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05/04/2006: A Staking Without a Slayer
Tonight: a simple example of comedy done well. I just now heard this, off tonight's broadcast of the Dodger's game. It started out, as comedy often does, with pain. A broken bat, flying through the air, clocked the pitcher on the back of the head, sending him to the ground. As he was tended to, the venerable Dodger's announcer, Vin Scully, vamped. Vin has been around forever. I suspect he once whispered "Hey, I've got a good idea" to Abner Doubleday. Vin always has a story.
Tonight, indeed, he had a story. About a worse thing that could happen when a broken bat is flinging through the air. He had all the details, as he was there. The year, the venue, the names of all the players. And the fact that the sharp end of the broken bat pierced the injured player THROUGH THE CHEEKS. "It was awful!" he concluded with a sort of satisfaction in his voice. Yes, yes, I imagine it was.
So why was this funny and not simply strange and terrible? Why was I, in my living room, driven to my knees as surely as that poor pitcher was? Well, for character reasons. Knowing Vin, one couldn't help but hold one's breath, knowing a story was coming. And that it would be a humdinger. But, beyond that, I think it was funny because of exactly one letter. The "s" at the end of "cheeks." Cheek, we expect, we can picture... it came at his face from the side, sure I see that. But cheeks -- wow -- that just paints a whole new image, doesn't it?
I don't know what you all can learn about spec writing from this that you don't already know: capture well-defined characters so that the audience has expections about them, choose the perfect word, seek the suprising image... So if there's nothing to learn, I simply invite you to enjoy.
Unless your brother died from double-cheek-bat-having-through. Then I'm very sorry.
Lunch: broiled chicken with a sort of mediterranean salsa: black olives and tomato and lime juice. Nice. Almost bought one of those great "Take 5" bars, but resisted. Do you know them? Candy bars with salted pretzels inside. You'll love 'em.