fond of is sitcom acting because usually there is some sort of strong chemistry between the actors that makes the audience feel warm and want to laugh. Specifically, the sitcom “Friends” created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman and ran from 1994-2004. The type of humor used in the show is known as universal humor which is humor that is easily understandable to any audience. This was what made the show so popular. To illustrate a scene from Friends…. Phoebe: “Yeah. We don’t speak. She’s like this high-powered driven career type. Chandler: What does she do? Phoebe: She’s a waitress.” Phoebe isn’t fond of her sister (the waitress) and her description implies that she has a prestigious occupation. However, the scene reveals subsequently that she is a waitress which is not a high ranking occupation. Also, the sitcom used cultural humor which is comedy that is perceived under a certain cultural context. In Friends, the various movie star appearances in the show raised its popularity and made a cultural gem in the comedy world. Not to mention, verbal humor was used in the show as well. The goal of verbal humor is to create banter in order to generate a humorous effect. There are three maxims that define the humor of friends. The first is the maxim of quality, “By the maxim of quality, it means that in a dialogue we all make our contribution to one thing that is true or say things that are true. To keep to this maxim, we simultaneously observe two sub-maxims: we do not say what we believe to be false, and we do not say anything we lack adequate evidence.” Next, “The maxim of relevance means that we make all of contribution relevant to the exchange in a dialogue.” Finally, “By the maxim of manner, it is meant that in a dialogue we all try to be perspicuous. In line with this maxim, there are four sub-maxims: 1) we try to avoid obscurity, 2) we try to avoid ambiguity, 3) we try to be brief, and 4) we try to be orderly.” To sum up, Friends delivers humor that is unique to American culture. However, the differences between cultures means that other non-English speaking countries do not completely grasp the intention of Friends’ witty dialogue and characters. To better understand the content used in the show, analyzing American culture in detail will help achieve this. Humorous language is used commonly in everyday life that can be studied from many perspectives in subjects such as linguistics, rhetoric, sociology, etc. In this case, the humor used in Friends strengthens the six friends’ personal relationships. For my project, I want to use the same witty banter that is used in Friends. Specifically, I want to create a scene that uses humor that is universal and easily understood by all audiences. However, in my scene I want the characters to be members of my family instead of my friends. In addition, I aim to create more random humor that may or may not enhance the lightheartedness of the dialogue depending on who is viewing it.
Sokappadu, Bhagyaraj. “What Is Unique and Distinctive about Chris Rock’s Stand up Comedy Performances?” Quora, 23 July 2013, www.quora.com/What-is-unique-and-distinctive-about-Chris-Rocks-stand-up-comedy-performances.
Rothman, Michael. “Chris Rock Remembers His ‘Mentor’ Robin Williams.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 12 Aug. 2014, abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/chris-rock-remembers-mentor-robin-williams/story?id=24950255.
Editors, TheFamousPeople.com. “Who Was Robin Williams? Everything You Need to Know.” Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline, 5 Apr. 2018, www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/robin-mclaurim-williams-2733.php.
Bill, Carter. “Analysis of TV Show ‘Friends.’” UKEssays.com, 28 Sept. 2017, www.ukessays.com/essays/film-studies/deep-analysis-of-the-show-friends.php.
English Language Humor Appreciation. “The Humor In ‘Friends’.” UKEssays.com, 5 Oct. 2017, www.ukessays.com/essays/media/the-humor-translation-in-friends-media-essay.php.
Part 2 – Description of Proposed Project
Provide a detailed description of your project, including what you intend to develop (the form of humor, topic/content, techniques you plan to use, how many people you’ll need to deliver the performance, visual aids/props, time, and any other details that will help to give me a picture of what you’re performing. This section is worth 25% of the grade for this assignment.
- Are you working with a group? Yes* or No
*If Yes, list your group members here (when I meet with you, I will also need a clear picture of who is doing what):
- Which form of humor are you planning to develop? (See menu.) Will it be a LIVE or pre-recorded performance? I plan to use universal humor which is easily understandable to any audience. It will be a pre-recorded performance.
- What is the subject (or, in the case of satire, the target)? Why did your choose this subject? The subject will be a scene that includes members of my family and the witty dialogue that is easily humorous to many audiences. I chose this subject because I have strong chemistry with my siblings and I know if I ask them, they will be able to help me create humorous content.
- Which comedic tools/techniques do you plan to use, and why? (List at least 3 main ones):
- Absurd humor
- 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 this is the right humor project for me because I have always been somewhat of an actor and enjoy creating humorous dialogue with the people I converse with. I am excited about this idea because I love the show “Friends” and want to create something similar that is universally funny. Potential pitfalls I wish to avoid are making my scene too similar to Friends and so I need to add my own elements of comedy into the scene such as random humor which isn’t used as often in Friends.
- If you get approval today, what’s your next step?
My next step is too simply start writing the script for my scene and then start recording it into a video.
Script of humor project
Jane Harrington: a 46 year old mom who is originally from New York but now lives in the Silicon Valley with her husband and their 2 teenage daughters (Emory and Violet). Jane is a typical mom who wears yoga attire everywhere she goes. Jane still has her heavy New York accent.
Emory Harrington: Jane’s oldest daughter who just turned 18 years old and has recently learned that she has been accepted to Stanford University. Emory is spoiled and is constantly checked out in her headphones talking and texting her friends from her iPhone.
Stella Morgan: Is Jane’s sister and Emory’s aunt. Aunt Stella is a 43 year old mom who lives in the same town as Jane and also has two teenage children. Like Jane, Aunt Stella loves to gossip – especially with her sister. Stella also has a heavy New York accent.
Scene 1: The scene opens with Jane and her daughter, Emory, driving in a car. Suddenly, Jane’s sister, Stella, calls her on her mobile phone. We hear the entire conversation on the speaker phone while driving. The sisters are very close and share a lot of gossip with each other and often brag about their kids’ successes.
|(Cardi B Rap music playing very loudly in the car as Jane is driving with her daughter, Emory. Suddenly Jane’s mobile phone rings….)|
|Jane||(Screams at her daughter)
Emory! Can you PLEASE turn off that noise.
|(Completely changes her tone to easy going and upbeat and answers her phone)
Hey Stella, how are you?
|Aunt Stella||(In a frantic, excited voice)
Jane. Oh my god, you will NEVER believe what happened today.
|Aunt Stella||Sally Sanderson was arrested this morning by the FBI. Taken away in handcuffs and everything. Apparently, she was part of that big college scandal thing.|
|Jane||Oh my God. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!|
|Aunt Stella||Yeah, and get this…the FBI arrested her while she was golfing with the Ladies Auxiliary at The Club. They handcuffed her right on the golf course – Hole 16.|
|Jane||WOW – Hole 16. How humiliating.|
|Aunt Stella||I’m telling ya…it’s karma.
Sally never stops bragging about how great her son is… being recruited to all those “Ivy’s” for snowboarding. Can you believe she paid a college prep company to cheat on the SAT test for him. And, bribes to college coaches to fake his athletic credentials. Can you believe that she actually said that he was an Olympic Snowboarder.
Sally even photo-shopped her son’s head onto Shaun White’s body – she’s got a lotta nerve…
(iPhone screen showing a picture of Sally Sanderson’s son’s head photo-shopped onto Shaun White’s body….)
|Jane||Wow…that’s crazy. I wonder why she didn’t just get him into Harvard the old fashioned way … and donate a library wing or something?|
|Aunt Stella||Exactly. I mean donating millions to the school is one thing. But scamming the system – that’s just wrong. She must have been desperate.|
|Emory||(Suddenly Emory who’s been quiet during the conversation pipes in sarcastically …)
“Ruh Ro”…that’s gotta sting – being associated with a desperate “bulldozer” mom who will do anything to get her kid into an elite college.
(Emory bats her eyes and says sarcastically in a southern accent …and puts her hand on her furrowed brow)
What IS this world coming to?
|Jane||(Jane sighs and says…)
Sally is NOT going to survive federal prison very well.
|Aunt Stella||I know.|
|Emory||(Suddenly Emory who’s been quiet during the conversation pipes in sarcastically …)
Yeah – it’s going to be a shocker for her. I’m pretty sure Folsom State Prison doesn’t have pedicures, botox and seaweed wraps.
|Jane||(Jane rolls her eyes at her daughter in disgust for making such a rude comment about Sally Sanderson…)
(Jane completely changes her tone to upbeat and says to her sister….)
Well, on a happier note – big news for Emory….she got accepted to Stanford.
|Aunt Stella||(Aunt Stella says in an excited, shrieking voice)
OMG, OMG – that’s amazing Emory! I’m sooooo happy for you. You must be thrilled.
|Emory||Thanks Auntie Stella!
(Emory jokes with her Mom and Aunt and says with a grin and a little sarcasm…)
Yeah, and to think that I got in on my own…no jail time or nothin’
|Jane||(Jane rolls her eyes at her daughter…)
Emory Rose Harrington! That is NOT funny!
|Emory||(Emory rolls her eyes at her Mom…)
OMG – you are like….sooooo extra!
|Jane||(Completely changes her tone to upbeat and says….)
And the most exciting thing is that she’s been recruited to the Stanford basketball team!
|Aunt Stella||OMG – that is incredible. The Harrington’s have such a huge tradition of Stanford basketball….|
|Emory||Really Aunt Stella – I didn’t know that.|
|Aunt Stella||(Aunt Stella gets on a roll….)
Oh yeah, your father played Stanford basketball, his father played Stanford basketball, his mother’s father played Stanford basketball, his three brothers played Stanford basketball, 4 uncles on his father’s side played Stanford basketball…..
(Completely changes her tone to skeptical….)
But Emory, aren’t you only 5 feet tall?
|Jane||(Jane cuts in quickly and says…)
Stella – Emory is kinda like Steph Curry – she may be short but she got skills. All those YMCA summer basketball classes really paid off….
(cut to iPhone screen showing a picture of Emory’s head on a basketball players body)
|Emory||(Emory then says seriously…)
Actually Auntie Stella – I’m pretty excited. I can’t wait to experience college stuff like…game days and partying….
(as Emory’s voice trails off…the scene cuts to Emory imagining all the parties she’ll be going to in college with a quick video clip of her at a wild Stanford college party. The voiceover is Emory saying over and over ….)
PARTY… PARTY… PARTY… PARTY… PARTY… PARTY… PARTY… PARTY…
(Emory then says seriously…)
Who knows…if I study ready hard at Stanford, I may even get to realize my dream of becoming a famous fashion blogger for Sephora…..
(Emory’s voice trails off…)