If I remember correctly, I’m supposed to be doing something about comedy this week. Of course, this has been one of those weeks that makes you forget your own name, so who knows? Since I’m brain dead, I beg your forgiveness for any rambling drivel you may be forced to endure on my behalf.
Comedy is the exaggerated norm. That is I guess the first Law of Jmoism. Without a normal base line to go from you can’t achieve comedy. Comedy works because first and foremost you present a believable character or situation and extend outwards from there.
I love Big Bang Theory. Sure, it’s a sitcom about unbelievable characters, but if you go back to that first season and the beginning episodes, the writers gave you characters you could believe in. They might have been outside most peoples’ circle of friends, but they presented them first in ways that you could understand and empathize with. After they hooked you, the craziness began.
That’s how I do it. In my books, I attempt to introduce you to characters, who are unabashedly raw, human, flawed. Sure, they’re vampires, werewolves and ghosts, but at their hearts they’re just like you or me. But, not that guy. Yeah, you over there in the corner. Put that away and move on. Shoo… Shoo…
Now, where was I? Oh, yes.
See what I did there. I started off serious. You were probably thinking that this guy, meaning me, was about to make some profound point or another. Then, he, me, moves on to talking about werewolves and such. You were still on board, but might have been wondering where this was leading with your finger cautiously hovering over a bookmarked icon on your toolbar. Wham! I end it with some insanity about a guy in a corner? But! You kept reading, because it might have been mildly amusing, especially when you began to think about all things this jerk in the corner might have had to put away. I bet your mind might have even dipped into a gutter or two. Mine did.
But, that profound point you were waiting for me to make is this. Comedy is seriousness laced with the ability to make your imagination work overtime. It’s just like horror. The lights dim and you imagine all sorts of lurky things coming toward you in the dark. Comedy is horror’s opposite. Instead of the dark, it’s mimes in sunshine coming at you. Okay, bad example, but you get the idea.
The second Law of Jmoism is that you can’t be funny all the time. Comedy in huge doses just doesn’t work. For one thing, it makes you one dimensional. Do you laugh all the time? Man, I hope not. People might think you were crazy for one thing. For another, life is about the good, the bad, and then you have the Facts of Life. The Facts of Life. Loved that show, but I’m not digressing as you may think. The facts of life is this, you have equal, or sometimes unequal parts of good and bad in your life. Laughter allows you to deal with the bad. Sorrow allows you to appreciate the good all the more because it is fleeting at times and needs to be cherished.
So, if you’re planning to attempt comedy, trust in balance. There is balance to more than just the Force. Latticework in your funny when it’s needed. To break a heavy situation. To hide insecurity. To showcase a character’s snark or personality, but understand this. If your own thing is one liner after one liner, it won’t work. It took me awhile to figure that out, so feel free to learn from my mistakes.
Exaggerate the norm. Let’s go back to that. Enhancing a character’s personality quirks is just one tool. I’ll refer back to Sheldon on Big Bang for this one. We all know someone who is introverted and maybe just left of center. Which is why we love him as a character. Here’s the thing. After five years of watching him, we see evolution in his character. He is not the same guy we got to know in the beginning. As writers, we need to strive to have the ability to do that in our characters. If your hero or heroine is the same person they were on page one, as they are on page two hundred, you just failed.
How to twist a character, though. What you talking ’bout Willis? Serious, but funny? That just seems like a contradiction in terms. Well, it is, but it works. To show you what I’m talking about, here’s a few of my tricks.
In Love at First Stake, I had Donatello Ravell, be allergic to human blood. Savannah was the ultimate Buffy. She was trained to kill Vampires, but really not experienced enough to get the job done.
In Were Love Blooms, Madison Lee is the ultimate Southern Belle, but a European vacation gives her something they didn’t cover in her Southern Belle handbook. A raging case of the werewolf cooties. Nicholi Grant, the hero in this story, is the consummate straight-man to her Lucille Ball. Like I said above. Comedy without seriousness doesn’t cut it.
Love Free Stake Hard, gives us Deme, a four thousand year old Vampire, who has never truly lived. It’s up to our human heroine, Dela, to show him that a life not lived is not really a life at all.
Each of those three examples start off at that norm base line I talked about. Normal people in normal, or in my case, paranormal, situations thrust into situations that can’t help but lend themselves to comedic episodes. You twist the serious until you laugh at it or cry from experiencing it.
I know I’ve harped on that sorrow and cry business, but that is the heart of comedy. Avoiding the stuff that you can’t face without going insane.
A Southern Deb who suddenly becomes a werewolf? To her, it’s the end of her world. To us, it’s a chance to laugh along with her until she realizes her curse just might be the thing that she’s needed to make her stronger.
A first time Vampire Slayer, who might not be up to the challenge, but who is up to falling for the Vampire she’s sent to kill? Again, end of one world, beginning of another.
These aren’t just stories, they’re examples of looking on the bright side and finding happiness.
And, that just might be the point of Comedy.
Til, next week…