Posts Tagged ‘Weird Al Yankovic’

5 comedy techniques that have stuck with me

January 28, 2011

Andrew Hicks

While on the phone with my dad the other night, we were talking about comedy and my history with comedy, and he asked me, “Well, what are some of the early types of humor you liked that still stick with you?” I was a little tired, a little brain dead, and my immediate answer was, “Uh… as a kid until now, I’ve always enjoyed silly stuff. But not all silly stuff. Some of it’s stupid silly, some of it’s intellectual silly, and there’s good and bad examples of each, which kinda makes it all more silly.”

I stopped right there, as I was making not a single lick of rational sense, but my dad’s question led me to think a little bit about which forms and methods of comedy I appreciated early on and still carry with me. So I wrote this:

5 COMEDY TECHNIQUES

THAT HAVE STUCK WITH ME

DEADPAN

At the age of 11, after seeing the 1989 Tim Burton movie, I became obsessed with all things Batman. The ’60s TV show, in particular. I took it rather seriously at first, but as I grew into my sense of humor throughout adolescence, I started to appreciate the deadpan genius of Adam West and a few of the veteran character actors on the show.

Neil Hamilton, who played Commissioner Gordon, was a master of finding the super-serious side of funny in the often-outlandish dialogue he was given and performances he was surrounded by. The man was a brilliant straight man, whether he realized it or not. The style and rhythm of his dialogue delivery influence me to this day.

Also, I fell hard for Airplane! at an impressionable age. I loved the combination of obvious, elementary-level jokes and straight-faced performances of Leslie Nielson, Peter Graves and Robert Stack. I recently learned that the studio balked at the casting of dramatic actors in those parts and wanted Chevy Chase, Dom Deluise and Bill Murray instead. Which would not have been nearly as sublimely silly.

 

INSIDE JOKES

This is more tried and true in real-life conversation for me than in written or performed comedy, but when I connect with someone on a comedic level, I relish developing and sustaining inside jokes with that person.

The magic of Facebook has allowed me to create and expand a central group of writers and comic thinkers, and we stumble on new inside jokes every day, lending a sense of inclusion and continuity to our humor.

As an occasional stand-up comedy performer, I strive to create shared references with an audience early on and cash in on it more and more as my routine unfolds. I’m not quite consistent at achieving this, but I get better and better, IMHO.

 

IMPRESSIONS

As mentioned numerous times in this blog, I have a lifetime devotion to Saturday Night Live. I started watching at 11, in the apex of the Carvey/Hartman/Hooks/Jackson/Lovitz/Miller/Myers/Nealon period. Immediately, my favorite SNL thing to imitate whenever I got the chance was Carvey’s George Bush.

Then and now, I have a soft spot for SNL’s comedy characterizations of famous people from pop culture, politics and sports. Most of the impressions I’ve been doing for 15 years or more — Carson, John Travolta, Ed McMahon, Paul McCartney, Tom Brokaw, Pat Robertson — owe their existence to old SNL.

Since being married and having a wife who straight-out tells me most of my stable of voices sounds pretty much the same, I’ve started to downplay that amateur SNL side of my comedy… Aw, who am I kidding? I’ll spend the entire night doing bad Jerry Seinfeld if someone’s there to laugh. Even if that someone is 2 years old. Actually, especially if that someone is 2 years old.

 

MUSIC-BASED COMEDY

When I’m not writing about daytime dad things, a lot of my humor revolves around music. Pop music, hip-hop, rock,old stuff, new stuff. Funny observations about songs and artists. I like song parodies as a genre, though most of them aren’t that great. I never liked movie musicals, but I liked a lot of older TV show theme songs, which are funny for reasons right and wrong but decidedly very geeky.

As a mid-teenager, I went through a brief but pretty intense “Weird Al” Yankovic phase, and now still think he has a couple dozen songs I’ll take to the grave. Only one of my standup bits relies on rewritten pop music for its humor, but right now I’m wishing I would have learned to play guitar in my youth. My father-in-law has contributed a spare acoustic guitar to the cause. Have not yet gotten around to doing anything with it. Unfortunately.

POP CULTURE/TOPICAL COMEDY

I’m sure it started with being in junior high and trying to figure out what current events SNL was parodying and Dennis Miller was cracking his lofty, obtuse jokes about, but I also got into David Letterman for several years as a teenager. The peak of it was during the O.J. years, where Letterman first declared sanctimoniously — to HUGE applause — that he wouldn’t do O.J. jokes because “I don’t find anything funny about double murder,” and later devoted hours of monologue time to the Juice.

Anyway, there’s something fascinating yet revolting to me about our celebrity culture, irresponsible government and corporate-owned media that makes me want to stay current enough on the news to instantly crack wise about whatever’s going on out there. I still strive to stay on the level of Stewart and Colbert, “Weekend Update” and late-night talk show monologues when it comes to current events. Some of my jokes are far better than others in this respect.

There’s more, of course, but these five things formed a pretty wide base for much of my humor over the years and still now. If you’d like to share any of your old favorites and comedic influences, please hit up the comments section.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, newborn Silas and Tiffany's parents.

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Early season batting average

September 9, 2010

I posted my first blog on here yesterday, and I’m sporting a 50% comment response rate per visitor, which is an astounding statistic for any blogger. Of course, so far I’ve only told two people – one of them my mother* – that I started this blog, so that 50% statistic translates into one comment. This brag-stat reminds me of being nine years old and obsessed with baseball statistics at the beginning of the season. I’d wonder how long anyone’s insane 1.000 or .750 or .667 batting average or 0.00 ERA could survive. The answer? Until Game 2.

Well, in Daddy Daytime world, today was Game 2, and Game 1 was some kind of crazy quadruple-header I wasn’t completely prepared for. Let’s review: 3 hours of sleep, 9 hours of baby-watching, 6 hours of bartending on a busy night, 3 hours of errands and unwinding, 2 more hours of baby watching, then 4 hours of sleep. Cue Game 2.

My first challenge this morning was 22-month-old Sarah wanting to have ice cream for breakfast. We have a firmly established breakfast ritual. We wake up, we get a sippy cup of whole milk, we watch a little PBS Kids, we get Sarah in her highchair, we section off some wheat toast with zero-calorie spray butter, we put some scrambled eggs on a plate, and we get ready for work.**

Well, now we’re in the stay-at-home world, which so far is slightly less structured. And Sarah’s one giant comment for the suggestion box is Ice Cream For Breakfast. She pronounces it “Ah-keem.” Which is cute. And makes me wonder, did we leave Coming to America on in the background one time too many? Because… well… you know… Eddie Murphy’s character*** in that movie… is named Akeem… it’s not a funny joke… but if I drag it out… one person… will…… laugh………. maybe…………

We have several moments like this each day, me and Sarah. She wants to play with something harmful. She doesn’t know it’s harmful. It looks like a fun thing. I weigh the pros and cons of taking it away from her. Usually it’s: PRO: She will live, CON: She will throw an enormous damn fit. Then I start to rationalize how dangerous the item in question actually is.

For instance, Sarah can reach for the spare toothbrush in the bathroom. She likes to pantomime brushing her teeth. She also likes to run around with it. Thanks to lots of gruesome ’80s horror movies, I can imagine random crazy impalements occuring at any time. Odds of this happening are low. I usually let her keep it under supervision. That’s just one example.

Anyway, I was dragging ass through the entire AM portion of Baby Watch because I overdid it the night before. Left work late, then straight to Shop-N-Save for a full-on grocery run. The way things have been, I’ve worked two jobs most days, and both are restaurant jobs. There’s lots of easily accessible fatty food around, most of which will not help you make it to your children’s high school graduation party, at which there will be lots of easily accessible fatty food around. With this change in routine, I’ll be at home most of my waking hours, so I’ll need food to also be at my home. Hopefully not so fatty. I’d like to outlive Methuselah if possible.

Putting away the groceries, I found Tupperware’d leftovers in all corners of the freezer and refrigerator. Mostly, I can track down the season of origin of these leftovers – e.g. winter, spring, summer or fall. If I wasn’t running into copyright and funding issues, Weird Al’s 1993 Aerosmith parody “Livin’ in the Fridge” would play while the imaginary montage of this paragraph played out dorkily.

During Game 2, the bulk of what I did was basic Game 2 maintenance while I recovered from Game 1. I succumbed (succame?) to what I call The Temptation Of The Nap. When you’re doing Daddy Daytime duty, you think about all the things you should and could get done, if only those little blessings would just go to sleep for awhile. Then you reach that point in the day where they finally both match up on the unconsciousness level, and you realize… holy crap… you’re so tired… and you have to get back up and do it again so soon.

That’s when you lie down. In a bed. All by yourself. And it’s so comfortable. That you have to just fall asleep. Until somebody starts crying again.

* = Oh, by the way, it wasn’t my mom who commented. It was the other person I told, Kate Hayes, a great old Christian school classmate who married another great old Christian school classmate, moved to Boston and started her own blog at http://www.adventuresinparenting.me. We’ve established that our blogs are not in direct competition, because mine is awesome. Kidding. Because mine is from the daddy perspective. And I think Kate has money.

** = We also placate her with the value bag of McDonald’s fries, so don’t think from the “zero-calorie spray butter” remark that we’re Holier Than Frickin Thou by any means.

*** = Eddie’s main character, that is. He also played Clarence, Randy Watson and Saul. I used to think Eddie also played Extremely Ugly Girl, but that was Arsenio Hall’s brilliant, tour de force acting.