To a certain extent, I agree. It's very easy to write bad comedy, not so easy to write it really well. Luckily, I learned from some of the greats.
Everything I know about comedy? I learned from the Muppets.
Okay, so maybe that's exaggerating, but still? If you want to write funny, sit down and watch a few episodes. You'll learn things like this:
The takeaways from this clip?
- You can never go wrong with a gag about tickling chickens.
- Pigs in spacesuits are pretty funny too.
- It's no secret that I adore Jim Henson. I wish I could find the exact quote, but one time he said something like, "If a joke isn't funny enough the first time, repeat it five times. It'll be hilarious." Okay, so I'm sure he said it a lot better than I did, but the point is the same. One of the hardest things I've had to learn (and am still learning) is where that sweet spot is repetition-wise. Every joke has one. Some don't need repeating, because they're funny enough the first time. Others need a little help. But here's the problem: if you repeat too many times, you actually LESSEN its impact. I think some of the classic book mashups suffer from this problem. The first time the (insert creature here) attacks (a character from classic literature), it's freaking hilarious. The second time? Yeah, it's funny. If you don't add something different by the third time? Boring. We've seen it all before, so the novelty is gone and we're looking for something new and unexpected to laugh at. So repeating gags need some development. I always look for ways to add to them, make them funnier. In this case? Henson turns the gag around at the end, and the chicken's chasing the Swedish chef with the cleaver. The unexpectedness makes it funnier and caps off the gag.
What do you think? Have you ever used a running gag in your work? What do you think of them in general?