The Secret of Comedy
t's often said the the secret of comedy is timing: I can do no better than quote the splendid Scots comedian Arnold Brown: 'If the audience turns up on Tuesday and you turn up on Wednesday... that's bad timing.'
But one of the secrets is making you root for characters who you'd run a mile from in real life. Think of Will Hay - the dishonest, devious and incompetent schoolmaster - or Hancock's persona - misinformed, selfish, stupid - 'a shrewd, cunning, high-powered mug'.
Friends is a particularly good example; we happily spend time watching these people and identify with their experiences: but consider - though they all have their good points (particularly their deep friendship for each other), Ross is a tiresome self-regarding nerd; Monica is a control freak and competitive to the point of psychosis; Chandler is seriously immature; Rachel is a selfish little bitch; the kindest thing you can say about Joey is that he is dim-witted (not to say a sexual predator); and Phoebe is dangerous.
Of course they wouldn't be funny if they didn't have flaws: and the series is extremely cleverly scripted, and balances the characters' good and bad points very well. Emily (who Ross marries after saying the wrong name at the altar) is just sympathetic enough that you understand why she becomes, in the end, impossibly controlling; and Chandler's one-time girl-friend Janice, who is a running joke for ten years, is not a bad person, just a very irritating one.
The producers were lucky over Phoebe, who was intended just to be a ditzy blonde: Lisa Kudrow added whole new levels to the character, making her a complex mixture of intelligence and new-age stupidity - she is right up there with Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, and Basil Fawlty, as one of the great modern comic creations. Obviously she knows the secret of comedy.
Posted: Mon - January 14, 2008 at 09:31 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM