I'm working on this vid that's turning out to be way... well, way everything from what I thought it would be. I knew it would be hard and that I would be using a lot of super fast cuts, which I haven't done much of yet in my nascent computer vidding experience. I knew it would need to be funny, and so would tax my ability to be funny, which I've always thought was pretty shaky anyway, and I knew it would also have to be accessible because it's for a show few people saw, and uses a film style that many people don't like. And it's had me thinking a lot about comedy vids, and why I rarely ever make them.
Comedy vids are, more than any other vids, probably the hardest to sell to an audience even while they're more popular with
audiences -- comedy is even more subjective than any other style, so whatever you're presenting, you have to know that someone, somewhere won't like it. So the process of presenting it for viewing is going to mean you'll get skewed responses, even moreso than for any other vid (which are always going to engender different reactions, anyway, as all art does). And when you're working in a vacuum, by yourself, sitting in front of a computer for hours on end, you (meaning me) have to constantly second-guess yourself about what's funny, because after a while, you've looked at the "funny" clips so often that you can't always be sure you're assessing things correctly.
At this point, I'm starting to lose my sense of what's going to be funny to anyone else but me, and I'm also wondering about what's funny to me
. A clip I thought was hysterical in the show, and when I first was putting it into the vid has, by now, after spending nearly an hour trying to edit it so that it fit, hit the punchline right, and made any kind of sense at all, has become highly non-funny to me now. I think that a beta who shares your sense of humor has to be the most vital part of making a comedy vid, unless you're lucky enough to have a vidding partner -- partnering or working in a group makes comedy easier, I think.
The only two comedy vids I've made without being part of a group were both very different, stylistically, than this Keen Eddie vid. And one I'd argue might not even be comedy; it was more of a follow-the-actor vid for David Duchovny juxtaposing Mulder's girlishness with DD's role as Denise on Twin Peaks, and a few other things. The other comedy vid I've made, an X-Files one, seems to either make people laugh or feel pain because it's kind of tragically funny for Mulder. Both vids I made with sherrold
, and I think the process overall was easier because you're having a regular dialog with someone, bouncing ideas off them. If they share your humor, then it's a cakewalk.
I remember reading an article interviewing a famous comedian, and I can't remember who it was, but he/she was saying that the writing process can be difficult because at first, you're writing by yourself usually, putting down the ideas that you think are funny. As you refine it, you start second guessing yourself. And I remember Eddie Izzard once saying about how he crafts the bare bones of his "routines," which change so dramatically with each audience, and a lot of his humor is based on how audiences are reacting, what kind of feeling he has about them on a given night.
Vidders, obviously, can't do that. The best you can do is show it to an audience "unfinished" at a con, which many of us would be reluctant to do, or get a beta whose opinion you trust. So you have to, even more than any other type of vidding process, rely mostly on yourself and your sense of what's funny or what's not, and funny can wear thin more than most genres. I remember last year getting myself into a lot of trouble by commenting on how I didn't find any of the "funny" vids on the Vividcon premier tape to be all that funny -- nor did the friend I watched it with. Those vids that didn't work for me on tape, though, might have had more positive responses from the audience because it's often easier to get caught up in others' laughter around you. Sometimes, things just work better in a large group. Some of the vids people thought were clever and hilarious I found unbelievably agonizing to watch. And I've noticed that in the past few years, I've kind of gravitated towards humor that's quiet and subtle and character-based, which means context is going to be really, really important -- and if I don't have that context, then I could be in trouble as a viewer.
I love a good gag vid, a type that seems to be increasingly popular -- the kind of one-off type vids that have a powerful joke at their core, that anyone can laugh at, but for me, they rarely have staying power. Once I've laughed, I'm done; there's no burning desire to rewatch. Vids like these -- such as the Smallville Green Acres theme, or the Stargate alien love vid to Something to Talk About -- work more in their immediacy than in a long-term rewatching feeling, at least for me. I like 'em, but I don't find myself drawn to them much or to making them.
Timing is everything in a comedy vid, just as in stand-up. You not only have to have good editing skills, but you have to know how to hit the punchline and make the song work for the humor. If it's a gag, you have to know when to get in and when to get out
. One of the reasons a vid such as sisabet
's Cowboy works so well for me is that there's more to it than just the joke of Angel as pimp -- underneath the obvious humor there's a nice little joke about Angel's power over other people in his life, how he kind of directs others and influences their lives in a rather pimptastic way. The timing is exquisite, and everything hits his character issues with acuity. So there's a built-in rewatchability beyond the clear surface jokes that I enjoyed (and of course, I could be talking out my ass about it and in no way did she mean anything besides the obvious with the vid, and she'd think I was insane for saying this!). It all coalesces in a way that makes it, perhaps not knee-slappingly funny, but that kind of layered humor that plays well on further viewings.
It was interesting finally getting a chance to see that Mulder comedy vid, Nobody Takes Me Seriously, with an audience. I'd never had the chance to hear reactions to it beyond my Media Cannibals group who put out the tape it was on; and I've had little feedback (pretty much: one person found it hilarious, the other found it kind of sad because it was so tragically true). I was sitting in the front at the comedy show, and I heard one laugh at one point in the vid. So clearly it isn't a laugh out loud vid, which is okay, because I'm not sure I'm a laugh out loud person, anyway. If you asked me, I'd say no one found it funny, but sometimes outright laughter isn't the best way to judge, which makes it much harder to know if you've done your job. I love to be made to laugh loudly, but I'm not sure I'm capable of doing it
-- I never "see" those gag vids that have become so popular, they just wouldn't occur to me as ideas for vids to make, so clearly my humor forte is going to be somewhere else.
Which is what keeps bugging me about this Eddie vid. It made feochadn
sputter loudly, and my other friend who watched it said it was very funny, but after all this time spent on it, trying to force myself to cut brutally short and wondering if I got enough in to make the punchline, and just rewatching each clip over and over, I'm not sure I can even figure out where my humor is. It's sort of strange, when you think about it -- here we are, hunched over a computer, cutting and trimming and trying to create punchline after punchline, keep something funny throughout its timeline, and we're doing it all alone, rewatching clips until they've long since lost their effect in our eyes. And then guessing and hoping that what we thought was funny initially will remain funny once the vid is done.
Sometimes I watch my progress and laugh like a drain. Others, I just shake my head and say, well, this is sure demented. A few times I've thought, this is going to tank. Since I'm making this to show at a con, the audience is definitely a factor -- while it's important to make a vid we like and that satisfies ourselves, when you plan to show others, you do have to at least think about how audiences view things and how your humor may or may not fit in with others who will see your vid. It's definitely reminding me why I so rarely do comedy, and why drama and angst make more sense to me, are easier for me to identify with creatively. I love a good comedy, but it really is true -- creating comedy is far, far more difficult than creating good drama.