Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
boolean

Is comedy possible without the token idiot?

This topic is 5405 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

(This isn’t strictly game based, but is a writing question). I am soon to be starting a writing project that will be very humour based. The basic premise is that there is a big race (think cannonball run style event) and character A is all set to start the race, when her team-mate goes missing. The only way to stay in the race is get character B to join that team. Now, I started thinking about character B. At first my idea was to make him a bit of an idiot, always getting the team into trouble. Then it dawned on me, just about every TV series I could think of that is a comedy features ‘the idiot’. Everything from Simpson’s, to Seinfeld, to Scooby-Do have the token ‘idiot character’ in the show. So I tried to make him into a character that is still funny but not an idiot, but all the ideas I had eventually led back to him being not overly smart. I mean, in some ways it makes sense. Without the idiot, how does the team get into trouble each week? But surely there must be some way of avoiding this (what I see) cookie-cutter character, while still achieving a character that is funny. So basically, is it possible to have a funny main character in a comedy without him being overly smart? If so, what other character types can you think of? In fact, if you know of any comedic TV shows that don’t have the token idiot, please post them. Thanks all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
I'll have a hard time naming things, because most of my comedy entertainment is stand-up. It's also hard to think of ways to be funny withou the idiot, because so much revolves around them. :) But there is awkward situations and misunderstandings. Althought even those are mostly based on idiots. Because we all know idiots misunderstand things, and get themselves into awkward situations. You could just try having two completly different personality types between A and B

I'm with Busey (Busey is crazy.)

That 70's Show (A few idiots on this show, but not everything revolves around that. Red is a mean bastard, Kitty is uptight, Eric is a weakling, the guy at the camera shop is a stoner.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Make the character B very unlucky.

He may not be an idiot, he may be even quit smart, but things just don't go well for him. If he is a race driver then his car will surely be stopped by the policeman who has a malfunctioning alcohol test device.

The idea isn't new, but it is not so frequently used on TV.

Remember an old french 'La Chevre'.
I agree that the unlucky character is also 'an idiot' but he could as well be clever, that wouldn't change much. He would regularly get into trouble anyway - that is his destiny.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Unlucky is a good suggestion. I would also like to point out that there are lots of different kinds of stupid. Most characters aresmat in one way and dumb in some other way, like one is a mechanical whiz who can fix the race car but will hopelessly botch up any situatuion where he has to persuade someone to do something, and one is a genius who comes up with wacky invetons to add to the car, but forgets the practicalities, ike if the jet engine gives the car 4 Gs of thrust the driver will be pressed into her seat and unable to steer.

Don't know if you've ever seen the cartoon version of Beetlejuice but I thought it was an excellent example of comedy without either of the main characters being a moron.

But I would also personally suggest to you that 2 characters is not enough for a series comedy. Think of all your favorite series and racing comedies in particular - they all have 4 or more main characers, don't they?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Who was the idiot in Seinfeld? Kramer?

I think your right, we almost always see the comic device of a cast being the idiot of the group.. But for the most part, these character that we care about and laugh at, are deeper than just an idiot. Isnt it ok that the funny character is a moron, as long as we care about him/her?

Think Joey, from Friends:
The guys a flippin fool. Cant seem to get anything right, ever, never sees the whole picture, and doesnt think passed his stomach. But hes also a genuine man, who really only wants whats best for his friends, and most of the time, puts all of them before himself. We care about Joey.. we cant stand him when he tries to be philisophical, but thats when hes at his funniest. Maybe its just my opinion, but although we laugh when the writers make Joey step out of his realm of knowledge, we care when hes in his comfort zone, which is what really counts I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Decibit
Make the character B very unlucky.


Exactly. Wile E. Coyote is not an idiot.

'nuff said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A pretty common substitution for the idiot is the joker, as seen in many a Classic Hero Foursome (usually consisting of The Leader, The Muscle, The Brains, and The Joker). Some examples of the joker are Kramer (Seinfeld), Michelangelo (Ninja Turtles), or Ringo (Beatles). The joker is sometimes an idiot, but by no means has to be... It's quite possible to make a joker who is intelligent but merely "marches to the beat of a different drum" or just generally prefers goofing off to being serious, typically to the annoyance of his comrades.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Theres always violence. Violence is funny.

Actually, the idiot by himself isn't very funny unless its Homer Simpson. More often then not, a "Straight-Man" is needed to act as a reference point in order to make the idiot seem that way. Seinfeld is a great example of this, as Seinfeld (or george or elaine) are the "Straight Men" whenever Kramer is onscreen. After Kramer is established as an idiot, the Straight Man isn't neccessary anymore, since we know what the idiotic behavior is now.

In the case of Homer Simpson, he manages to act stupid enough to let us draw on our own intellectual reference points, making us the audience the straight men. But then again, gracie films never misses the opportunity to make Homer funny by pairing him up with someone normal.

Of course, and this is a great one, theres always comedic dynamics to use to your advantage, I.E. the Idiot and the Straightman exchange roles. Here, you play down the "idiot" aspect and draw on eccentricity. For example, if you've ever seen the britcom Father Ted, only Father Doogle qualifies as an Idiot, but its Father Ted whose the more funny character because while being a perfect straight man, he'll show some interesting eccentricity when it comes to matters of money and gambling.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks for the excellent replies. There are a lot of good ideas that I didn’t think of.

Quote:
Original post by Vampyre_Dark
That 70's Show (A few idiots on this show, but not everything revolves around that. Red is a mean bastard, Kitty is uptight, Eric is a weakling, the guy at the camera shop is a stoner.)


Ah good suggestion. It touches on what SnS said about there being many different kinds of 'stupid' characters.


Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Don't know if you've ever seen the cartoon version of Beetlejuice but I thought it was an excellent example of comedy without either of the main characters being a moron.


I checked it out, and I think its a really good idea what they did with the character. Rather that just being a moron and getting the rest of the cast into trouble each week, its his brazen attempt to go against the law at any cost, and his personal flaws (gambling etc.) that get everyone into trouble.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
But I would also personally suggest to you that 2 characters is not enough for a series comedy. Think of all your favorite series and racing comedies in particular - they all have 4 or more main characers, don't they?


There will be 3 main characters, but there will be 6 teams in all. Hopefully this should be enough.

Quote:
Original post by Nahoopii
Think Joey, from Friends:
The guys a flippin fool. Cant seem to get anything right, ever, never sees the whole picture, and doesnt think passed his stomach. But hes also a genuine man, who really only wants whats best for his friends, and most of the time, puts all of them before himself. We care about Joey.. we cant stand him when he tries to be philisophical, but thats when hes at his funniest. Maybe its just my opinion, but although we laugh when the writers make Joey step out of his realm of knowledge, we care when hes in his comfort zone, which is what really counts I think.


I think Joey is a good case for how the idiot character can still be very effective. I think part of the reason they manage to pull it off so well is that he isn’t just plain stupid, but its the fact that he has so many quirks and lives in his own little world. It’s kinda hard to put to words [grin]

Quote:
Original post by rypyr
Exactly. Wile E. Coyote is not an idiot.

'nuff said.


I don’t know, but I would actually put him in the stupid character class. He is always stuffing up, plans backfiring (usually by his inability to see impending danger), falls for a lot of the Roadrunners tricks etc. Then again, that’s just my interpretation.

Quote:
Original post by NoSuchMethod
The joker is sometimes an idiot, but by no means has to be... It's quite possible to make a joker who is intelligent but merely "marches to the beat of a different drum" or just generally prefers goofing off to being serious, typically to the annoyance of his comrades.


Ah excellent idea! That could work very well, as the main character could be ever so slightly portrayed as a bit of a goof, but its only because of his short attention span and inability to take anything seriously that gets him into trouble.

So for example, the casts car is broken down on the side of the road as Character-A struggles to fix it, while Character-B just sits around and says someone will probably be by shortly anyway and not to worry about it. Eventually he gets bored and wants an Ice-cream since its so hot, and wanders off without Characters A's knowledge, and end up falling down an embankment. The way I would interpret that scene is that Character B wasn’t stupid, just once again took the 'eh, just relax' approach.



Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Actually, the idiot by himself isn't very funny unless its Homer Simpson. More often then not, a "Straight-Man" is needed to act as a reference point in order to make the idiot seem that way. Seinfeld is a great example of this, as Seinfeld (or george or elaine) are the "Straight Men" whenever Kramer is onscreen. After Kramer is established as an idiot, the Straight Man isn't neccessary anymore, since we know what the idiotic behavior is now.


That’s an interesting observation, which I had never noticed. That will help a lot! It also gives me an idea on how to write the other characters aswell.


Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Of course, and this is a great one, theres always comedic dynamics to use to your advantage, I.E. the Idiot and the Straightman exchange roles. Here, you play down the "idiot" aspect and draw on eccentricity. For example, if you've ever seen the britcom Father Ted, only Father Doogle qualifies as an Idiot, but its Father Ted whose the more funny character because while being a perfect straight man, he'll show some interesting eccentricity when it comes to matters of money and gambling.


LOL! I love that show! (DRINK! DRINK!) It reflects your point above quite nicely, as without Father Ted, Doogle would not be as effective.

Thanks for the replies everyone! They have help immensely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
heya boolean,

To my knowledge most humour is at the expense of someone. That's what makes it funny, people like to laugh at people that they think are inferior in some way. This means that you can either make your character stupid, unlucky or just plain oblivious [imo].

I recently had a play which I cowrote performed [AU$12k profit] and the reception generally was that it was funny, but although there is the token idiot, other humour came from overuse of cliches, particularly when character's weren't supposed to realise that there was a cliche. If you have a bad guy, make him a cliche. If you have a hero - cliche. Put them into cliched situations and it'll generally be funny. Not to mention satire.

Similarly, another method that you can use to make your guy funny is to make him just really strange and do strange things - I mean, in my limited watching of Seinfeld, Kramer isn't particularly stupid most of the time, he's strange.

I guess that you could also make your funny guy being the one who points out the humour in other people, although if you want your character to be liked by the player - you need to make sure that it's either in good fun, the main character is more foolish than the people he's paying out, or the other guys are people who the player already hates.

But I might just be ranting...
//end rant
CJM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

GameDev.net is your game development community. Create an account for your GameDev Portfolio and participate in the largest developer community in the games industry.

Sign me up!