October 3rd, 2015

Illuminati

Why I like comedies that care about their characters

I've been trying to work out what it is that really works about some narratives, and I've realised that I have a soft spot for writing that starts out comedic (or is largely comedic) that cares enough about the characters to give them some depth. Serious moments in comedies frequently work better for me than serious moments in dramas because the light-heartedness gives me a space to open up emotionally, relaxing into the flow of the show, and when they then deal with something serious it can have a bigger impact. And both the comedy and the drama work best if the comedy characters have depth to them. I want comedy writers to take their characters seriously - to think about their motivations, and their backgrounds, and to make the comedy work with that, rather than just going for simple slapstick that could happen to _any_ character (although, obviously, I'm always up for slapstick).

What's prompted this has been (1) the recent discussions about Pratchett/Discworld, which is probably the largest body of work by someone using humour as a way to discuss important points. He got himself a platform through taking the piss out of fantasy tropes and then realised he could use that platform to discuss anything he wanted to, and did a marvellous job of it. (2) Re-reading Order Of The Stick, which on the one hand starts out as a bunch of jokes about Dungeons and Dragons rules, but then develops wafer-thin characters into people that you can actively care about, and a world/plot design to make you think. And (3) Most recently, Julie introducing me to "You're The Worst", an American comedy about two terrible people trying to have a relationship. Which has some incredibly sharp writing, and is elevated well above the norm by having characters who actually have motivations and reasons for acting in a stupid way. They're lost, and broken, and confused, and frequently trying to do the wrong thing, but the show manages to make you care about them because you can see how people get themselves into that state, and how the mechanisms they've taken on to protect themselves cause them to go so badly wrong. It manages to be both funny and poignant, sometimes at the same time, which is exactly what I need.

I think, basically, I want to be entertained by meaningful things. Too little entertainment and I find myself thinking I could just read the news rather than watching fictionalised representations of it. Too little meaning and I feel empty and disappointed.



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Illuminati

Interesting Links for 03-10-2015

Illuminati

Two things I am grateful for

Both thanks to marrog and erindubitably.

Firstly: Parks and Recreation. Which Julie and I had watched the first episode of, and given up on. They told us that the second season underwent a significant change, and was much better. So we skipped ahead to the start of season two, and indeed, they were completely correct. In season one the characters came across as incompetent and unlikable. By boosting their competence (even a small amount) and making them more relatable, the same characters suddenly became ones that we cheered for, and found much much funnier. We watched all seven seasons in about a month, and then wished there was more. Touching, funny, and delightfully quirky, I wish there was more TV like this. (Also, unashamedly pro-government. You don't see many TV shows where the main character works in local government and that's seen as a good thing.)

Second: Dobble. A very simply card game, that's basically "Snap" on steroids. Take a bunch of cards covered in symbols. Any pair of cards have exactly one symbol in common, and there are a variety of different games based around matching cards against each other. Each game takes about three minutes to play, it easily scales up to "as many players as you can get around a table", and I was sold on it within seconds of starting. I've not seen so many people swearing at each other over a stack of cards in many years. Suitable for everyone from small children to drunken adults - and apparently makes for a great aid when teaching people languages - as you can make people tell you the name of the image they've matched on before they can claim a card. Sold in the US as "Spot It!", and apparently has many different editions.



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