Film School Confidential: FUNNY HOW?

If you thought I was done talking about last week at Film School, you are mistaken!

Friday was a look on the bright side of things, talking comedy with Lars Detlefsen, head of the screenwriting course at the National Film School of Denmark. We were treated with clips from Hot Rod, Play it Again Sam and Laurel & Hardy. Our writing assignment for the day was to create a fun scene from a set of rules; the location, a prop, two characters and their motivations. And something had to break in the scene. In contrast with earlier writing exercises, this time it played out as a jam session were we all worked on the same scene. Detlefsen seemed to like what we came up with, although I suspect he was making up for the brutal story criticizm he dished out last time we attended the Master Class program.

So, what did we learn about comedy? Here are a few extracts from my notes:

The theme of comedy is often/always Man Against the World. Things don’t work. Drama is Man Against Man, tragedy is Man Against God(s).

A true comedic character does not learn from his mistakes and is oblivious to his own faults. He doesn’t know he is funny/laughable. He is his own worst enemy. A great example was Woody Allen in Play it Again, Sam, who creates all his own problems, trying to act like someone else all the time.

When people break the code of a place or situation, comedy ensues. A men’s urinal where a bride in white gown enters. Why is it funny? Because she shouldn’t be there. It’s breaking the code/expectations.

Besides breaking the code, parody/exaggeration is also a way to make people laugh.

Good comedy must contain a level of truth, of true pain.

Not in the comedy section, but still pretty funny, here are some random quotes from the week:

“I disagree 100% with everything you say”
– Discussing meaning of a movie in class

“The natural story of a cake is to be eaten”
– A lesson from the Master: Mogens Rukow

“My Ritalin is your porn”
– Fellow students comparing sizes stories

“It’s not an easy thing to make us care about someone else’s problems”
– Lars Detlefsen on raising the stakes for your protagonist

“What you give is what you loose”
– True nihilistic wisdom from a fellow student

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