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Home » Archives » August 2006 » The Argument against Intelligence and Candor
[Previous entry: "They weren't really called "pilot lights" -- I made that part up"] [Next entry: "Spec Script Superstars"]

08/24/2006: The Argument against Intelligence and Candor

I work right now in a writers' room with a lot of really experienced comedy writers. You better believe that I sit there with big ears, listening for comedy crumbs. Here's what one of them said today.

"It's all about who's stupid and who's lying."

This is very possibly good advice for life in general, but what he meant was that situations are rendered comically complex by all things that can happen to obscure the clear communication of information.

Kinda stiking, isn't it? Misunderstandings -- Jack thinks Crissy's pregnant! Deceptions – Lucy puts on a costume to sneak onstage! Someone is stupid and someone is lying. In fact, you'll find examples in just about any comedy you care to think of. M*A*S*H? Frank Burns is stupid and Hawkeye is lying. Of course, stupidity and deception come in interesting and complex flavors. Self-delusion and pomposity is a sophisticated kind of stupidity. Crafty creativity is a fun sort of lying. Play around, in other words, with ways to keep information away from those who need it.

Interestingly, this suggests that clear communication is the enemy of comedy. Sounds about right. There was a great Kids in the Hall bit once in which two vaudeville comics attempt to do the old Abbott-and-Costello “Who’s on First” routine. But it keeps getting derailed because one of the performers keeps clarifying. "Oh! I see the source of the confusion! I'm referring to the players' last names, you see."

Don't be afraid to populate your spec pilot with fools and liars. You will treasure them.

Lunch: tuna sandwich and lemon creme meringue pie


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