The Art and Craft of Comedy

Course Type
Short Course

A day of comedy at Raindance from U.S. comedy expert from Hollywood, David Misch (“Mork and Mindy”, “The Muppets Take Manhattan”, “Saturday Night Live”).

A critical, and serious (though funny) exploration of comedy as an art form.

What You will Get

How Comedy Works (Morning Session)

How Comedy Works gives actors, writers, directors, producers and Crafts Service personnel a close up of comedy’s innards, the idea being that understanding how comedy works will help you work in comedy.

Discover the Rule of 3 (why are things funnier in threes? Really, why? I mean, why?), the calculations involved in timing, (comedy cues, and why withholding them is sometimes the best way to get a laugh) why your body is hilarious (the evil of punchlines and comedy “placebos”) and how the mechanics of jokes – tension and resolution, pattern recognition, misdirection and surprise – provide a template for all humour.

The presentation includes copious comedy clips from TV and movies which show how these principles translate into actual laughter.


The Painful Relationship Between Humour and Horror (Afternoon session 1)

Humour and horror seem pretty different; one’s a pie in the face, the other’s an axe in the skull. It’s obvious why watching someone being torn asunder would be horrible but what’s funny about the endless suffering in knockabout physical comedy? Could there be congruencies between funny and fear, snickers and screams, gore and gags, slapstick and slaughter?

Using video clips and examples ranging from Immanuel Kant to The Exorcist this talk proposes – carefully, while remaining alert and well-armed – that these two genres are not mortal enemies.

The Shame of Satire (Afternoon session 2)

Right now may be the Golden Age of satire, but does shaming have any effect? Even many satirists don’t think so, yet push-back’s been harsh, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and repression of satirists worldwide, from imprisonment of Chinese bloggers to a comedian on trial in Germany.

Even in England and America satirists are frequently accused of being unacceptably offensive. So how do we decide when satire goes too far?

This multimedia talk explores how comedy deals with society’s taboos and censorship, from forbidden farts in Afghanistan to the silencing of a South African puppet, along with Groucho Marx, Richard Pryor, Monty Python, South Park, Key & Peele, the Russian Orthodox Church, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, and two outrageous Saturday Night Live sketches written by former U.S. Senator Al Franken.

Most of all, we’ll see how satire gets people to examine their assumptions and presumptions because, ultimately, satire is less about getting you to change your mind than getting you to think.

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