Sunday, March 26, 2017


I don't, in general, think that I'm a very funny person.

Part of it is anxiety--being funny, to me, is a very spontaneous thing, and I am so bad at being spontaneous in conversation. I like to know and--to a degree--rehearse what I'm going to say before I say it. It's a trait that makes me pretty good at giving presentations, a fair actor, and handy to have around in a situation that requires intense listening and digesting information.

But love-of-God, don't rely on me for a witty observation.

Even though I'm not particularly funny, I do think I have a decent sense of humor. I love to laugh, and I appreciate a well-executed joke.

And I really enjoy quips.

Banter between characters is one of my favorite things in narratives. When I play a video game (which, for me, essentially means when I play either a Dragon Age game or a Mass Effect game), I spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly just to hear the extra conversations the writers put in for the characters. I love the extra bits of backstory I get from these exchanges, the little quirks of character relationships that aren't dealt with in the main narrative.

And I love it when characters snipe at each other or share quick jokes. A fast-paced exchange between sharp-witted characters is one of my favorite types of dialogue.

That being said, when I watch TV--particularly when I watch sitcoms--I get a sense of...let's call it quiplash.

 Every media maker that I talk to--authors and publishers, playwrights, screenwriters, everyone--talks about how little time there is to catch a consumer's attention. It seems like I've been hearing about people's (and my generation's, specifically) shrinking attention spans for years.

I get it. There's a lot of consumable media out there, and we can get to most of it at a push of a button. There are so many options that, if something doesn't grab us right off the bat, we've got a dozen other things to try that might be more interesting. I understand the pressure to show off what you can do as soon as you can.

So you fill the first five minutes with jokes at a mile-a-minute pace to prove that you've got a ton of them. No danger of running out of funny here.

Maybe this works for some folks. But for me, it feels like being pummeled. There's no room to breath, no time for a joke to settle. The next quip has come and gone before I've had time to realize that I was supposed to be laughing at the first.

To me, it comes off as a little try-too-hard. Sort of like when I try to work a million ideas into one story.

I do that when I'm afraid I'll never have another solid story idea. Maybe sitcom writers line up the jokes like this because they're afraid they won't have another chance to tell them? I guess I can understand that.

But there's something to be said for letting a joke breathe. Giving your audience a chance to appreciate the moment. Or for letting a joke build--working up to a well-earned punch line. Letting a joke repeat while upping the stakes each time (the comedic rule of three is a beautiful thing). There's so much that a joke can accomplish if it's just allowed to take its time.

There's something to be said for being able to laugh without feeling like someone is trying to slap you around with a joke book.

But then, I'm not really funny, so what do I know?

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