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09/23/2006: Spoilers -- The Office Season Premiere
Did you see the premiere of The Office the other night? I love that show! I love it even though it makes me want to tunnel backwards through the sofa sometimes. "Discomfort comedy." I think that many times the only thing that makes it tolerable is the presence of Pam and/or Jim, who are typically enjoying the discomfort. As long as I have someone to identify with who is not angry or mortified, then I'm okay. Maybe there's some sort of generally applicable principle for all sorts of writing -- you know, make sure there's an audience surrogate in every scene, or something like that, but I haven't taken the time to figure out if that's really true. Perhaps we'll address that another time.
Because what I want to talk about is -- SPOILER SPOILER -- the kiss. If you can call it that. You know what I mean. The slowest most painful build-up to any kiss in screen history. Think about it. You've seen other man-man kisses played for comedy. As far as I can recall, EVERY SINGLE ONE I'M THINKING OF has been of the ambush variety. One guy grabs another and kisses him fast. And the fastness has always been essential to the comedy. Even the Will/Jack kiss on Will and Grace was a (very funny) ambush. The only other slow build-up kiss like this that I can think of, although it wasn't played for laughs, was the Uhura/Kirk kiss on Star Trek, which must've had a similar "are they really going to..." feel at the time.
The problem is that the ambush kiss has now been played so often, and so identically, that although it still gets yelps from an audience, it isn't as dewy fresh as it once was. The Office did something valuable by taking this new run at it. It's a valuable lesson about changing bits to keep them fresh.
Oh! And, as another supporting example, I just thought of another non-ambush comedy kiss. In Dude, Where's My Car, the two guys have just been shown up by a guy making out with his hot girlfriend, so they, totally unthinkingly, try to top him with an even more passionate kiss. They also went away from the expected ambush joke, and reaped fresh funny as a result.
Always patrol your script aggressively for jokes and bits of stage business that you've seen before. And question your friends who are reading your script, make sure there's nothing there that they find too familiar either. And then look for that twist. You can use the audience's expectations to help you out, even! They'll be extra surprised if you take the bit in a new direction, and surprise is one of the main ingredients for funny.
Lunch: shabu-shabu. Beef and veggies and lovely clear noodles dipped in boiling water right on the table-top. Plus, if the steam blows right, it's like a facial!