Thursday, January 27, 2005

Psst...there's an interview with Seth MacFarlane in this week's A.V. Club. Whether you love it or hate it, he's the creative force behind Family Guy...

53 comments:

Alex said...

Oh! Its one of Chris' patented "Here's a secret article" posts.

Just so there's no illusions, I hate Family Guy. Immensely. I'd be happy to talk to you about why for upwards of an hour, if you like.

christopher said...

Patent-Pending, actually.

I'm mixed. Family Guy does makes me laugh. A lot. But the characters have always seemed weak to me, and the storylines often seem loosely constructed as if only to house the constant stream of flashbacks and one shots the show's become famous for. But hey, so do inchworms. And those are only a little funny, max.

christopher said...

Ha. That makes no sense at all. There was supposed to be one more sentence in there towards the end, but I'll just leave it as is. You know. For kicks.

Stefan said...

You're so mysterious! I'll never figure you out! What's Chris's deal, anyway?

Alex said...

Due to a request by Brian, here's the unelaborated gist of why I hate family guy:

1) No warmth. At all.
2) No characterizations.
3) The characters often make me feel uncomfortable, both with their physiciality, and interactions.
4) Due to the compression theory of pop-culture I have developed for my own personal use, I find that Family Guy had almost no chance, given its format, to establish an identity seperate from the television shows that preceeded it. And, in fact, made no effort to try.
5) There are painfully long stretches of either lame or no jokes.

That being said, I have laughed at a lot of the stuff in the show, and it has had at least one of my favorite scenes in a cartoon ever.

At no point will I say that Family Guy is worthless. Its not. Especially not so, since a lot of people love it, and understandably so. I just hate it totally and completely.

I'm going to refrain from saying more, because I can seriously go on about it for a while.

Anonymous said...

just an opinion: usually when i hate a show "totally and completely" I don't watch it. is it faith that makes one hang on long enough to "have laughed at a lot of stuff"? or is it masochism? or then again is there a difference?

i'll hang up now and wait for your answer

Anonymous said...

a difference, I mean, between faith and masochism. not, what's the difference whether one watches shows they hate or not.

Monica said...

Alex is a connoisseur of all-things pop-culture...and has admirally spent time watching a show he hates which enables him to accurately state why he hates it. kudos. In my book, you can't hate without knowing what exactly you're hating.

Alex said...

Its neither faith nor masochism, actually. There's a couple of reasons I watched so many episodes of the Family Guy:

1) I watched the first three episodes, because I thought maybe it would get better. It didn't.

2) I watched more episodes because people seemed to love it so much. I thought maybe I had been unfair to it. I wasn't.

3) It then got huge ratings on Comedy Central, and sold a butt-load of DVDs. Also, it was on before Futurama, and sometimes I had nothing to do for 30 minutes. Eventually, I stopped this.

4) I will probably give it another chance when it comes back to television in a few months. "Perhaps they've grown in their absence," I will think.

The main thing here is that I don't want to unfairly trash something. I think Racing Stripes looks bad, but if someone told me it was great, I would have no basis to disagree with them.

However, since I had such a strong reaction to Family Guy, I'd had to make sure that I knew what I was talking about, or at the very least, defend my point. I think I can. Defend my point, I mean, although probably not as effectively in the comments section of a blog.

Also, while I was typing this out, Monica managed to encapsulate my point in one paragraph. Thanks Monica :)

Anonymous said...

point taken. nevertheless wouldn't you agree there is a bit of masochism in every critic? and a bit of dumb faith? and i'm not trying to be glib here. it's just that "the critic" seems to have a unique niche in our society and i find it curious just what makes him tick. for example, for awhile i was seeing on average a movie per week. quickly i got sick of all - good and bad. it made me think, "boy i could never do this for a living". same with music. from where i stand you can only take so much: don't have the faith. can't stand the pain.

Anonymous said...

"I love family guy" 6140
"I hate family guy" 270

Google Hath Spoken(TM).

Stefan said...

12 comments! A new record for the blog!

Though they're mostly us. And SeƱor Anonymous.

Alex said...

I'm pretty sure we got up to 13 comments for that heated discussion on video games a few weeks back. [And now this comment brings this one up to 13]

Our most controversial posts involve video games and cartoons. Good.

brian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stefan said...

About the critic thing, I've also done that extensively, especially with music. When Napster came out, I wanted to sample everything that was popular, just to find out about it -- which explains my disproportionate-to-my-liking-them number of Creed MP3s -- because I like to know what people are into even if I hate it. I almost always want to figure out what it is that people like about a particular something.

As for Family Guy, it's very funny sometimes, but I can't love it. I like nothing more in my entertainment (music, movies, television) than a sense of honesty and sincerity (like the genuine family sense that anchors the Simpsons in a reality) and I feel like the Family Guy would (and does) sacrifice characters for jokes, and I therefore can't get attached to it. I'll watch, but I won't care.

Stefan said...

Brian has been removed by this post.

brian said...

Hey, cartoons are important. They frequently reflect social values and conventions and then break with those ideals and assumptions to make things "funny."

Thanks for the explanation Alex.

I agree with Stefan.

Anonymous said...

listen i'm not trying to prove a point (or am i?). but... what is the joy that critic's have in skewering a particular work(and really this is addressed to no one in particular)(really)(no, really). as i see it, there is a sado/masochistic element in the art of the critic. (not that there is anything wrong with that)(really)

Anonymous said...

I liked Anonymous's point. Eponymous and pseudonymous got SERVED!!

Anonymous said...

Right on! You go gender-unspecified poster!

brian said...

Really this should be another (non-Family Guy) thread, but I think the critics take more joy from seeing, or pointing out good work than they do slamming bad work. I remember reading once (possibly Steven Hunter) that "critics desperately want to be entertained." Which is why they are prone to go bonkers over something like Charlie Kaufman movies, which are different and interesting. (I'm sure people have other examples...)

While it may be fun to just hate on stuff for a while, it also gets old to say "this sucks" and then have to provide a list of why exactly it does suck. I'm sure critics sit through plenty of movies (plays, tv shows, music, etc.) where they would rather be doing other things. Which is why they get paid to show up. It's the dirty work necessary to be able to highlight great or entertaining work and to share that with others. I don't see critics as masochistic, just frustrated and occasionally bored. And sometimes they take it out on crappy films.

And really their job is to go to the movies and write about it, which you know, beats sitting in a cube. (Or packing meat or cleaning bathrooms or whatever.)

Anonymous said...

first to clarify. i'm the non-capitalizing anonymous(NCP).

and now I can't help but respond.

yes brian,i agree that critics prefer the joy of a good review but that's where the masochism comes in - look at the crap they sit through to get to the good stuff. so much crap.

that's why I also disagree with you. i'd rather clean bathrooms. at least there it's clear crap is crap and no one is trying to pretend otherwise.

that's also why i appreciate the critic. it's good to have a scout sniffing the way for others. (and i'm not being facetious)

yes, i know sometimes you have to tough it out and find out for yourself. but that's when i feel like I'M the masochist.

ps EL is the best! not crap at all!

Anonymous said...

first to clarify. i'm the non-capitalizing anonymous(NCP).

and now I can't help but respond.

yes brian,i agree that critics prefer the joy of a good review but that's where the masochism comes in - look at the crap they sit through to get to the good stuff. so much crap.

that's why I also disagree with you. i'd rather clean bathrooms. at least there it's clear crap is crap and no one is trying to pretend otherwise.

that's also why i appreciate the critic. it's good to have a scout sniffing the way for others. (and i'm not being facetious)

yes, i know sometimes you have to tough it out and find out for yourself. but that's when i feel like I'M the masochist.

ps EL is the best! not crap at all!

Anonymous said...

first to clarify. i'm the non-capitalizing anonymous(NCP).

and now I can't help but respond.

yes brian,i agree that critics prefer the joy of a good review but that's where the masochism comes in - look at the crap they sit through to get to the good stuff. so much crap.

that's why I also disagree with you. i'd rather clean bathrooms. at least there it's clear crap is crap and no one is trying to pretend otherwise.

that's also why i appreciate the critic. it's good to have a scout sniffing the way for others. (and i'm not being facetious)

yes, i know sometimes you have to tough it out and find out for yourself. but that's when i feel like I'M the masochist.

ps EL is the best! not crap at all!

Anonymous said...

would the real non-capitalizing anonymous please stand up, cause i thought it was me. did i ask my coworkers to steal my shift key

imagine that someone with a shift key was writing this and there was a question mark at the end there

el rocks
los rock

Anonymous said...

oh,sure you're saying

cut and paste your capital letters in

tell that to the guy/girl who took my cutter-paster thingy

Anonymous said...

to all the other anonymous non-capitalizing efforts: thanks i needed that.

also wanted to say thanks to Alex for sharing his experience re: family guy. i don't doubt his sincerity.

also wanted to say, i hate family guy too. really hate it. i take its badness personally. i get angry watching it. i think its a horrible horrible show. (and yes i've watched it more than once)(but never more than 10 minutes at a sitting)

also wanted to admit that some of my favorite musical offerings were hard earned appreciations. that is, i hung in there after initially hating it but from the advice of friends (and/or critics) listened again and again til i finally got it.

Andrew Missel said...

Alex, from what I've read in this blog about your takes on movies, music, TV, etc., I think we have very different tastes, but I could not agree with you more about 'The Family Guy.' It's heartless and cheap; if there's a groaner joke to be made, it'll make it. And while, unlike Stefan, I don't need sincerity or warmth in my entertainment, I need SOME feeling, even if it's bad. 'Seinfeld' is a very dark show when you really think about it, but at least the characters' lives are explored to some extent. In 'The Family Guy,' the characters' lives are only interesting insofar as they can be used to set up punchlines, and cheap ones at that.

We've learned, as adult cartoon watchers, to accept a certain amount of incoherence and inconsistency (didn't that character lose his job last week?...oh, never mind) in our cartoons, and, for a cartoon to alienate us with its lack of continuity would be pretty difficult. 'The Family Guy' manages. Sure, it has some funny jokes, but you feel cheap (or should) after laughing. Unless you're stoned. Which I'm pretty sure is the target audience anyway.

Anonymous said...

As a meat packer who likes to clean bathrooms while being stoned, I'd just like to say I hate Seinfeld, love Family Guy but would rather watch Futurama. Oh, and remember The Critic with John Lovitz?!? I feel indifferent about it. Go Eagles!

And on a sidenote: shouldn't comedy stand together? I mean even at the GG's, wasn't it Robin Williams who basically said it was comedy that gets "shat" upon in the industry to a certain extent? Comedy is one of the only great forms of expression that constantly either remains relevant or continues to evolve. I'm not sure how fair it is to harp one one person's form of expression simply because it lacks warmth. I understand that comedy doesn't have to be distasteful, snarky or cruel to be funny... but who determines the comedic canon, if you will, and is comedy so full of its own self-righteousness that it would even align itself with something so pretentious? I don't know. All you need is love. And I agree with the rest of the anonymi, EL does rock.

Neal K said...

I find it unlikely anyone will ever read this comment as I had to force myself through to the end of the previous comments only because I my self wanted to comment.

I too hate Family Guy
I too have given it multiple chances.

I realized on my last attempt about a month ago, that one of the problems goes deeper than merely lack of "warmth" and not making you care about the characters. It's just down right meanspirited, towards it's subjects and it's own character. Comedy needs to make fun of targets and I don't believe that a certain subject should be "off limits," but watching Family Guy just makes me feel nothing but negativity swelling up inside of me. Like animated death metal.

Not that I have anything against death metal.

I don't think that us Family Guy Haters are implying that people shouldn't enjoy Family Guy if they want to. By all means, buy all manner of lasers and shiny plastic circles to facilitate this.

But FOX should bring back Futurama before they bring back Family Guy.

On a positive note, isn't Arrested Development great?

Anonymous said...

i can't get into arrested development for some reason. i know it's supposed to be "fresh" and "inventive," but i find it uninspiring and unoriginal. is there something wrong with me? what about curb your enthusiasm? can i get a hell yeah?

Anonymous said...

i agree with the assessment that the number one problem with family guy is that it is meanspirited. the other show that i can think of that is also meanspirited is seinfeld. but i like seinfeld. alot. 'cause it's funny. tremendously so. still i have a bias against meanspiritedness.

but i gotta get back to my original point. why do we continue to watch family guy when we know in our heart of hearts that it aint no good? when do we trust our instincts and just say, woa i aint gonna waste my time on this trash. are we so afraid of censorship and being judgemental that we don't allow ourselves final say.

just kidding.

note to Neal: i made it to yours. did you make it to mine?

Anonymous said...

curb is the shiznit to enth, hell-usheriffic-yeah!

Geoffrey said...

I'm going to go with the cop-out and say that I hate The Family Guy for all the reasons previously stated in relation to each other. I can like a show that's mean-spirited, I can like a show that's incoherent and I can like a show that's unoriginal, but when all three are put together I guess that's where I draw the line. Though I have seldom laughed harder than at that Kool-Aid Pitcher Guy joke from the first episode. Sigh.

Also:
Futurama, Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm rock. The Critic I don't like anymore. To me it's like the Family Guy except not mean.

Anonymous said...

Believe me, you don't truly get to hate The Family Guy until you've had to live in a house full of guys, half of which LOOOOOVE to get high and watch their first season dvds over and over and over and over....and not just the season, but the same 2 or 3 episodes...

over and over and over and over and over.....

And each time is just like they were seeing it for the first time. Pot is awesome! Yeah...it's really good.

Oh, and also it sucks when you write a character for yourself in your sketch troupe that is an evil boy genius in overalls...and people like it...and then a year later THE F'N FAMILY GUY comes out with Stewie...oh and just to make it perfect, they give the evil genius baby an adult voice...just like my character.

Now if I can just get Stefan to stop copying my Bugle Boy vests.

Alex said...

I like Andrew's point about the writers only seeming to care about the characters in terms of being set-ups for jokes.

Seinfeld is mean-spirited, and often the characters don't like each other, but you get the sense that the writers really enjoy torturing their subjects, because they care about them. That's important, and something that does not come through on FG.

Here's another thing I was thinking about from this thread last night, and its one of my huge problems with comedy, in general.

I HATE random collections of jokes. Jokes are nice. I used to love jokes, but ultimately, they don't mean anything. Yes, its nice to laugh, but at a certain point, you usually grow out of telling jokes, or at least wouldn't sit around telling jokes for 30 minutes straight.

I have the same problem, a lot of times, with the sketches we write (and even, sometimes, the sketches we put into shows [and even, sometimes, the sketches i write that go into show]). They're often nothing more than acollection of jokes, with nothing behind them.

HOWEVER, I do find that over time, we tend to weed out those sketches, and not really perform them anymore. The ones we do end up "taking on the road," as it were, are the sketches that have a little something more behind them, that are funny, but also connect on at least one more level as well, whether its emotional, or political, or just the tried and true "pointing out the hilarious inconsistencies of humans."

Family Guy, to me, operates on one level, and that's the telling of jokes. Therefore, to me, it becomes disposable entertainment.

I ALSO want to point out, that this is a relatively large debate in comedy. I personally fall on the side of, "it can't just be to make people laugh," but I respect and understand the argument for the other side.

And by the other side, I mean GHOOOOOSSSSTTTTSSSS.

Jeff said...

Man alive! It took me a considerable portion of my day to read all these comments. I love our blog. Even though that may not be clear to those who have noticed that I post far less than anyone else in the group. :)

Yeah, I guess I pretty much fall on the "hate FG" side of this debate as well (though interestingly, no one has posted yet with an argument that fully supports the "love FG" argument). Hate's a strong word, though. But I certainly don't like it.

What makes me dislike FG is a strong feeling of discomfort, almost like motion sickness, that I feel when watching it. The show has jerky rhythms. The Critic, though a much better show in my opinion, suffered from the same problems. Plot lines in FG are so disposable to the show's writers that I'm often worried that any idea demonstrated in the show will not be explored fully, once the writers decide to jerk the show in another direction after getting distracted by an (often funny) flashback joke. Eventually that worried feeling becomes constant for me, and I just get uncomfortable. Watching FG makes me feel like I'm handling some kind of unstable compound.

Are we just preaching to the choir here? It seems as though most of our beloved posters are in the same camp. Those who haven't derided FG in their posts have made some really interesting points about the merits of criticism and the importance of solidarity among comedians, but has anyone yet said, "You guys are dumb! FG rules for these reasons"? Somebody please tell us that we're wrong and stupid!!

Sorry this was a long post. Back to my usually-not-posting-very-much cave.

mjs said...

hi. just cuz jeff brought up the fact that no one is defending FG, and also he and alex and i once had a debate JUST LIKE THIS on our way back from somewhere, let me defend a little bit.
not much, because upon recent viewings i haven't enjoyed it as much as i did in the past.
and that's pretty much my point. when i started watching FG a few years ago, i was in a very intensive comedy writing situation. the group that i was writing with had a couple of severe limitations - everything had to be completely non-offensive, and totally family friendly. and also, it had to move FAST.
what i enjoyed so much about FG was how it broke the rules that i was forced to live by. in this case, i'll compare it to "the office". there are scenes on FG where the action will just stop. for, like, two minutes. and the pauses are uncomfortable. to the point where they're not funny anymore. and then they're suddenly friggin' hilarious!

so perhaps it's where you are in your life when you're watching, and i'm not there any more. and i can face the fact that not many people will be under the kind of pressure i was under in order to mke this kind of humor funny. and i'm sure we weren't the writers' target audience. but i thought it was the best show going for a while.

at least until arrested development came along.

~marni

Neal K said...

Speaking of the agreement of opinion. It's odd that a certain era of Skits-o-phrenics don't particularly care for FG, whereas I believe the majority of the current crop seem to like it.

Anonymous said...

ok, i'm getting confused. i used to evaluate comedy according to what made me laugh out loud or at least made me say "oh that's clever." and btw i found my FG experience on cartoon network last night a little disturbing. i think at least the FG writers started with the pretense that not everyone is going to like their brand of comedy. i mean not everyone likes crank yankers or arrested development or (something i used to love back in the day: duckman). anyway, now the lines are getting blurry and it's making me on comfortable.

a problem i recently had was the stella shorts on DVD (a great Christmas gift). on their own i love showalter, black and wain, and i'd never been too familiar with all of their skits... so i watched it, right. I hated it!!! I freaking hated it so much. I was so disappointed, but people love these guys and their shows get sold out all over the place. But I'm not interested in dick and fart jokes, you know. I mean at least the commentary saved it from ending up on ebay. And one time I ran into a member of a duo sketch group who'd been to the Aspen festival and he said agents were picking up on the more "lewd" kind of stuff... but that stuff never seems to last and it's not even funny! I guess what I'm saying is that, I strongly feel that at least FG remains original to itself and is not following any previous pattern (where Futurama has Simpsons, obviously, same creators). So there, it's original, provocative and I kind of love that it's hit or miss. I mean sketches, stand-up, it's all hit or miss sometimes, and that unpredictability is FABULOUS! I can recall two or three episodes that just thinking about I'd laugh out loud right now! (i.e. the one where New Yorkers come to watch the leaves fall and the part where it's a spoof on charlie and the chocolate factory and he falls down and scrapes his knee and it goes on for like two minutes of him just moaning in pain...) that stuff is great, and I wonder, what would my life be like if I'd never been able to see some of that stuff? My heart would be a little smaller inside, that's what! And my tears would not flow as freely sometimes when I hear the theme song for...The Family Guy.

Stefan said...

Wow! 40 comments! Insanity!

Andrew Missel said...

I just want to make a few comments 'cause I was thinking about this more after posting yesterday.

First off, Alex is completely right about the jokes. If you were to make a hierarchy of comedic delivery devices (CDDs), jokes would be near the bottom. Now, of course, all comedy is composed of jokes (they are the atoms of comedy), but the meatier CDDs--extended satire, character-based betrayal of expectation, character-based excruciating indulgence of expectation ("The Office"'s bread and butter)--string jokes together in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Not to get too physics-y, but in much the same way that a bunch of ordinary constituents can get together to make something as exotic as a superconductor under the right conditions, great comedy is complexity arising out of jokes and--crucially--their interaction. 'The Family Guy' allows very few interactions, and leaves us with some isolated joke atoms and a few small joke molecules. They don't have the patience to string together enough jokes in a novel way to make something special.

One of the big things that bothers me about 'The Family Guy' aside from being bad is that its popularity among intelligent, funny people our age is a canary in the coal mine of true comedy. Its popularity is proof that our attention spans--and, with it, our ability to make complex, rewarding comedy--are shrinking.

It's funny that someone used 'The Office' in a FG-positive post, because, to me, 'The Office' is everything right with comedy, and thus the inverse of FG. It rewards repeated viewings, the humor gets more complex as you watch more episodes and become more familiar with the characters, it cares about its characters WHILE STILL MAKING JOKES AT THEIR EXPENSE, and, to top it off, there are some great one-off jokes a la FG. It's a brilliant combination of high and low humor, of biting satire and broad comedy, of loving caricature and bitter mockery.

Comedy does not have to be high-minded or esoteric or exceedingly clever to be good. That being said, do you really want to watch a show that takes so little effort, that demands almost no concentration, that repeatedly insults your intelligence? If so, 'The Family Guy' is on a FOX station somewhere right now. I'll be watching 'The Office' or "Dr. Strangelove' or W.C. Fields' 'The Bank Dick' or 'Baby, Fox that Fusebox' or something else whose target audience doesn't live in their parents' basements.

Alex said...

Actually, anonymous, just to pick on one of your comments, I DO think that Family Guy follows a previous pattern, that of The Simpsons. It actually follows it almost exactly, just amping everything up. This may be time to reveal my compression theory of pop-culture:

Simply put, if something has been done before, and successfully, you are put in a place where you either never address it, or you get to it quicker.

For very specific example, the "TV is bad episode." This is a nice little reflexive device that TV writers use, that lets 'em comment on a show they're doing, wink to the audience, and make the overrated point that TV is bad for you.

"The Simpsons," did this episode, I believe, in season two or three, and then started hitting the idea mercilessly every few episodes. People thought it was brilliant, and meta, and different.

Then you have "South Park," which, if I remember correctly, spattered the anti-TV message throughout, but thouroughly addressed it somewhere in the first 13 episodes.

By the time "Family Guy," came around, this was a very well trod area, but they addressed it anyway (which is fine, by the Compression Theory of Pop-Culture). They in fact, had the "TV is bad" episode as their SECOND EPISODE.

That's how compressed things had become.

Another side effect of this is packing in as much as possible, so you can get the ideas already done out of the way. I kind of hate the first 6 episodes of "South Park," for this reason. Its way too packed, too desperate. They tried to cram as much stuff as possible in there, and mostly, it doesn't really work. At least, not at the same level that it finally did when they got to South Park Movie, and most of the episodes shown after that. "South Park" is an excellent example, I think, of how you need to get past that initial cramming of ideas, and if you can, you'll establish your own identity.

"Family Guy," I think, never got past those initial ideas. It smacks of being a low-rent Simpsons, across the board. "Family Guy" could NOT exist without "The Simpsons." Initially, "South Park," could also not exist without "The Simpsons," but it moved past that, and highly successfully.

By the way, the positive points you made about Family Guy are fair, and valid, and its the reason I won't write the show off. It makes people laugh a lot, and thats great.

Anonymous said...

40 would be a good number to stop at, so biblical and all, but i guess i ruined it when i realized i want to change peoples minds with my thoughts inspired by those whose minds i want to change. (that's the point in all this, isn't it)

first off, i just want to point out there are two things normally associated with things humans address in terms of change: minds and diapers. "I changed my mind" and "I changed the baby's diapers" are the two ways the word change is most often used in a sentence. I guess this fact kinda speaks for itself. not necessary to say, what's the difference.

of course when it gets to "I changed my diapers" then you're probably closer to also saying, "i just was expressing my opinion, not trying to change your mind" as maturity sets in and you've learned that wisdom is just a euphemism for lying to yourself.

sometime ago a song by tears for fears, "everybody wants to change the world" came to my attention. in a way i think that's what it really is all about. don't you think it would be much nicer if people could just uniformly see things my way and act accordingly?

of course you do.

so all you family guy lovers who are trying to force your meanspirited gods down my throat, no thanks, i gave up at the office

but i must admit i find a strange comfort in communing with those who can put their really smart brains into something as intellectually suspect as adult cartoons.

strange comfort in a strange world.

Anonymous said...

lessee, whadda we got so far?
FG is the primordial ooze of comedy
FG has no character or story development
FG is an anarchic, morally-devoid world of stereotypes, one liners and non-sequiturs
FG has sold a $hitload of DVDs
FG makes one tired of watching it after 15 minutes
hmmmm.....
FG seems to be the equivalent of comedy pr0n...

Anonymous said...

i appreciate andrews physics analogy. it reminded me of another way of looking at comedy. i think it is complementary to the physics angle in its simplicity.

when i was in the 8th grade i had a (best)friend that to this day i consider the funniest guy ever.
we were in his backyard, playing basketball, fooling around, kinda teasing his younger brother (1 yr younger). as his mother comes out the door, his brother calls out, "mommy! tommy's making fun of me". without missing a beat tom explains simply, "i'm not making fun, the fun is already there, i'm just pointing it out".

shows like FG i feel try TOO hard to MAKE fun rather than finding it as it naturally occurs and pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

And to think Harrah's had the over/under line on this post at 10.

Neal K said...

Andrew, for your comedy-physics, surely you remember that the base element of comedy, your comedy-atoms are "Jovions."

We've already covered this whole subject amazingly thoroughly, but let's keep going!

Anonymous' comment about the funniest guy he ever knew making fun of his younger brother brings up an important point. Comedy has a certain negativity as an essential, the "making fun of" component. Yet we associate comedy with joy and mirth and all that hullaboodlyo. Which was what makes it so hard, because great comedy lies in an unstable equilibrium between opposing forces.

Jokes or "Jovions" are merely particles at the sway of larger forces. It is the developments such as character development, warmth, satire, plot, and other elements mentioned above that provide the countervailing force to balance the Jovions in equilibrium and create a great comedy superconducter. In the case of FG, the string of jokes aren't held up by any other forces and go into freefall towards the negative/uncomfortable end of the spectrum and don't provide as much satisfaction. The jokes themselves can be funny or appreciated but would ultimately be better served by being in the equilibrium.

I made all that up!!

Well actually Stefan made up Jovions

I actually have a bit of proof for Alex's Pop culture compression theory. As I mentioned several of the current Skitso's love Family Guy. Sean, who loves FG, mentioned as to why it wasn't so successful initially and FOX cancelled it but is hugely popular now that it was "maybe because the people who were supposed to appreciate it and 'get it' weren't old enough when it first came around." At the time I didn't quite understand the comment as there's always been 18-30 year olds (well I guess at some point there was 30 years were there wasn't) that are the target audience. But if there has been a progression as Alex suggests, then this might account for this.

I don't really know about how FOX cancelling it because fits into Sean's analysis, as FOX has often been erratic about cancelling good shows. Andy Richter Controls the Universe anyone? Magnitudes better than Quintuplets.

Neal K said...

Oh my God. I can't believe I did this.

In my defense I just cooked Pasta sauce for about 40 people to freeze and I REALLY didn't want to do dishes.

So I errr...umm, well, you see...I made a graph to illustrate the above theory. It's at http://www.skitsophrenics.com/comedyphysics.jpg

It should be noted the placement of example shows is purely my own opinion, and as everyone has different preferences and thresholds for the different factors, the shows would be located in different places for different people.

The higher up the greater and more enjoyable the comedy is. It is independent of the quality of the individual jokes and assumes all jokes are equally funny. Thus even at the full negative or sappy ends of the spectrum, the jokes can still be hilarious but the overall experience isn't as good as if it were at the top of the curve. In the neutral zone comedy can tend to one side of the other without necessarily being detrimental. For example Simpsons has a bit more of an edge, and Friends is a bit more emotionally hung-up, but both can still be hilarious and enjoyable.

Umm yeah.

I'm so ashamed

Anonymous said...

as i said before i get a strange comfort from this intellectualization of the processes of comedy. observing obviously really smart people offering their insights is oddly reassuring. but too, there is an undercurrent of unease.

oh let's face it, people here are fooling around with their own individual insights into the dynamics of comedy but they're also to a certain extent truly trying is some certain silly way to capture its essence (what other way to do it but with some measure of silliness - there's has always got to be a pie in the face).

anyway, my point is i think it's proof that the earth has become way too overpopulated. there are just too many specialty groups that aren't suppose to have THIS much support amongst themselves.

this protracted treatment of family guy proves that there are way too many comedy "nerds" (for lack of a better term - and i used it positively) with way too much leisure time.

time ago, these nerds either had to work in the fields 'til their weakness of body and spirit got the best of them and they fell down and quickly became the earth that the "real" workers would be tilling - or- they became medicine men as they sublimated their pechant for the strange into wild ideas such as blood letting and the like.

but remember only one medicine man per tribe. more than that and you have way too much strangeness per capita.

did you see ANTZ? note: the woody allen character is just one. his wild ideas almost destroy the colony as it is. and he is just one. its obvious there'd be no happy ending if there was more than one woody allen in this story.

how many woody allen characters do we have NOW? overpopulation has made it so there is an imbalance. more than one medicine man per tribe. GOD! they're all over the place.

yes indeed we "nerds" have achieved way too much power just by the fact that we've found our own private niche where nobody is telling us, "just shut up" and we have enough influence that they don't know they shouldn't be sharing the harvest from the fields that we've done nothing to help cultivate.

our views are being irresponsibly passed onto the masses. we have TOO much influence. evolution is not eliminating quick enough our propensity to offer nothing of survival-of-the-species value. why have they not seen the suspect nature of our make-fun-of-the species offerings?

so we watch our simpsons, seinfeld, southpark et al while rome burns around us.

true, its more fun this way. like in all the areas the USA has fallen behind other countries in terms of industry and prestige no one can argue that we do not have MUCH MUCH more fun than the more serious countries like japan and germany (like: where do they get their rap,rock and emo from)(like: they salivate when they consider our pletora of quality golf courses).

whatever. as i before it is strange comfort - this ability to laugh in the face of danger.

is it all our fault? of course not! the group, "just plain crazy madmen" is also way over represented.

if only we could divert them with some well placed jovions. ya know, in a nuclear kind of way. our aim is true: split their sides (in whatever ways necessary) as we split the jovion (surely as unstable as uranium).

Elephant Larry? Skitz-o-phrenics, old and new? Are you listening? You're our only hope!

(sheesh)

Geoffrey said...

Awesome graph!

I would contend that the placement of The Simpsons on that graph depends on the season. In the beginning, as jaded as it could be, it has some pretty positive stuff and some clear loving relationships going on, complete with Full House-style cheesy 80's guitar solo/orchestra swell.

Though currently it can be pretty empty or shallow when it tries stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that the "Right" promotes the sappier, perhaps more family friendly/family values side of comedy and what the "Left" has to offer is deemed "uncomfortable." As an independent or "middle," I also confess to finding Seinfeld and Simpsons misplaced somewhat. But maybe my calculations are wrong. I'd like to see where they stand on Social Security first.

Anonymous said...

In case anyone skipped through Neal's post because it seemed too long let me just quote one awesome passage and then make a quick remark:

"Jokes or jovions are merely particles at the sway of larger forces.... Character development, warmth, satire,plot and other elements provide the countervailing force to balance the jovions in equilibrium and create a great comedy superconductor."

I just wanted to suggest that none of this can happen without great writing. I know I'm stating the obvious but I think it needs to be said. Good and great ideas are not sufficient. Knowing what words to use and what sentences to eliminate is absolutely essential. There we see the difference between heavy-handedness and the light but penetrating touch of genius.

PS I've seen this touch in the work of Elephant Larry.