Comic Awareness

Does comedy have to be aware that its comedy to be funny? Does that awareness even matter, if you, the viewer, are finding it funny? Some of the best comedies are funny because of a clueless protagonist who is doing things that are funny, getting laughed at because of them, but has no idea why others are finding it so amusing. But, perhaps importantly, there’s always a writer behind them, someone directing it all who intends for it all to be comedic.

I’m asking these questions because I watch a lot of pretty ‘bad’ tv and film, because I think it’s funny. I revel in the absurdity of over-the-top action sequences, and laugh at awful dialouge. More often than not, however, I enjoy it all the more because I’m assuming it’s intended, in the same way Machete, if you don’t see it as a comedy, would be a pretty awful film. But that’s deliberate, and something like The Cape, the new tv series about an ex-cop becoming a superhero, is less obvious, and while I still think that it’s self-aware, others disagree.

That’s the crux of it though, I think. It’s all about the self denial of it all, whether you can push yourself to seeing it as intended even when it might not be. Or, at the very least, not giving a fuck whether it is or it isn’t. I find The Cape, with its mid-show sub-titles that mimic the episodic nature of a comic, and its scale-faced Vinnie Jones, hilarious and entertaining. Others just cringe at the hokey writing and predictable plot.

I can’t say that it matters much to me, either way, though. I love the Transporter series of films, because of the one-note delivery with which Jason Statham delivers his lines. I can’t help but laugh when he routinely loses his clothes in every fight that he takes part in, only to get extremely angry at that fact and beat the snot out of anyone with a grimace. The films are hilarious not because they’re bad, but because they’re so serious about the very things that make them preposterous.

Which brings it around to a statement of perspective, rather than anything else. To me they’re preposterous, to others they might be brilliant, serious entertainment, and others still meaningless dross. But that’s ok; it’s not like we all like the same comedians, or the same food, or whatever. What it does mean, though, is that when someone gives me a condescending look when I say that I adore Desperado, I feel like they’re not understanding why I adore it. It’s certainly not because I think that it’s a landmark film for all other films to use as a benchmark. It’s because it’s extremely funny, while being very entertaining.

It’s all about being preposterous, y’see. And action films have had that nailed down for a good few decades. And while it’s not limited to action films, it’s got a pretty good foothold there.

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About Phill Cameron

I've graduated, had a look at the world, and spat. Now I'm devoting my time to moving from 3/4 of a games journalist to 9/10ths. I figure I can get away with 9/10ths.
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