Probably the most unfunny book I ever read in my life was Sigmund Freud's Jokes and The Relationship To The Unconscious Mind. Boy, that man knew how to kill a joke. E.B. White said, "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it."
The best writing on the subject of the mechanics of laughter was a chapter of Desmond Morris' book Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior. Morris said, in essence that a laugh is combination of two rapidly successive emotions. It is a cry quickly followed by a sigh of relief. This makes a lot of sense. When we are born we come out crying. We had a nice rent free apartment for nine months and suddenly we are evicted and thrown out into this scary world. When you are a baby, everything is scary. Noises upset you. Feelings of hunger upset you. Shitting yourself scares you. So you cry. And at first your eyes aren't fully developed, so all you see of people are big scary shapes. So you cry. But there is one big shape that seems to take care of you and protect you. It's different from the other big scary shapes. That shape is called Mom. So, this shape approaches you and your first reaction is to cry, but almost immediately after that reaction, you realize it's Mom and you sigh with relief. Mom makes you laugh.
So laughter is a reaction to something that seems threatening, but turns out to be safe. Let me give you a couple of examples.
When most people ride a roller coaster, they scream because they are scared. When I ride a rollercoaster, I laugh for the whole ride. People think I'm nuts. But I am reasonably assured when I'm on a rollercoaster at Disneyland or Las Vegas, that I am going to survive the ride. That feeling of safety is my sigh or relief. No matter how threatening that ride seems to be, my feeling of safety lets me relax and laugh. (Now if I was riding a rollercoaster at a County Fair where I'm not sure if the tatooed ex-con working for minimum wage who is running the ride, and just set it up last night and has to set it up in the next town in a couple day, so he might not have tightened up all the bolts, then I'm not sure I'm going to survive this ride and I will definitely scream).
Or your big brother might start tickling you and it makes you laugh. It is an assault on your person, but you know you aren't really getting hurt, so you laugh. You tell him to stop. He doesn't stop. You are still laughing. You ask him to stop again. He doesn't stop. You aren't laughing so much. Then you plead with him to stop and he doesn't stop. Now you are crying, because the threat is getting serious.
Comedy is an tickling assault. If i actually tickled you, I could be arrested for assault. But if I do it right, I can stand up on stage and tickle somebody in the back row of the theater with my words. Underneath comedy is an implied violence. If a comedian makes the audience laugh, they come backstage and say things like, "I killed them. I slayed them". If the audience doesn't laugh, the comedian comes backstage and complains, "I died out there."
There are two parts to a joke. The first part is THE SETUP. This is the part where I talk about something everyone is familiar with. This is usually followed by a pause, where you let that sink in and know everyone is on the same page. The second part is THE PUNCHLINE (more violent imagery). This is where you give it a twist. You subvert everything you just said in THE SETUP. THE PUNCHLINE is an assault on the audience's logic. So they go through the stages of "Hey, wait a minute. That wasn't what I was expecting. Oh, he's only kidding." The audience is safely attacked, so they laugh.
My Dad used to watch all the comedians on TV. He had a million jokes and loved telling them. He lectured me, "Never laugh at your own jokes. People kill jokes by laughing at them. They start laughing and tell you 'This is the funniest joke you ever heard". So they are making your expectations too high and no joke can fill the expectations. Just tell the joke straight and if they don't laugh, move on to the next joke. My Dad burned that advice into my DNA so that anyone who knows me can see the clues that I am going to tell a joke. I get very serious and then deliver the zinger.
In the very first college animation class I taught, one student pissed me off all semester. He picked up on when I was about to tell a joke and sandbagged me every damn time. I would tell THE SETUP and pause.........From the back of the room, I would hear him go, "Two, three, four." He fucked up my timing on every joke the whole semester. I wanted to kill that kid. But every semester, I would assign my animation students to do their own short piece of animation. They had to come up with the idea themselves and execute the animation on their own. Of all the students, he was the only animator whose gags had perfect timing. Every slapstick gag, went two, three, four bang, two, three, four bang, two, three, four bang, etc. The timing had sunk in and I gave him an A.
I will write more about comedy in
Check out my new website: http://hammcamcaricatures.com/. I do caricatures either in person at parties or events, or via Skype, I can be a live virtual caricaturist at an event anywhere in the world. Just plant your guest in front of a webcam. I can see them and they can see the caricature seem to draw itself on your computer screen. Since I'm only virtually at your party, you won't have to feed me. And I don't have to drive. It's a win-win!
COUNTDOWN: ONLY SIX DAYS LEFT TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE INDIEGOGO "CREATED EQUAL" CAMPAIGN!
YOU THINK YOU HAVE PROBLEMS? Some of the artists in my inspiring documentary have autism, Down's Syndrome, or cerebral palsy and still complete their art. One of the artists is legally blind and wheelchair bound and completes her art. Some of the artists are born with mental and physical challenges. Others started out "normal" and were later to meet challenges. One choked on a peanut and was brain damaged. One was shot between the eyes. They still complete their art. Hear their incredible stories in their own words and see their incredible art. It's all narrated by JULIE NEWMAR (CATWOMAN), whose own son has Down's Syndrome. Last few days to contribute. (For a $20 contribution, you can get an exclusive Catwoman ringtone recorded by Julie Newmar herself.) http://www.indiegogo.com/created-equal
I was interviewed on The Verve Show this past Thursday night, talking about "Created Equal" and animation in general. Just click on the play button to hear it. It was pretty funny. I had a good time and Malcolm Grissom and Nicole Turley, the hosts are wonderful people.
You can hear why I hate The Little Mermaid and how I wish Pixar could loosen up with their character designs. http://www.fccfreeradio.com/?page_id=4701
I always drew caricatures by sketching them in pencil first, working out the basic shapes in the face and then inking the lines I wanted to keep, and erasing the sketchy pencil lines. I averaged about 10 or 12 caricatures per hour. But this weekend I was hired to do caricatures for a company picnic. Just before they were letting people in, I discovered I had forgotten my pencil. All I had was sharpies.
But I went for it and drew straight ahead in ink with no sketch. The drawings came out better and in three hours, I had drawn over a hundred caricatures. That averaged out to about 33 an hour. It was like casting aside the training wheels and biking the Tour De France.
I was interviewed today on Rick Mizuno's Indies In Motion radio show. Shana, who is one of the artists featured in "Created Equal: The Artists of Alchemia was interviewed too. http://gvbradio.com/player2/?file=Indies-092412.mp3&title=Indies%20in%20Motion%2009/24/12
Here is the list of ringtones recorded by Julie Newmar as Catwoman, that contributors of $20 to "Created Equal: The Artists of Alchemia" can choose one from:
1. Get the money.
2. Batman, if I were to kiss you, would you think I was a badgirl?
3. I’m not just pussyfooting around this time, Batman.
4. Ta-ta for now. I’m off to pluck Robin’s feathers.
5. The early cat catches the Batman.
6. Bat on a hot tin roof.
7. You can brush my pussywillows before you leave. But just don’t go against the fur.
8. Batman, I didn’t know you could yodel.
9. Batman, you saved my life.
10. Batman, are you spoken for? Married? Engaged? Going steady? Boy, have I got a girl for you.
11. I can help you in your work. As a former criminal, I’d be invaluable. I can reform. Honestly, I can.
12. Robin? Oh, I got it. We’ll kill him.
If you wanted a ringtone for your perk, choose one and I will email it to you. When your phone rings and people ask you where you got that ringtone, please tell them about our project.
The Olympics put a big crimp in the momentum of my Indiegogo campaign. The campaign started on Wednesday and seemed to increase by $100 each day until Friday when the Olympics started. Everyone's attention (even mine) was on the Olympics for two weeks and the fundraising for "Created Equal: The Artists of Alchemia" flatlined. In the last few days, the momentum has started to build up, but the campaign was coming to its last couple of days. Fortunately Indiegogo was kind enough to let us extend the deadline until November 22. That should give us time to spread the word, through social media, press releases, and radio shows. I will be shooting the film as I am fundraising and plan to finish the film by November too. As I finish sections of the film, I will post them on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Indiegogo so you can be a part of the process and see progress on the film.
For people who have already contributed, you will get your perks in about two weeks. The T-shirts might take three weeks since we are starting with a new printing company. The credits in the film and the DVD will obviously have to wait until the film is completed in November.
Thank you to all who have contributed so far. I will post more names on the thank you pg
Yesterday the contributions to "Created Equal: The Artists of Alchemia" jumped from $675 to $935. You can see a list of the generous contributors.
Julie Newmar said some very kind words about the project on her Facebook page.
The big news is a new perk for contributors to "Created Equal". If you contribute $20, you can get Julie Newmar's voice in a ring tone for your phone. Julie has graciously agreed to record a ring tone. She will write the ringtone herself in her own words, so you know it will be worth hearing, This will be a rare collectors item for just a$20.
Here is the link. We already had our first contribution this morning. http://www.indiegogo.com/created-equal We are aiming to reach our $20,000 goal in 30 days. Then I can begin filming this inspiring story about the artists of Alchemia who let no obstacle