My unifying theory of comedy

Comedy is probably my most dominating vice, more alluring to me than women or wine. And, much as I’ve studied the finer qualities of those other two, I feel – well, it’s sort of an obligation – I need to watch and to criticise and assess and ponder comedy every single day.

I once went to see Russ Abbot in London. I suppose that he, the Two Ronnies and Blackadder had a fundamental influence on what I find to be funny. Later, the Fast Show and Alan Partridge ruled my jokesphere. But it was in the discovery of late-night reruns of the Larry Sanders Show and Seinfeld that my comedy addiction finally found a home.

And Seinfeld led me to Curb Your Enthusiasm, naturally. That these two shows, born of the genius of Brooklyn-raised Larry David, are among the most celebrated TV shows ever is no surprise to me. I’ve always loved the New York fast-talkin’, wise-ass schtick that Woody Allen used in Annie Hall. But Curb taught me something else: the secret of great comedy.

And this is my theory.

Essentially, great comedy is made through a counterpoint of your lies and the lies of those you interact with. Pathos is important, at times, but the key is the manipulation of people and their manipulation of you. In other words, society and life are the comedy.

Now, I’m aware that this sort of thinking is pretty facile. I don’t claim this as ‘original thought’. But I’ve come to it all on my own, and now I feel the world needs to share it with me.

Oh, and Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 5 Episode 10 is the finest piece of comedy I’ve ever seen. It’s perfect. It deals with identity, mortality, selfishness and selflessness in a way that no movie ever could. Also the time-travel episode in the new Futurama season is pretty good. Pretty. Pretty. Pretty Good.

6 thoughts on “My unifying theory of comedy

  1. FYI I’ve found that one free German channel on Astra (ZDF neo) re-runs Seinfeld Fridays late at night, for about four hours in a row! In English, if you change the audio channel.

  2. I didn’t know about Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’ve watched the first two seasons, and it’s no bad at all! The costumes are shocking though. Do they really dress like this in the states?

    1. Let me know when you get to season 5!

      I think the mundaneness of wealthy celebrities is one of the joys of Curb. Here’s a man worth $100M or so and he not only wears crap clothes, he also bickers about tips and shrimp missing from his takeaway. Which is as it should be.

      1. I don’t know, the whole kidney business makes me a little uncomfortable, to tell the truth. I can’t watch anything about illnesses without feeling ill myself . . . Season 6 I think it’s the best, with the Blacks, especially episode 6 “The Rat Dog”. I hadn’t laughed so hard since a long time. Thanks for the recommendation, it’s a great show I knew nothing about.

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