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 » September 2007 » Back to the Place with the Thing
[Previous entry: "Don't Harsh my Balloon!"] [Next entry: "The Tween Life"]

09/28/2007: Back to the Place with the Thing

Did you read Dilbert yesterday? In a lovely coincidence, yesterday's strip provides an excellent example of a way to revitalize a clam. Amazingly, it's a close cousin of the exact example that I discussed in Monday's post. Here's how the strip lays out:

First Panel: The pointy-haired boss thinks to himself: "It's time for some generic management."

Second Panel: He approaches an employee and says "Did you talk to what's-his-name about the thing?" She replies, "Um… yes."

Third Panel: He walks away, self-satisfied, thinking, "There should be some sort of award for avoiding minutiae."

What I like about this is that the purposeful vagueness is being put to a new and more subtle purpose than just a character excusing himself from conversation so that he can pull his friend aside. This is about using a vague question to demand a vague answer, thus excusing both parties from a conversation neither wants to have. That's less familiar, more complicated and more interesting.

It's the illustration of dynamics like this -- ones that are recognizable but haven't been mined to the point of exhaustion -- that make good shows and good comic strips feel fresh. Recognition is at the heart of comedy. That's why Jerry Seinfeld impersonations always start with "did you ever notice…" The problem is that after you've recognized something once, you no longer get a thrill of connection when you recognize it again. Dilbert and The Office are both great at finding these fresh dynamics. Once you find them, you can put familiar comedy conceits into them, like the self-conscious use of "thing" as above, and it won't feel tired, because the overall point is new and fresh.

Lunch: enchiladas


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



September 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.