Humor is defined as the ability be amusing or comical. In this unit, we learned how to perform and master an ability to be entertaining and comical. We studied numerous humorists and writers in order to study how to create an amusing performance ourselves. I found that I really valued learning about the different types of comedy used in films and literature. We used different terms to define different jokes and gags. I found this interesting to categorize and organize.
For this part of our project, we had been tasked to analyze multiple humorists that we would study and base our projects on. We would create a two page proposal that would propose our two humorists, what kind of humor they possess, and how we would replicate it.
I personally chose to create a narrative video that plays off of humor styles from comedy groups Monty Python (top) and RackaRacka (bottom).
Here is my proposal!
Humour Project proposal
For my first humorist, I decided to choose a group called RackaRacka. The group consists of many different people, most notably Danny and Michael Philippou. They are a group that takes part in many action related, comedy and drama skits that have aspects of humour, mystery, and conflict in many of their films. They not only create comedy related films. Their work comes in many different forms. All in all, I feel that they do a fantastic job in comedy. One of my favorite things they do is that they incorporate character development and comedy in their action sequences. I find this to be a very difficult thing to do in film as incorporating character development in action sequences can be one of the toughest things to film. The incorporation of comedy into their action can make for strong humour value for viewers. They are a fantastic film group that performs stunts and creates radical ideas that form to become very popular youtube videos. Many of their ideas are created rooting from abstract, and absurd ideas. An example is their video called “When Kids Beat You in Sport”. This video showcases a relatable event in which a group of children beat two adults in a game of what appears to be soccer. In the game, the adults are beaten in soccer and the kids taunt them. They exclaim how the adults “suck shit”. This causes the adults to resort to beating the crap out of the kids until they are eventually caught in trouble by a mother figure. It cuts away to the mother figure yelling at them about getting into a fight. She eventually tells the adults that they “suck shit at soccer” and that’s probably why they fought the kids. This causes the adults to become enraged the same way they were at the kids and they then perform various WWE moves on the mother figure. With this example, I feel that the way they performed in this short is effective because it is all something that we can relate with. When someone tells us that we suck, we do have a similar enraged feeling. Some of us may want to do the things presented in the video. However, we never get to do these things because it’s not socially acceptable. Being able to see into the world of this event actually taking place, is a world that is absurd and brings forth comedic value. These adults beating the crap out of kids who beat them in soccer is hilarious because it’s completely inappropriate, but at the same time, we all feel relatable to these adults.
Another comedy group I wanted to analyze is Monty Python. Monty Python is a comedy group that takes part in the creation of TV shows, movies, stand up performances, skits and more. It consists of comedians and actors such as Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin. They are responsible for TV shows such as Monty Python’s And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and movies such as Monty Python’s Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Monty Python’s usage of comedy takes on a variety of different styles and techniques. They use comedy in ways that take on absurdity and foolishness. Their scripts will include characters that take on roles of stupidity or silliness and the worlds they create will compliment these characters. They create based on a style that doesn’t just take advantage of comedy through a creative and ludicrous script, but they also take advantage of visual comedy in many ways. They take advantage of visual comedy in a way that seems to have been lost in the styles of comedy today. Many attempts at comedy today only take advantage of a crafty script, however, Monty Python takes advantage of visuals in the film that encourage silliness. One example is a skit from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. In one particular scene, King Arthur and his followers, who are in search of the Holy Grail, ask a castle filled with frenchmen if they would join them in the search for the Holy Grail. After the Frenchmen taunt King Arthur for being english, they exclaim that they already have the Holy Grail. The Frenchmen then discuss how they can make more jokes to the Englishmen. When King Arthur gives the order to attack the Frenchmen to retrieve the Holy Grail, the Frenchmen reveal their weapons to be the launching of barnyard animals at King Arthur and his men. This type of comedy takes on visual comedy as well as an intelligent script in order to effectively produce a humorous skit. The absurdity and foolishness the world that the movie takes on creates a fantastic scene that is memorable for an audience.
I feel that RackaRacka takes on almost the same sense of comedy. Their humour includes world building that is absurd and silly in the same ways that Monty Python creates. They include many visually comedic scenes and shots that create a world for the audience that is memorable and they don’t simply rely on a crafty script to get reactions.
I feel that for my own project, I want to be able to take on this same style of humour that these comedy groups rely on. I want to be able to create comedy not just through creative dialogue, but also through creative visuals. In creating my humour project, being as creative as possible in both directing and writing is important. Directing visuals that will work as nice gags for the audience is just as important, if not more important, than creating a script that works effectively. In the production phases of my filming, I will take on a role that will focus on visuals in my filming. In pre-production, I will focus on writing a script that will encourage visuals and absurd world laws. When creating my humour project, I would want to rely on the same foolish and absurd styles that both these comedy groups take on. In creating a script, I would want to create a plot that will encourage silliness and strangeness the same way that Monty Python creates their worlds. One example of mine that takes on strange and absurd rules is my Mockumentary Project. In the mockumentary, it takes place in Freestyle Academy in a world where it is presumed that Mr. Greco/you is/are a ghost. I set up the footage and the structure of the mockumentary in order to make the audience believe that the teacher really is a ghost. The audience is supposed to believe that ghosts are real in the world I’ve created, which is absurd. In the end, it is finally revealed that Mr. Greco is a ghost that possesses students to cover up the truth. If i took on the same styles that i created this project in, I could create an effective humour project. The project that I created before has visual comedy and a script that encourages gags and laughable moments. This is what I would like to go for in my project.
Once I was done and approved for my project, I went on to create a script for my video. Here is the script:
It is just before a drivers test. A young boy, 17 years old is sitting in a hot car in the sun.
Monologue: Okay okay… calm down, this is just a test, I’ve got plenty of other things to worry about and this shouldn’t be one of them. You’ve failed one of the tests, if you fail this one it’s totally fine.
Our main character is visibly shaking, his fists clenched, he is sweating profusely.
Monologue: maybe I should’ve cleaned up more before the test itself. sigh* I did not prepare for this correctly.
Our main character licks his hand and cleans up his hair quickly. He brushes his shoulders off quickly.
Monologue: oh my god when does this guy get here. It’s been hours.
Character checks the clock
Monologue: No wait it’s been three minutes.
The sun seems to get hotter, the atmosphere turning orange and our main character getting sweatier. He rubs the sweat off of his forehead. A view of the sun, almost growing in size.
The car door unlocks and a man hops inside.
Our main character, visibly shocked.
Monologue: Oh my god…
Time seems to slow down and our character becomes fearful.
Monologue: What do I do? Do I say hello? Do I stay quiet? I don’t know. I didn’t study this part of the booklet. Make a move, do something…
Time speeds up to normal pace
Main character: Hi… he- hello…
Our character mutters under his breath. The driving instructor remains silent.
Monologue: I think that was okay…
Our character looks at the driving instructor
Driving Instructor: Okay, welcome to the driving test. Is this your first time doing this?
Main character: no
Driving Instructor: okay, well let me first check that you know all hand signals….
Time slows down again and the driving instructors words become muffled. Our main character diverts his eyes downwards towards the cupholder. A single empty bottle.
Monologue: oh no… I forgot to throw that away this morning. He’s gonna see it and fail me.
Our character becomes scared. His eyebrows then furl.
Monologue: I’m not gonna let this happen again. Not… again..
Our main character reaches into his pocket and takes out a gun. Holding it at his waste he points it at the man, who notices it and throws his hands up.
Driving Instructor: Don’t hurt me
Main character: I won’t if you do what I tell you to.
The driving instructor looks at our main character with horror.
Main character: Take that pen of yours, and write the word pass on that test, and take it back in.
Driving instructor: alright.
The driving instructor writes on the paper and gets out of the car. When he closes the car door, our main character is startled. Suddenly the driving instructor is back in the car.
Driving instructor: You alright?
It was just his imagination…
Main character: yea i’m fine…
Monologue: Where the hell did I get that gun from. I don’t even own one. Jesus christ what am I thinking.
Our main character is clearly perplexed.
Driving instructor: Are you ready to start or are we just gonna sit here.
Main character:yea yea. I’m ready.
Our main character says hesitantly.
Our main character starts the car up and puts the car into drive. He adjusts the rearview mirror and begins to roll forward.
Driving instructor: stop the car. Pull over
Main character: what…
Driving instructor: I said pull over.
The driving instructor sounds unsatisfied. Our main character pulls the car over to the side.
Driving instructor: you failed.
Our main character blinks with a blank face at the driving instructor.
Driving instructor: you didn’t put your seatbelt on.
Our main character maintains the same face. The driving instructor attempts to open the car, however it is locked.
Driving instructor: how the hell do you unlock this…
Main character: it’s on the bottom there.
Main character points at the unlock button.
Driving instructor: I don’t know where you’re pointing.. Can you just unlock it for me please
Main character: yea
Main character unlocks the car
Driving instructor: thanks
Driving instructor exits the car and our main character sits with a disappointed look.
I then went on to film and finish the project. This became difficult during the COVID-19 quarantine, so I had to film it entirely by myself. Some of the shots were removed or revised during the shoot. Here is the final:
We also had an honors assignment during the unit. This included the study of two different humorists, Kurt Vonnegut, and a humorist of our choice. I chose Edward Albee. I chose his work, Three Tall Women. We studied the humorists and created an essay that would compare and contrast what kind of satire they produce. Here is the essay:
Satire Comparison In Three Tall Women and Slaughterhouse Five
What makes a moment happy? Is it when we meet the love of our life? Or when we achieve the career of our dreams? Or when we give birth to a child? What makes a moment happy or funny? Some may think that it is the end, when it’s all over. Some may think that it is about cutting out the negatives and keeping the positives. Three Tall Women and Slaughterhouse Five explore this in their own methods of satire. Three tall women is a play about Three Tall Women, a young woman, a middle aged one and an older woman. The young woman appears to be analyzing the life of the older woman who seems to have issues with amnesia, and dementia, while the middle aged woman takes care of her. When the older woman has a stroke, the younger woman begins to realize that these women are actually older versions of herself. Slaughterhouse Five is a book about a man named Billy, who is given the ability to look into the fourth dimension by beings called Tralfamadorians. He gains the ability to see all of time and relive moments of World war 2, his time with the tralfamadorians, his time as the president of the united states, his time with his future wife, and more. These two pieces are very similar and different in the ways that they express satire. Both pieces express satire in very inappropriate ways as well as in absurd and exaggerated ways, however they are different in they’re views on the theme of happy moments in life.
Both pieces of literature seem to use methods of comedy such as absurdity and exaggeration. In Slaughterhouse Five there are elements of exaggeration in specific characters. One example is Billy’s stupidity and ignorance for the way that the tralfamadorians see the world. When Billy is kidnapped by the tralfamadorians and is able to speak to them, he learns that they can see all of time, so he says “So tell me the secret so I can take it back to Earth and save us all: How can a planet live in peace?…he was baffled when he saw the tralfamadorians close their little hands on their eyes. He knew from past experience what this meant: He was being stupid. ‘would you mind telling me’ he said to the guide, much deflated, ‘what as so stupid about that?’ ‘we know how the universe ends’ said the guide,” (page 116) This shows an exaggeration of Billy’s characteristics in the situation. The Tralfamadorians give off an expression as if they can’t believe his ignorance. This is also seen in Three Tall Women. In one situation, the middle aged woman tries to help the older woman to a seat. She says “Oh no don’t you touch me!” and she leaves her alone for a few seconds, only for her to almost fall over and say “Oh oh! Hold on to me! Do you want me to fall!” and the middle aged woman says “yes i want you to fall into ten pieces!”. This shows an exaggeration of the Old Woman’s characteristics. She is old and frail, but wants to be independent and young. She doesn’t want people to hold on to her and touch her, but she needs it in order to prevent falling, so she proceeds through a bipolar experience. These two situations in both pieces of literature are similar because they both portray extremities of character’s traits. It’s funny because it’s relatable. Most elderly people wish to be young again, but they always rely on others for help because they need it; most ignorant people ask stupid questions and wonder why their questions are stupid. Another example of similar styles of comedy is the usage of Blue Comedy, a type of comedy that incorporates inappropriate aspects of life that is considered taboo. It makes the reader feel strange and uncomfortable, but at the same time it serves as an unnatural gag. Slaughterhouse Five uses this type of humour in many places. One example is when she is describing a character named Maggie White. It says “She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.” (page 78). This type of humour serves to be uncomfortable, but strangely comedic. In Three Tall Women, this type of humour is seen when the younger woman discusses her loss of virginity. She says “We’re dripping wet and he rides us like we’ve seen in the pornos, and we actually scream”. The visuals presented through this reading is uncomfortable, but it’s almost a relief from the depressing setting. Both pieces of literature use this comedy because it gives relief from the subjects of the pieces. For Slaughterhouse Five it takes us away from the subject, which is World War 2. In Three Tall Women, it takes us away from the subject, which is the end of a woman’s life from a stroke.
Even though both pieces take on the same styles of Blue Humour and Exaggeration, they differ in their exploration in the meaning of a happy moment. Three Tall Women approaches the statement that the best moment in life is only achieved at the end, when it’s all over and done with. In the ending, the younger woman comes to understand that there are no happy moments in life, only at the end. She understands when the older woman says “Well there it is, you asked after all. That’s the happiest moment. When it’s all done. When we can stop.” This interpretation is very different from Slaughterhouse Five. Slaughterhouse Five approaches the moments of happiness as focusing on the good and cutting out the bad. Why remember the bad ones, when there are so many good moments in life to live out to the best. In the end of the book, Kurt Vonnegut discusses his beliefs to the reader. He says “If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. If I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I’m grateful that so many of those moments are nice.” (Page 95) This quote shows how Kurt Vonnegut believed that we should focus more on the nicer moments and spend our time “visiting” good instead of bad. The two books differ in their views of what makes a moment the happiest. Three Tall women approach a more negative tone: Life is painful and grueling until we finally meet the end, which is when we can take a break and relax. Slaughterhouse Five takes on a positive approach: Life is full of happy moments, so we should spend our time focusing on all of them and we should cut out the bad.
Slaughterhouse Five and Three Tall Women explore very similar styles of comedy, but they seem to have differing opinions about the positivity of happy moments in life. So when we answer the question of ‘what makes a moment happy?’ We can explore how Kurt Vonnegut or Edward Albee views it. We can see their similarities and differences not just because both often make usage of the term “so it goes”. To conclude, both pieces are similar in the techniques of comedy they use, however they are different in their overall message.