As you may have seen my post yesterday I have set out on a journey to find trends in blog data. (Hey, I try to make it fun) As such, it was while watching Netflix today that I remembered another trend I had noticed previously, continuing in the show I was watching.
Let me ask you, what, in art, is currently the fastest improving genre. Music, movies, TV’s, street art, whatever. What is your number 1? Rock Music? Certainly current indie artists are making huge waves in the mainstream ocean.
Perhaps its Fantasy/Sci-Fi movies that continually evolve into more serious forms of art. What passed for ‘comic book’ movie 15 years ago, is now darker in nature, with bigger budgets, more effects, and improved scripts.
For myself, its comedy. Specifically in movies and TV, but also on stage. Here is why.
For many years, many MANY years in fact, comedy on stage and screen was viewed as, and ultimately on most levels was, silly. Eventually, after formerly being taboo, it was often crude as well. TV ‘Sitcoms’ were mostly cookie cutter scenarios with different casts and slightly different situations. In the 70’s and early 80’s, a few top studios, writers, and producers built the platform for what a good sitcom would resemble. Shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore show and Taxi helped define a new comedy. A single independent woman in a man run world helped set the stage for shows like Roseanne, whom basically resembled the anti Mrs Cleaver. Taxi went on to set the place for other great sitcoms set almost exclusively in the work place. Shows such as Night Court and Cheers.
Silly antics are still the norm in these examples. While topical situations of current events would seep in, most episodes were still devoted to over the top situations. However, it was expanding on over the top situations, silly antics, and crude humor to boot, A show came out in the most unsuspecting of formats and hit topical and current events week after week, again almost exclusively. The show was (And continues to be) South Park.
On the other side of the comedy tracks we had indie filmmakers making two vastly different fields of comedy. One very dark, and the other very intelligent. (Think Death to Smoochie versus Clerks)
So, while I could spend all day dissecting this comedic art form, it is one specific comedy sub-genre that I think is really making strides to become, if you will pardon the expression, a serious art form.
The specific form I’m referring to is the hybrid comedy. The hybrid comedy is that in which it is also some other form of movie or TV entertainment. For instance, romantic comedies, detective comedies, horror comedies, taking another genre that is already taken seriously, and make fun of it. That last bit there is real important, we are making FUN of what we are doing. (The obvious exception is the Romantic Comedy, as it, most of the time, does pretty good at being taken seriously.)
Horror comedies, of course, often very silly whether they are brilliant or not. Movies like Scream and Mel Brooks classic Young Frankenstein (Kudos if you know how to pronounce his name properly, btw), helped to show that we were learning the best comedy was what the film studios were already doing.
But what if we really happen to LOVE the genre we want to do a comedy of? Do we just tell people during the premier? “Yeah, I was making this comedy because I make serious movies and I wanted to poke a little fun at it, but I love my serious movies cause they make me more money” and put out a ‘meh’ comedy or worse, a bad representation on the art form of which you were trying to make fun?
Now, it’s comedy… Its silly and no one takes it seriously, so even if I care about the genre I’m breeding my young script-ling with or are in the middle of filming, why should I bother? Because, people like me are out here who appreciate it.
I submit example 1, the Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg classic Zombie/Comedy, Shaun Of The Dead. This movie had everything going for it as a comedy. It had a great script that followed that of most classic Zombie flicks perfectly, ribbing on them at the right times. It had a great cast who played well off of each other AND the material. But what about the Zombie part?
If you follow Edgar Wrights brilliant direction, you make a kick-arse zombie flick.
If you go to its wiki page and scroll down to awards and recognition and at that point start reading, the first few points are confirming that it is indeed a good comedy. In 2005 it was rated the third greatest comedy film of all time by a Channel 4 Poll. Stephen King rates it as a ’10’ on the fun scale. Ok, it’s Stephen King but he did use the word ‘fun’. And in 2007, Stylus Magazine rated it as the 9th greatest Zombie film of all time.
Wait, what? Yep, an award for a ZOMBIE film. A genre which during the 80’s and 90’s had become very serious and often respected forms of Movie Art. Here was a movie making fun of those and is rated as the 9th greatest.
Horror movie website ‘Bloody Disgusting’ rated the film SECOND in their list of ‘the 20 Greatest Horror Movies of the Decade’. They went on to say, it is not just the best horror comedy of the decade, but quite possibly the best horror comedy of all time.
This is a very high honor in the comedy world. To be truly respected by those you mock because you do it well. And in this case, actually make a valid and vivid looking representation.
And while I will limit myself to two examples, I am picking two that I believe to have helped evolve this ‘slash’ comedy to new heights in a short amount of time. That is why the second on my list is the show that has me writing today, and that is Psych.
I am a Psych fanatic. I love the show, the cast, the crew, the writing. I have seen every episode, or so I thought. I found a lone episode in season 5 that I had missed some how. In this they were now even making fun of themselves, with Gus commenting on Shawns ‘I see a clue’ face. And yes, this show is silly, but its also very intelligent, on it’s comedy side.
Psych is one of those recent shows to have embraced the geekdom that is taking over mainstream media. Shows like Big Bang Theory and the IT Crowd as well as Better Off Ted (For the business geeks) have pushed us out of our dark corners to under the bright lights. And so has Psych, with its constant references to pop culture spanning, while mostly the 80’s, all decades where there may be a rabid fan who goes ‘geek’ over their obsession.
But what about the mystery part? If you haven’t seen it, Psych is a Mystery/Detective Comedy show. Making fun of popular Mystery and detective shows by not only having some silly characters or situations, but also on the grounds of how a lot of detective shows (I mean a LOT) have someone whom is not in law enforcement solving crimes. Numbers, the Mentalist (of which they elude to this particular similarity, calling it ‘fake’), and Bones, have otherwise geeky and social anxiety ridden people doing what the police just can’t seem to handle.
But what about the mystery and detective part? Well, they take a page from the Edgar Wright book and make kick-arse mystery episodes. They have great writers and an amazing crew of very talented people and they are making great detective stories, gripping moments, and carefully crafted mysteries.
Of course, they do it with a smile on their face.