Comedy: Variations, preferences, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

My comedy tastes are a little different from most of the people I know. I’m a little bit more demanding, I think. I’ve encountered more good comedy since, but when I was younger, I didn’t see a lot of works in the genre that met my standards.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail will always hold a special place in my heart, because it was the movie that taught me comedy could be good. Before, most of the comedy I’ve encountered (and much of the comedy I’ve encountered since) has been about having fun at someone’s expense–putting characters in embarrassing situations, for example. That never really appealed to me as I was too busy feeling bad for the victim to laugh.

This movie showed me that there were other forms that comedy could take, and some of them were very good and some of them were very clever. There was irony, absurdity, defying expectations. Plenty of ways for something to be funny without it being funny by making other characters feel bad.

The key for me is that the characters take everything seriously. They embrace the things that make them funny, instead of being embarrassed or made to feel less by them.

Here’s a clip from the movie, put up by Monty Python on YouTube:

The reason it’s funny is because of the discrepancy between the things that are obvious to the viewer and the things that are obvious to the characters (the latter being exaggerated, of course). It’s more creative this way, too.

And the monks hitting their heads with boards–it’s funny because of how seriously they’re taking it, and because their actions defy our expectations. Not like someone running into a locker, which other people do find funny, I understand that. I just wouldn’t find it funny. Unless the character got back up, yelled “I’m okay!” and kept walking like nothing happened. That might make me crack a smile.

Going by the comedic genres as listed on Wikipedia, the description for surreal comedy sounds like the type of stuff I’d think is funny– “a form of humor based on bizarre juxtapositions, absurd situations, and nonsense logic.” Not all absurd situations are funny, of course–being funny isn’t easy. Monty Python is good at this kind of comedy, but not everything they do appeals to me. Still, a lot does, and they’ve got a pretty high success rate.

What kind of stuff makes you laugh? Slapstick, irony, satire?

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2 Responses to Comedy: Variations, preferences, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

  1. and Rose Red says:

    This is a pretty interesting post. I generally default to telling people that I don’t like much comedy or avoid going to see anything in theaters that is marketed solely as a comedy because I know I probably won’t care much for it – but I forget about thinks like Monty Python, which I do love. And technically some of the television shows I like watch are comedies, or more comedy than anything else…

    I agree that I don’t like the hurting-people-to-be-funny comedy, but I think it’s also that I don’t like immature comedy. It’s always bugged me how some things can be labelled “adult” or “mature” becuase they’re full of people talking about sex and swearing but with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. I like smarter humor, not the stuff that’s just thrown together to be stupid or shocking.

    • Marie Erving says:

      It’s always great to hear that others share some of preferences in comedy. Most people don’t. And yeah, the stuff that’s harder to come up with definitely has a higher potential to impress me.

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