Monthly Archives: October 2010

My unifying theory of comedy

Comedy is probably my most dominating vice, more alluring to me than women or wine. And, much as I’ve studied the finer qualities of those other two, I feel – well, it’s sort of an obligation – I need to watch and to criticise and assess and ponder comedy every single day.

I once went to see Russ Abbot in London. I suppose that he, the Two Ronnies and Blackadder had a fundamental influence on what I find to be funny. Later, the Fast Show and Alan Partridge ruled my jokesphere. But it was in the discovery of late-night reruns of the Larry Sanders Show and Seinfeld that my comedy addiction finally found a home.

And Seinfeld led me to Curb Your Enthusiasm, naturally. That these two shows, born of the genius of Brooklyn-raised Larry David, are among the most celebrated TV shows ever is no surprise to me. I’ve always loved the New York fast-talkin’, wise-ass schtick that Woody Allen used in Annie Hall. But Curb taught me something else: the secret of great comedy.

And this is my theory.

Essentially, great comedy is made through a counterpoint of your lies and the lies of those you interact with. Pathos is important, at times, but the key is the manipulation of people and their manipulation of you. In other words, society and life are the comedy.

Now, I’m aware that this sort of thinking is pretty facile. I don’t claim this as ‘original thought’. But I’ve come to it all on my own, and now I feel the world needs to share it with me.

Oh, and Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 5 Episode 10 is the finest piece of comedy I’ve ever seen. It’s perfect. It deals with identity, mortality, selfishness and selflessness in a way that no movie ever could. Also the time-travel episode in the new Futurama season is pretty good. Pretty. Pretty. Pretty Good.