Get yourself a cell phone.

27 October, 2008

I was informed by a friend today that he is building a phone booth for a short film he is making which he will forthwith donate to Thursday Nite Live, Hofstra’s sketch show for which I write and perform. Therefore I decided I just had to write a sketch about a telephone booth. And now I’m halfway done. And what I have is essentially an extended metaphor for conception through the lens of social darwinism.

You have permission to hate me after the above statement.

I’m becoming more and more interested in how comedy works on a basic level. Concerning characters, I feel that self-awareness more often than not cripples what may have been a very funny piece of material to begin with (I’m looking at you, Will Ferrell.) Think of the funniest people in your lives. Most of mine don’t realize how funny they are. My late grandpa, who I’m starting to talk about often in my stand-up, was a perfect example. The things he said and did in his life were hysterically funny, but if I ever tried to repeat any of those moments for us, they would lose their authenticity because he would be trying too hard. Obviously there are exceptions — like the pictured Groucho Marx — but when you’re characters are indeed self-aware, only a nuanced approach like the Marx Brothers’ will do. They still need to be fully realized beings no matter how absurd or cartoon-like.

The problem is that here I am writing sketches for a college sketch show which follows the Saturday Night Live tradition of comedy (hence the title). The sets are obviously fake. The lighting is obscenely overdone. And the performances will not work unless they are turned up to 11; otherwise the audience and even the camera won’t grasp the comedy. I’m not putting the show down, mind you. The cast is great, the crew is great, and the writers are great. My concern is in breaking free from the constraints of this ever-so-tired format while still doing the one thing that every piece of comedy must do, no matter what form it takes: Making people laugh.

So here we are again with this sketch. There is a telephone booth. A man wants to make a call; a woman wants to receive a call. They argue and argue about it. The phone booth is a womb. The change is his semen. When I feel it’s gone on long enough, some bystander or other will walk onstage and shout at the social darwinists: “For God’s sake just get a cell phone!” The one actual joke in this whole exercise.

Is it possible to make a bunch of college students on Long Island laugh without vulgar one-liners or exaggerated archetypes? We’ll see…

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One Response to “Get yourself a cell phone.”

  1. docattheautopsy said

    I’m interested to see how it goes off. Metaphorical humor is often more amusing than the Will-Farrel-Gets-Hit-In-The-Crotch gag skit, but it doesn’t generate the outright laughs.

    The key to your success will be the joke at the end. If the people get it, the laugh will be big. If not, it will be small.

    Good luck. You’re taking a high road.

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