“What a crazy random happenstance.”
- Doctor Horrible.
What? We need to go up against the distribution of numbers that fail to follow a discernible pattern?
No. I mean we need to offset the myriad webcomics and webtoons that think “hamster spork of doom” is a punchline. At first, it was the mark of an amateur to resort to “randomness” for comedy, but now I’m seeing in the mainstream. Old Spice commercial? Great. Knockoffs of the Old Spice commercial? Knock it off.
What’s more, amateurs who think smothering a pork chop with bacon and then eating it while rock music plays are getting YouTube partnerships. And why shouldn’t they, if it’s an inexpensive production and people will watch it? However, there are some of us who are looking for something a bit more highbrow… or at least coherent in terms of its storytelling.
I admit, I laugh when the occasional “random” line happen in “Fairly Oddparents,” but the key word there is “occasional.” The reason “randomness” is funny is because it is absurd and unexpected. Those who scoop together a bunch of lines pulled from a hat aren’t really trying, and they’re making it harder for those of us who want to do a decent job. Scripted TV has taken nosedive over the last 10 years because reality TV is cheaper and easier to produce. The same pattern is occurring in amateurs’ realms (like YouTube and webcomics) because, well, there’s no one stopping it. This is alarming.
Firstly, it makes me wonder if people really do prefer their spork hamsters to plot twists and dramatic secrets. Secondly, it means content creators are reducing their training ground to a schoolyard of memes and pop culture references and nuclear hyper kitten muffins. That is, they’re not really trying. Somehow, people got the idea that since it’s not “real” TV, it doesn’t count. However, how do you become good at something if you’re not taking it seriously and doing your best? Especially in the realm of television production, where costs and barriers to entry are sky high, we are in dire need of a respectable alternative that is accessible. Therefore, it worries me to see some of us are squandering our chances, and worse, lowering the standards.
Some would argue that “randomness” is best suited to our time. They’d call it post-modern irreverence, and it is not only funny for its absurdity, but uplifting because it embodies our generation’s boundless open-mindedness. That doesn’t fly with me. Firstly, if we were really so open-minded that we’d accept any picture flashed in front of us, then randomness wouldn’t appear random to us in the first place. We need a baseline of sense to act as a basis for comparison. Secondly, it’s not new. Look at surrealism and dadaism from the 1920s or the Nouvelle Vague movement from the 1960s. THOSE are examples of randomness, and they had entire philosophies supporting why they should be so. If we’re going to be random, we need to have a similarly good reason. Whatever we end up doing, we should have a good reason for it. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, or you know you are creating something without goals or substance, then why are you doing it?
I’m not trying to be Captain Bringdown here. I support fun and silliness because I support Crazy. Crazy, however, is different from randomness. “Crazy” in this case, refers to comedy (or even drama) that is derived from silliness, but it is a refined silliness that still follows a plot. Take, for example, the 1990s cartoon “Stickin’ Around,” in which the characters got into a number of silly (but not senseless) situations. The show was loaded with gross-out humour and pop culture references, but it still had a certain charm about it because it had a plot. That is, the characters had goals, so we had something to care about, and therefore, we grew attached to the characters.
Go on. Make your comedy funny and even absurd, but make sure you are being Crazy and not Random. That is, make sure it has an underlying plot. A way to tell what you’ve got is to recap what happens while omitting the jokes. If you’ve got a story, then you’ve made a crazy comedy. However, if you have a long rambling blob that doesn’t go anywhere, then you’ve only got randomness, and I know you can do better.
If we’re going to give it our best shot, now is the time. As people migrate their TV watching to their computers, and as we get more shows like “So You Think Stars Can Dance,” we have a window of opportunity. Because fewer people are making stories with plots, we as creators face less competition. Because audiences are pooling online, we can get to them. Now, all we need to do is greet them with something worth watching. It’s time we took ourselves seriously. If we don’t, who will?