What’s funny?

I’m learning more and more that people really do have very different views on what’s funny. That’s weird to me, since I’m pretty sure I know what is and isn’t funny. But maybe I don’t.

Take “30 Rock”  that show with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. Now I know this is going to ruffle some feathers, but I just don’t get it. I was at a holiday party last night and this guy kept going on about Alec Baldwin this and Alec Baldwin that. Well you know what? Alec Baldwin is mildly amusing, but he’s not funny. He just isn’t.

I have tried to watch that show on several occasions mainly because I’m a Tina Fey fan. She was wicked funny on SNL, but not really on “30 Rock.” The writing is just ordinary, and these days with so many choices, ordinary just doesn’t cut it. Good stories draw you in. They help you forget your troubles and make you believe in their world. But with that show, I found myself writing my “To Do List” on the coffee table.

The other thing that got me thinking about what is and isn’t funny was a botched collaboration attempt with a friend, for our comic strip, “The Malaprops.”

I asked my friend to be a guest illustrator and I sent him a few scripts. Instead of just a simple no or yes, I got a dissertation on the “correct” way to write a comic along with revisions. You can imagine my response. No it wasn’t that bad. We’re buddies. But it made me realize that two people truly can have completely different view points on humor. I know this is no amazing revelation, but I just assumed humor was obvious. Apparently it’s not!

So what or whom do I think is funny?

Chelsea Handler on “Chelsea Lately.” Her monologues are just OK, but her biting wit on the round table is priceless. And of course there’s Chuey.

Seinfeld. The writing is masterful. And the cast. Perfect frankly.

C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters. Wicked!

Dilbert. I’m amazed that the strip is funny day in and day out.

The Hangover. I laughed out loud……..Four times. That’s rare.

The Colbert Report. What’s so funny, is that I never quite know if he’s serious. He keeps me guessing.

Richard Pryor, before he lit himself on fire.

Kids. Not necessarily my kids, although I think they’re funny, but kids in general. Their enthusiasm just cracks me up!

Monty Python. At least I used to think it was hysterical. I watched the “Holy Grail” with my oldest a few months ago and I still thought it was good, but not as good as I remember. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was my 30th time watching it. Oh damn, that number keeps coming up.

So maybe funny can’t really by pinned down. It wouldn’t do well in the UFC Octagon because it can’t be forced into submission. It’s subtle and nuanced just as we are. And clearly our sense of it changes over time as we “evolve” and grow.

But damn, “30 Rock” just isn’t funny!

Please share what’s funny to you.

And will SOMEBODY PLEASE enlighten me on this “30 Rock” thing. I truly would like to follow the masses. I’m all about being a worker bee.


20 Comments on What’s funny?

  1. Better Off Ted, Austen Stories, Flight of the Conchords, farts (except in the car, my dog in the snow, Big Bang Theory, Sarah Palin (But I don’t think she means to be)and religious zealots.

  2. I don’t get it, either. My husband likes it. I enjoy Big Bang Theory (if I remember to watch it). Two and a Half Men has its moments (I don’t WANT to find it amusing, but occasionally it manages to be, despite what I want). Can you get through Lederer’s “History of the World According to Student Bloopers” without laughing? If so, we’re not living on the same planet. Oh! How about Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore? It’s one of the few books I’ve deliberately dragged out and read aloud to my daughter, who – even at age 21 – wants to hear it? True Lies. Great humor especially for married couples. Bob Rivers’ Twisted Christmas (hint: check out the Christmas soundtrack on my blog – look for the tab near the top). I could go on… I’m not so much into physical comedy or slapstick, not too into potty humor (though it occasionally strikes me funny if it’s more naughty than outright crude).

  3. I have not watched 30 Rock since I usually find sitcoms silly, not funny. Richard Pryor was a natural at humor, finding that fine line between tragedy and humor and making us think along the way. I also think Robin Williams is hysterical when he does improvs, but he is also wonderful as a dramatic actor. For me if it is silly, it doesn’t work. Pure humor has some intellect behind it and passion from life events, which makes it funny.

  4. I love “30 Rock” and I think what makes it funny is that Alec Baldwin epitomizes the kind of boss who is totally egocentric. His complete disdain for anyone other than himself creates a situation where you can easily play against him. He is not the funny one. He is the straight man like George Burns was to Gracey Allen. He was perfect and so is Alec Baldwin to Tina Fey. She gets the jokes and also all the peripheral people around her are hysterical. Tracy Morgan is hysterical on this show and it all works if you have seen enough TV and enjoy peeking into the backstage antics of these people. So that’s what makes it funny to me. I think it’s very similar to The Dick Van Dyke Show, which featured Carl Reiner as this puffed up comedian who had people writing for him. Mary Tyler Moore was the straight person and Dick Van Dyke had all the jokes. She was very funny because she was going about her business and funny things happened to her. The same is true with “30 Rock”. Alec Baldwin is the boss and following his boss’s rules, which are stupid and make for funny situations. He creates funny situations for his cast and so the show is consistently funny. Tina Fey lives a pathetic life and can’t seem to get out of it. Yet she is consistently in funny situations. So is the rest of the cast. The writing is brilliant and makes everything continue to work.

    I don’t like shows like “Two and a Half Men” though they are funny, and I laugh in spite of myself as Holly mentioned in her comment. The humor is demeaning to women and I feel dirty laughing. Yet the show is funny, because the characters are in funny situations. They are not ones I would have chosen, but my husband considers this his favorite comedy show. It appeals to men and also to some women who don’t mind being demeaned by a show. I love “Community”, “Parks and Recreation” and used to like “The Office”. However, “The Office” has veered from the path that was funny to me into a place that I find hard to find funny. The other two shows mentioned make me laugh consistently, because they feature ordinary people in extraordinary situations in an ordinary setting who are also just trying to do their job or make someone happy. Neither of these two shows demeans anyone and instead it makes fun or everyone making them even funnier. No one is above being dumped on and that makes it funny too.

    This is getting to be extremely long. But I like the idea of examining people’s idea of funny. Glad you provided this chance. I might steal your idea for my own blog post.:)

  5. Thank you for enlightening me. I really want to like that show. Perhaps I’ll try again with a glass of wine and my wife.

    “Two and a half Men” is kind of funny, but it’s never pulled me in.

    “The Office” just makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the demeaning types of shows either. I like it when people can laugh at themselves.

  6. Robin Williams is hysterical. And a great actor. It’s hard to watch an interview with him because he has a hard time shutting it off. Jim Carrey is the same way, but he’s funny as hell.

  7. I wrote some of these down and I’m going to check them out. Thanks!!

    I don’t like physical comedy much either but Jim Carrey is hysterical. And Kramer on Seinfeld.

  8. OK, so you’re funny too! 🙂 (Except in the car)

  9. I love 30 Rock. (aside from the fact that I’m content to just sit and watch Tina Fey breathe) I think the writing is razor sharp… the asides, the throw-away lines… just spot-on. Perhaps you didn’t see the right episodes. (I acknowledge that while I do think it’s hilarious, they do have the occasional dud episode.) I usually get 2-3 laugh-out-louds a night.

    Other things I find funny:
    Monty Python. Have been in love with them ever since college, when I first heard the records. Sure, I don’t laugh as uproariously at Holy Grail as I used to, but that’s probably because I’m busy saying the lines. Life of Brian was life-changing.

    Mel Brooks movies. Blazing Saddles couldn’t get made, today. One of the funniest ever.

    Movies made by Abrams/Zucker: Airplane, Naked Gun series, Top Secret. Perfect movies to just put your brain on hold and giggle for an hour and a half. Don’t like a joke? Wait 5 seconds for the next one.

    The American Pie movies, which claimed the mantel from Animal House and Porky’s. Kevin Smith’s movies, especially Dogma. Judd Apatow’s movies.

    Pryor, Williams, Rodney, Richard Jeni, Denis Leary, Classic Bill Cosby, Wanda Sykes, Lewis Black, and one of the most under-rated and unknown, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. All will leave my sides hurting after their act.

  10. Well hallelujah someone else agrees with me on the 30 Rock thing, you know I have always held the opinion that it was a hyped and promoted as a more big city version of the office and so people were told it was funny and just went with it. I actually know a girl who, like us, doesn’t get it at all and she just says “Well it must just be over my head”.. err.. no, sorry Princess you are not missing some comedy magic, it’s just so so.

    Now with that little rant aside, I guess the things I funny are questionable. Anything Denis Leary does, even drama’s like Rescue Me, is absolutely freaking hilarious. Blind Date with a Crackwhore, Full Metal Jacket remixed with Christmas Elves, Santa on Cops, Colbert Report, It’s Always Sunny…, Lisa Lampanelli= Queen of offensive comedy, Home Movies, Metalacolypse, and sadly enough I often laugh through things that are not meant to be funny… like after school specials and lifetime movies..

  11. Well this may ruffle a few feathers but really I havent seen anything funny come from American as far as television goes for a long time, sure a few demeaning one liners here and there maybe .. but nothing outstanding. I am with you in just not getting it with 30 rock … and could list a dozen more. I try and try considering I live with someone who roars at the same stuff I deplor. British comedy can sometimes cut it in the right mood … but as you said, bit like Monty Python, most british comedy only lasts so long if you watch it so many times, Black Adder was one of those for me. I agree kids are just priceless .. theyre innocence and our twisted minds do well for the giggle bone. I too thought I knew what was funny and what isnt, I mean I know how to make people giggle and told I have a good sense of humour .. but then when I look at what makes people laugh … all Ive ever said in my opinion was rude, insulting, shocking or just plain ridiculous. I often wonder why when we laugh its often at the expense of someones misery, pain or embarassment. Make me also wonder if how funny we find things shows how cracked we are in the head ? Maybe .. maybe not .. who knows … I’ll chat with all 4 of me later for a conference on the matter.

  12. Mainly what I find funny is making fun of myself.

  13. I am sometimes funny. Not always intentionally, though. I have really funny friends, so I have the opportunity to laugh a lot. Maybe you can come hang with us?

    The only thing on TV that makes me laugh is The Daily Show. Period.

  14. Check out: Chelsea Lately

    Yes, I will come hang out!!

  15. Funny!

  16. I will hold you to that, Mister!

  17. http://www.theblogess.com is FUNNY (well, at least to me!)

    Also, as mentioned before, The Daily Show and Colbert Report… and not mentioned previously, The Big Bang Theory TV show

  18. I’m gonna check it out!

  19. 30 Rock is brilliant, but I don’t expect anyone that can stand Chelsea Handler for more than a second to understand why.

  20. @Emily……..my point exactly. Humor is completely subjective.

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