Comedians' affinity for shockingly toxic ideas

Just Like That but Funny by Conan writer Todd Levin.

If there were a late-night comedy show completely run by comedy writers, without any interference from a host, producer, or network, that show would probably be called The Darkest and Most Impossibly Horrible Things You Can Imagine, Presented as Comedy. Every sketch would end with a gunshot or an infant’s stroller engulfed in flames, and the show would be canceled halfway through its opening titles. That’s because most comedy writers are so inured by humor that only the most shockingly toxic ideas can achieve the proper velocity to penetrate their indifference.

It's why using mics (or comics in the back of the room) as an arbiter of whether something is funny can be dangerous. What's funny to us ain't always the way the rest of the world sees it.

1 comment:

Roger said...

I disagree. There are tons of non-graphic or dark comedic ideas I find very funny in writer rooms that also make "general audiences" laugh a lot. Many writers are keenly aware of not wanting to go over the top in graphic and dark ways, and not because they are worried about offending people, but because it just isn't clever or funny most of the time.

Of course there will be some stuff that doesn't work, but it's much better to test the line than to block anything that comes close to it. There's broad shitty comedy that can make general audiences laugh, but there is also great comedy that can make comedians and broad audiences laugh at the same time. We should be aiming for the latter.

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