Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Worse than I thought

I suck at comedy. Lesson # 2 is pretty straight-forward -- come up with a character and put him or her in three different situations:

1. Fish out of water.
2. Incongruent pairings.
3. Hilarious purpose.

I tried a hundred different things, and none of them sparked any interest in me, let alone come across as funny. What I finally settled on was "An antiquarian bookstore owner who's easily distracted. And how did I work him into the three situations?

1. Intending to go to a book fair in St. Petersburg, Florida, he winds up in St. Petersburg, Russia...and can't get out.
2. A client of his is suspected of laundering drug money so a hard-assed detective takes the store over to get to the guy.
3. The owner, who's never cooked a day in his life, must prove he's a master Teppanyaki chef to get a billionaire to back a new venture for his shop.

Do these sound like second-rate sit-com setups, or what? It's like I'm retreading "Fawlty Towers" or "Keeping Up Appearances", both from the BBC. I can just see John Cleese trying to explain to an impassive Russian immigration official who doesn't speak much English that he got on the wrong flight at Heathrow and just wants to go someplace where there's palm trees instead of homophobic twats, and does he know of a direct flight to where he was heading?

Now I need to delve into writing a scene that includes either misinterpretation, comedic surprise, or a wildly inappropriate response. But the examples I'm given aren't all that funny to me.

1. Misinterpretation -- the scene in "My Cousin Vinny", where Vinny first visits Billy and Stan in jail to discuss the murder charges against them, and Stan thinks Vinny's there to rape him. Everything Vinny and Stan say to each other only exacerbates the misunderstanding.
2. Comedic surprise -- the scene in "Notting Hill", where Spike seeks advice on what logo-filled T-shirt to wear on a date, seems to come to a good decision on a safe one...then it turns out the back of the T-shirt is totally wrong-headed.
3. Wildly inappropriate response -- the scene in "Happy Gilmore", where Happy gets in a fight with Bill Barker and they exchange insults.

If this is the way they think comedy should go, I'm in big trouble. My sensibilities are totally opposite from this. I preferred "A Fish Called Wanda", and the party scene at the chateau in "The Rules of the Game" had a moment in it that still makes me laugh, when during a chaotic masquerade party (that includes a gunfight, attempted seductions, demands for a fistfight or duel over a woman who doesn't want either of the men, and a drunk mistress refusing to go to bed) the chateau's owner orders his butler to "stop this farce!" And the butler replies, "Which one, sir?"

Hm...maybe that's it; I just need to do something in a British tone. I've already used French farce as a basis for one lesson.

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