Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Game Face

Why does a chicken cross the road?

Stop right there. I know you are already tempted to say the chicken crosses the road in order to stay the course, but we are not going to settle for that; we are going for the risky business of dissecting the chicken.

In the question, Why does the chicken cross the road, you have the essential DNA of humor.

A chicken--any chicken--wanting to cross a road is a concept. Remember that. A character who wants something, however humble or grandeloquent becomes a concept. A character with a plan. There can be no humor unless there is a character with a plan.

Humor does not exist in a vacuum; it needs a dramatic situation. A character with a plan is a dramatic situation.

Now add an attitude--either to the chicken or to one who views the chicken.

How is the chicken seen?

Depends on the viewer.

Attitude is a powerful force in humor. We laugh at the chicken or the viewer of the chicken because of the attitude of that chicken or that viewer. Accordingly, we manipulate the attitude of that chicken or of the viewer to the point where we know the attitude of the chicken or the viewer is going to cause someone some grief. Humor is a quality or perception that produces recognition and if the recognition is apt and jarring, quite possibly we get laughter as a result.

Humor is a situation that literally explodes, discharges, combusts, thus effectively destroying seriousness.Humor detects a target, strikes the target, and removes it from its position. There is no such thing as victimless humor.

The possibilities with our metaphorical chicken are endless.

The chicken crossed the road to get into the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

Or as the vice president of the United States might put it, "Give me ten minutes with that chicken and by God, I'll find out.

Plato would argue that the chicken crossed the road for the greater good.

Mark Twain would have the news of the chicken crossing the road having been greatly exaggerated.

The President of the United States would allow that the chicken crossed the road to remain relevant.

You would not have had to have seen Five Easy Pieces to wonder what Jack Nicholson would have made of that chicken.Set-up, character, and scene. Humor is now launched at a target to do its mischief.

1 comment:

Lori Witzel said...

The most elegant (as in the mathematical sense of elegance) equations of humor I've seen?

Look, and look again, at the Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. Chuck Jones is a master. (And his Coyote has a Mark Twain lineage.)

And a little feather-duster: