Destructive versus Creative Comedy

by Liz

“The world needs less destruction. And destruction is kind of ‘easy,’ too.”

Bob Odenkirk

Last week I had two very interesting contrasting experiences. In both cases, a small group of film actors was engaged in conversation during downtime, at least one person in the group was cracking jokes, and the topic of conversation was something I was fully engaged in and found very interesting. The biggest difference between these two conversations was that in only one of those conversations was I laughing.

on the set of a Christmas film

Quick point of reference, I dislike sarcasm. I think sarcasm “works” when it is based on some portion of the truth. In my opinion, sarcasm is an excuse to say something you might not otherwise get away with because you covered it in comedy. There’s a better way to have a conversation or a kinder way to get a laugh than sarcasm. This is a bit of a tangent though, because last week, the person who wasn’t making me laugh wasn’t being sarcastic.

“Sarcasm is a bad mood trying to be clever.”

Sylvie Granotier
on the set of “Undaunted”

He was teasing, mocking, poking fun at someone who wasn’t present in the conversation. I’m not sure anyone else in the conversation would characterize it quite like that. I even suspect that the teaser would be surprised to hear me represent the conversation so strongly. He was just making jokes, playing around, having fun. I had been talking about a unique someone I had met recently whom I found interesting and admirable. My unique new friend was someone I was excited to tell other people about, someone cool who had given me a lot to think about. The teasing guy zeroed in on the unique elements of my friend and made some jokes. I didn’t laugh. The conversation dwindled.

“Comedy is acting out optimism.”

Robin Williams

Contrast that with the other conversation. A small group of guys I had never met before, hadn’t even been properly introduced to yet, were making jokes about transatlantic dialects and Chekov’s gun. Those are some actor specific topics that I am happy to nerd out about. The best part though, none of the jokes were made at anybody’s expense. I never directly asked, but I got the feeling these guys were improvisation comedians. They had “Yes, And…” written all over them. Whatever came up in the conversation was accepted and built upon. They were hilarious and delightful to talk to. Their comedy was creative, not destructive.

“Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith.”

Christopher Fry

Fundamentally, comedy is a personal thing. I’m not saying what you should find funny or unfunny, but I know what kind of comedy I like. Laughter, for me, is a mark of appreciation. It’s a lot easier to appreciate something that is building up than something that is tearing down. The contrast between these two conversations was an interesting case study for me, and a good reminder that when it comes to comedy, I have a clear taste for the creative.

You may also like