Home Contact Biography Works Media News

Jane Recommends
Who Hates Whom / Bob Harris

Who Hates Whom: Well-Armed Fanatics, Intractable Conflicts, and Various Things Blowing Up A Woefully Incomplete Guide by Bob Harris

"The geopolitical equivalent of scorecards that get hawked at ball games. Only Bob could make a user’s guide to our increasingly hostile world this absorbing, this breezy, and—ultimately—this hopeful."
~ Ken Jennings, author of Brainiac


Jane in Print
Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe, edited by Jane Espenson

Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece, edited by Jennifer Crusie and including Jane Espenson's short story, "Georgiana"

Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly, edited by Jane Espenson and Glenn Yeffeth

Jane in DVD

Jane in DVD

Now Available:
+Battlestar Galactica Season 3
+Dinosaurs Seasons 3 & 4
+Gilmore Girls Season 4
+Buffy: The Chosen Collection
+Tru Calling
+Angel: Limited Edition Collectors Set

Jane in Progress


Home » Archives » March 2007 » This American Blog
[Previous entry: "I Think the Sheriff is Steamed"] [Next entry: "Moses Presupposes his Toeses Are Roses"]

03/12/2007: This American Blog

Did you know we're famous, Gentle Readers? This very blog was mentioned on stage as part of the hilarious and wonderful This American Life Live Tour '07, which I attended in Los Angeles tonight. Ira Glass mentioned on stage that this blog sometimes engages in joke analysis. So I've decided, in honor of that, to indulge in some joke analysis this evening. The twist is... I'm not sure why this joke works.


Here is an excerpt from the script for "Fairway, My Lovely," the episode of Andy Barker, PI which I co-wrote with Alex Herschlag. (You can watch it here). I wrote the following exchange, which had to convey loads of information, but which also needed to have some funny in it. (Note that Lew is an aging retired private-eye of the hard-boiled variety.)

It does all add up. The affair, the pills, the condo, the fight they had during his lesson. Of course, she says they were just arguing about his grip...

There's always loose ends and you have to let 'em go. After all, you can't go back and listen to the fight.


Can't time travel.

Of course not.

Can't travel in time.

Nope. Wait! Yes I can! I mean, they taped the lesson! They probably still have the tape at the club.

And the scene continues from there. Lew's repeated rephrasing of the same information just struck me as funny. And even though I wasn't sure why, I kept it in, and I still find it hilarious, and I'm still not sure why!

It's absurd, of course, but absurd never really works on its own. A character doing something nonsensical might make us laugh for a moment, but if it's truly random, it's not all that funny.

So I think the joke works because it reflects so much about both characters. It speaks to Lew's dogged persistence combined with creeping forgetfulness, and it also illustrates Andy's infinite patience. I also think the joke plays with the viewers' expectations of how a scene is structured. We're so used to scenes in which a character lists a series of good reasons to do or think something, that there's something startling and refreshing about a scene with the rhythm but not the content of such a list.

Of course, if you don't find the exchange amusing, then that is also a valid answer to the puzzle. Why does the joke work? "It doesn't" is also an answer. (I still think it's funny.)

Lunch: Universal Studios salad bar and a very dry granola bar that caused me to have an impressive coughing fit in the writers' room.


Get Blog Updates Via Email

Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz


Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
Jane recommends you also visit BobHarris.com



March 2007

Valid XHTML 1.0!

Powered By Greymatter
Greymatter Forums

Home | News | Works | Biography | Frequently Asked Questions

Site design Copyright © PM Carlson
This is a fan site owned and operated entirely by PM Carlson with the cooperation and assistance of Jane Espenson. This site is not affiliated in any way with Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox or ABC.