The Transparency of Comedy


I’ve been enjoying Jane Espenson’s blog since discovering it about two weeks ago. Jane in Progress offers tips on how to write spec scripts and also dives into the finer points of writing comedy. Today’s post explores the relationship of comedy and transparency.

This is very possibly good advice for life in general, but what he
meant was that situations are rendered comically complex by all things
that can happen to obscure the clear communication of information.

Kinda striking, isn’t it? Misunderstandings — Jack thinks Crissy’s pregnant!
Deceptions – Lucy puts on a costume to sneak onstage! Someone is stupid
and someone is lying. In fact, you’ll find examples in just about any
comedy you care to think of. M*A*S*H? Frank Burns is stupid and Hawkeye
is lying. Of course, stupidity and deception come in interesting and
complex flavors. Self-delusion and pomposity is a sophisticated kind of
stupidity. Crafty creativity is a fun sort of lying. Play around, in
other words, with ways to keep information away from those who need it.


Interestingly, this suggests that clear communication is the enemy of comedy.

It’s not that surprising is it? Most drama in our own lives comes from witholding information we’re too embarrassed or cautious to reveal.

Recently I’ve been experimenting on a new play where’s there’s no obfuscation of facts or identity, just characters with obviously competing interests. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I’d like to achieve the same magic of straightforwardness that’s captured in this comic by Jeffrey Rowland, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


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