The pressure to be funny

Despite the ever growing body of text standing in mute testimony to my continuing failure (I tend to view my own writing as a hostile witness in this context), this blog is supposed to be funny (and funny ha-ha, rather than merely funny-peculiar).  I shy away from blogging endless photographic evidence of my food intake or my ageing phizog.   I have (generally) chosen not to share inspiring stories from my life (unless you, dear reader, take inspiration in the most improbable of places) – largely due to the absence of such stories or my obliviousness to their occurrence.  When I do try and make a more serious point, there is always supposed to be an attempt to leaven it with a pinch of the yeast of humour.

Spinning the straw of daily life into the fool’s gold of this blog is aided by my innate childishness – and while I fear that many posts are just a diary-based attempt to inflict my taste on the wider world, most do make me laugh when I return to them after a suitable cooling-off period.  Occasionally, other people (sometimes even strangers!) are kind enough to report that they find something I’ve written faintly amusing and my heart swells with the affirmation (and my head with overweening ego).  So, there is usually a little performance pressure afflicting yours truly when preparing content for your indifference – however, over the last week or so this pressure has been dialled up to eleven.

In a vague attempt to upgrade the social element in my interactions with the concept that lies behind the phrase “social media”, I decided to comment on the blog of another (if I’m honest, I have mostly treated it as “broadcast media” to date).  This has many advantages, as “the other” has to do the hard work of coming up with some ideas (the hard bit) and I can then play with them (it’s a process not wholly unlike finishing someone else’s crossword).  This seemed to go down quite well and so I continued and we have now reached round four.  Far more mental effort is now going into continuing this comment strand than all other elements of life: though that isn’t quite as impressive as the casual reader might imagine.  Whilst I feel under a lot of pressure to be amusing – and top my previous remarks – I keep doing it because it’s enormous fun!  Who’d have guessed?  The fun in “social media” is in the social bit – what a fool I’ve been!  Should you wish to view the evidence of how I’ve been two-timing you (my loyal readers) I think you can find it here, though you’d do far better to read Dimitris’ work as he is a much better writer than I.

Having listened to some 120 episodes of the Comedian’s Comedian podcast by now, I am fully aware that concern about the ability to be funny is shared by those that do it professionally.  For stand-up, the product is generally the work of a single mind (or perhaps a duo or small group) with a little input from friends or colleagues – and I think this tends to generate a stronger, more piquant, result (and sometimes more dramatic failures) than where comedy is subject to a committee and endless focus-grouping.  The latter is often the fate of comedy films and, in particular, the genre of rom-com.  I suspect this is (at least partly) because too much money is both involved and available – it’s much easier to try things out if it’s just your own time you’re wasting and a few tens of quid.

Very few romantic comedies are properly funny – but last night, I was lucky enough to see one.  Yesterday evening I went to Brixton (like London, only more so) to see the closing film of the SCI-FI London Film Festival at the Ritzy.  Not, you may think, particularly fertile ground for either romance or comedy – but stereotypes are not always your friend.  Superbob is a properly funny, British independent film: I can’t remember the last time an audience laughed so much at the cinema (and groaned and buried their heads in their hands when Bob shot himself – figuratively – in the foot once again).  As the title suggests, it is a superhero film, but light years from the Marvel/DC Comics universes (duoverse?) – being set in Peckham and with our hero a former (slightly dull, if rather sweet) postman.  The film is an unalloyed joy, but you will struggle to see it – it lacks general release and so appears only at festivals.  This seems to be the fate of rom-coms that I actually like, the last one was Dead Cat – which again could only be caught at festivals.  Why do decent British comedies find it so hard to get a release?  In these modern times, when bands and comedians can cut out the middleman and go straight to the public, it seems oddly backward that it is so hard to see a decent range of films at the cinema (or even at home) outside of London (and often not even there).  I wonder if Ourscreen might be an option (though it offers neither of the films mentioned above), but even in a small screen one does have to recruit quite a sizeable audience before they will screen your chosen film – and we members of the public tend to lack the marketing budget of even an arthouse cinema.  If only I had fifty or so local minions (or even friends) I could call upon.  Perhaps this is another project for my social media life – to form my own little film club!

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2 thoughts on “The pressure to be funny

  1. Dimitris Melicertes says:

    I’m not ”a much better writer”, oh god. Now I feel the pressure to be amusing! Which I’m not, so I’ll opt for being one of your (relatively) local minions. Only 49 left for you to find.

  2. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    You do yourself a disservice, sir. Whilst I can be amusing, I would struggle to be serious or meaningful or enter the unsettling realm of real emotion. I can really only write about one subject (me) and with a single voice (mine) – and I can’t write believable dialogue for toffee. Were I to attempt poetry (which could happen unless we all wish very hard), it would have to rhyme and scan and be to comic effect: so probably a Limerick or Clerihew (though, having said that, I’ve always fancied writing something in anapaestic tetrameter – but that’s just because I like the name). From what I have seen (or rather read), you do not seem to suffer from my limitations.

    Glad to have you aboard as Prime Minion (or should that be Minion Prime?). I shall attempt to accelerate recruitment of some colleagues for you. One man(ish), a couple of millennia back, managed to have quite a significant impact on the world with a mere twelve minions and a little light conjuring – so I’m quite excited to imagine what I can achieve with 50! Why stop with the odd film screening?

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