This take in the #BATTLEROYALE contest is about comedy. There are many different types of comedy. I want to look at dark humour, satire, parody and irony. It is my favourite type of comedy, it makes me laugh but I often like my comedy with a message. Just recently one of the UK/Ireland's hit sitcoms "Mrs. Brown's Boys" had a live show and at the end, Brendan O'Carroll (Mrs. Brown) broke the "Fourth Wall" and spoke directly in a monologue out of character to the audience about the importance of comedy. He spoke of when things are bad in life, people still have TV Comedy to sit down and watch, to raise a smile or laugh at on a black day. He said that they should watch the old classics like "Fawlty Towers", "Only Fools And Horses" and "Steptoe And Son".
(1) Sometimes You Just Need A Laugh:
As Brendan O'Carroll said there are times when you just want a laugh, whether it is Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges up to Blazing Saddles though there was subtle messages in Blazing Saddles, it was still generally madcap.
There is also Spike Milligan who was an institution of irreverence.
When he received a Lifetime Comedy Award, Prince Charles wrote a letter to him and loved Spike's response.
(2) One Minute You Are Laughing, The Next It Catches In Your Throat:
The background for this take was the wonderful "Field Of Poppies" scene at the end of Blackadder 4. It is one of the most famous scenes in British TV Comedy not because it makes you laugh but because it is so poignant.
When reflecting on other examples of this, I thought of "Orange Is The New Black" which is billed as a comedy drama but characters such as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren can take you through the full range of emotions in one episode.
(3) Gallows Humour:
Wikipedia believe that "Black Humour" is closely related to "Gallows Humour" as device to
Use a witticism to cope with a hopeless situation
An example would be - At his public execution, the murderer William Palmer is said to have looked at the trapdoor on the gallows and asked the hangman, "Are you sure it's safe?". Some psychologists believe that Gallows humour has the social effect of strengthening the morale of the oppressed and undermines the morale of the oppressors. According to Wylie Sypher, "to be able to laugh at evil and error means we have surmounted them."
Some examples of "Gallows Humour" that have made it into popular fiction would be the book/film "Catch 22" which even crossed over into the English language. "Catch 22" is now a well known term for a "Double Bind". The "Catch 22" in the fictional work was based on a World War 2 US airbase off the coast of Italy which conducted dangerous bombing raids on mainland Italy. The commanders kept raising the number of missions you had to fly before you were allowed to stop. The only other option to be allowed to stop was to be proven insane and what was the best way to prove your insanity, volunteer for more bombing missions.
Another would be the top rating US TV comedy M.A.S.H which was about a mobile army hospital during the Korean war. The theme song for this show was "Suicide Is Painless" by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman.
For centuries satire and parody was used in literature to cast aspersions on people, groups of people and regimes. It is a vehicle to do this undercover which can range from the quite blatant to the very subtle.
Examples of Satire:
The Marx Brothers "Duck Soup" (1933) - A veiled attack on political society
Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator" (1941) - A sharp rebuke of Nazi Germany and it also contains a marvellous speech by Chaplin
Examples of Parody:
Peter Sellers in "Dr. Strangelove (How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb)" ,1964 - An obvious reference to the nuclear politics of the time
This next one is a bit leftfield but towards the end of the communist regimes in eastern Europe, filmmakers often made biting parodies in the form of sex comedies to get around the censor. The Polish film "Sexmission" in 1984 is an example. It is not a great movie so I don't mind spoiling it for people, it saves them having to watch it. A couple of male astronauts were put in stasis and while they were under, the world was taken over by women. They were under 50 years instead of 3. When they are awoken, the big debate is whether to execute them for men's crimes against women or experiment on them. They escape, lots of female nudity and sex jokes ensue but the big reveal at the end is that the totalitarian dictator is a man dressed as a woman. So make your own connections with the communist regimes in Eastern Europe at the time.
(5) Irony :- Ironic humour probably interlaces with all the other sub genres of dark humour but I want to talk about two types here. The ironic satire/parody and cases where sometimes it backfired.
The example of ironic satire/parody is George Orwell's "Animal Farm" which is an allegory for Stalin's rise to power in the USSR but the tale is portrayed as very ironic as the other animals now see the pigs standing on two feet at the end and it is hard for them to tell their new masters apart from their old masters.
The second example of comic irony is where sometimes it can go wrong. In British comedy, two characters who were invented by their writers who despised the stereotypical natures of the character they produced but some misunderstood it and identified with the character. Alf Garnett was invented by Johnny Speight and played by Warren Mitchell. He was meant to be an example of a white, working class, racist bigot in the 1960s but a lot of the audience took to him. Over the years the writer softened him till by the end of the series, he was quite lovable.
Another example of this is "Loadsamoney" created by comedian Harry Enfield as a lampoon of the flash idiots in Thatcher's Britain of the 1980s who thought money was everything. It backfired in sense that waving a wad of cash and saying "loadsamoney" became a catchphrase of the very people he was trying to ridicule.
There is a bit of a Freedom Of Speech argument used by some comedians but I don't really believe it. If you have to rely on outrage, it says more about the standards of your comedy than the standards of society. There are many types of comedy liked by different groups of people. My preference is just for subtle type that sometimes makes you think.
Thanks for reading.