“ not that I’m saying it’s traditional” --the stigma against the “traditional” in British sitcoms
My last visit to Germany.
FADE IN:
INT.  CHANNEL HQ.  DAY. <ul><li>SHAUN and ALAN, writers, are talking about the pilot they have just delivered to the COMED...
<ul><li>  COMMISSIONER </li></ul><ul><li>  (genially) </li></ul><ul><li>We’re looking at all our pilots, and working out t...
<ul><li>The COMMISSIONER stops in his tracks and looks apologetically at SHAUN and ALAN. </li></ul>
<ul><li>  COMMISSIONER </li></ul><ul><li>  (urgently) </li></ul><ul><li>Not that I’m saying your sitcom is traditional. </...
Two questions. (1) Why did the genial commissioner apologise for calling the sitcom “traditional”?
<ul><li>(2) And what’s with all the rabbits? </li></ul>
A traditional British sitcom.
The  traditional British sitcom.
An archetypal moment
An archetypal moment
Our take on this … of which more later
Our take on this
What’s wrong with this?
What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul>
What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul>
What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting...
What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting...
What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting...
(A word about darkness)
(A word about darkness) … and back to the list
What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting...
The magic formula:
The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul>
The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul>
The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul>
The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul><ul><li>hand-he...
The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul><ul><li>hand-he...
The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul><ul><li>hand-he...
In other words…
In other words…
In other words… real life
In other words… real life boring
Real life isn’t funny
Real life isn’t funny 80-90% of laughs follow: <ul><li>“ I know.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ll see you guys later.” </li></ul>
Why the stigma against being funny?
Why the stigma against being funny?
Why the stigma against being funny?
The Origin Of The Species <ul><li>music hall </li></ul><ul><li>farce </li></ul><ul><li>radio </li></ul>
Technology has changed  the possibilities <ul><li>portable cameras </li></ul><ul><li>multiple channels </li></ul><ul><li>d...
Technology has changed  the possibilities
Technology has changed  the possibilities
But it is not evolution music  radio  traditional  modern hall  sitcom  comedy
Different styles
Different  clusters of  styles dark naturalistic niche multi- camera hand-held edgy experimental farcical audience laughte...
Pick the bits that fit dark naturalistic niche multi- camera hand-held edgy experimental farcical audience laughter studio...
Pick the bits that fit experimental
Pick the bits that fit
Crawford Park: the page
Crawford Park: the stage
Get the audience  laughter right…
Get the audience  laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
Get the audience  laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
Get the audience  laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
Get the audience  laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
Get the audience  laughter right… “ A lot of people said that we didn't have a laughter track.  We went through this bizar...
The fashion changed.
The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS.
The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun:
The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun: Q: According to Freud, what  comes between fear and sex?
The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun: Q: According to Freud, what  comes between fear and sex? A...
The fashion changed.
The fashion changed. hymns hers Mars  Pa’s  Bars Bars
The fashion changed. It will change again.
The fashion changed. It will change again. But slowly.
The fashion changed. It will change again. But slowly. Why?
Second guessing writers
Second guessing writers audiences
Second guessing writers audiences fashion
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors schedulers
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors schedulers
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors schedulers channel controllers
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors schedulers channel controllers
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors schedulers channel controllers critics
Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning  editors schedulers channel controllers critics
Who loses out? audiences
Who loses out? audiences
A writer wants:
A writer wants:
A writer wants:
What makes your peers laugh…
What makes your peers laugh…
… is not what makes the audience laugh.
… is not what makes the audience laugh.
A neurobiologist  has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A
A neurobiologist  has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A where
A neurobiologist  has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A where R = recognisability of main character D = delusions of gran...
A neurobiologist  has a formula: nonsense
The range of sitcom  is so broad…
The range of sitcom  is so broad… … some don’t even  have any jokes.
The range of sitcom  is so broad… … some don’t even  have any jokes.
The range of sitcom  is so broad… … some don’t even  have any jokes.
The range of sitcom  is so broad… Nighty  Night
The range of sitcom  is so broad… Nighty  Night The Thick Of It
The range of sitcom  is so broad… Nighty  Night The Thick Of It (down here is not okay)
Jokes can be hidden…
Jokes can be hidden…
Playing with the timeline:
Playing with the timeline:
Playing with the timeline:
Playing with the timeline:
Playing with the timeline: … when it’s right for the story.
Mixing and matching: <ul><li>The Japanese businessman </li></ul><ul><li>The long-suffering wife </li></ul><ul><li>The sofa...
Mixing and matching:
Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul>
Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the budget </li>...
Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the budget </li>...
Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the budget </li>...
<ul><li>Funny </li></ul>IMPORTANT
<ul><li>Funny </li></ul>IMPORTANT Danke  Schön!
<ul><li>SOURCES </li></ul><ul><li>The Word  Season 5 Episode ? [Channel Four, 1995] </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Wild Rabbit&qu...
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"Not That I'm Saying It's Traditional" - The Stigma Against The 'Traditional' In British Sitcoms

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"Not That I'm Saying It's Traditional" - The Stigma Against The 'Traditional' In British Sitcoms

  1. 1. “ not that I’m saying it’s traditional” --the stigma against the “traditional” in British sitcoms
  2. 2. My last visit to Germany.
  3. 3. FADE IN:
  4. 4. INT. CHANNEL HQ. DAY. <ul><li>SHAUN and ALAN, writers, are talking about the pilot they have just delivered to the COMEDY COMMISSIONER, a pleasant man. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li> COMMISSIONER </li></ul><ul><li> (genially) </li></ul><ul><li>We’re looking at all our pilots, and working out the balance - how many traditional sitcoms we want- </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>The COMMISSIONER stops in his tracks and looks apologetically at SHAUN and ALAN. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li> COMMISSIONER </li></ul><ul><li> (urgently) </li></ul><ul><li>Not that I’m saying your sitcom is traditional. </li></ul><ul><li>(pause) </li></ul><ul><li>Sorry. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Two questions. (1) Why did the genial commissioner apologise for calling the sitcom “traditional”?
  9. 9. <ul><li>(2) And what’s with all the rabbits? </li></ul>
  10. 10. A traditional British sitcom.
  11. 11. The traditional British sitcom.
  12. 12. An archetypal moment
  13. 13. An archetypal moment
  14. 14. Our take on this … of which more later
  15. 15. Our take on this
  16. 16. What’s wrong with this?
  17. 17. What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul>
  18. 18. What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul>
  19. 19. What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting </li></ul>
  20. 20. What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting </li></ul><ul><li>studio shoot </li></ul>
  21. 21. What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting </li></ul><ul><li>studio shoot </li></ul><ul><li>cosiness </li></ul>
  22. 22. (A word about darkness)
  23. 23. (A word about darkness) … and back to the list
  24. 24. What’s wrong with this? <ul><li>farcical plots </li></ul><ul><li>unnatural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>demonstrative acting </li></ul><ul><li>studio shoot </li></ul><ul><li>cosiness </li></ul><ul><li>audience laughter </li></ul>
  25. 25. The magic formula:
  26. 26. The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul>
  27. 27. The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul>
  28. 28. The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul>
  29. 29. The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul><ul><li>hand-held </li></ul>
  30. 30. The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul><ul><li>hand-held </li></ul><ul><li>cruelty </li></ul>
  31. 31. The magic formula: <ul><li>nothing happens </li></ul><ul><li>no jokes </li></ul><ul><li>mumbling </li></ul><ul><li>hand-held </li></ul><ul><li>cruelty </li></ul><ul><li>no audience </li></ul>
  32. 32. In other words…
  33. 33. In other words…
  34. 34. In other words… real life
  35. 35. In other words… real life boring
  36. 36. Real life isn’t funny
  37. 37. Real life isn’t funny 80-90% of laughs follow: <ul><li>“ I know.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ll see you guys later.” </li></ul>
  38. 38. Why the stigma against being funny?
  39. 39. Why the stigma against being funny?
  40. 40. Why the stigma against being funny?
  41. 41. The Origin Of The Species <ul><li>music hall </li></ul><ul><li>farce </li></ul><ul><li>radio </li></ul>
  42. 42. Technology has changed the possibilities <ul><li>portable cameras </li></ul><ul><li>multiple channels </li></ul><ul><li>digital editing </li></ul>
  43. 43. Technology has changed the possibilities
  44. 44. Technology has changed the possibilities
  45. 45. But it is not evolution music radio traditional modern hall sitcom comedy
  46. 46. Different styles
  47. 47. Different clusters of styles dark naturalistic niche multi- camera hand-held edgy experimental farcical audience laughter studio warm demonstrative familiar linear
  48. 48. Pick the bits that fit dark naturalistic niche multi- camera hand-held edgy experimental farcical audience laughter studio warm demonstrative familiar linear
  49. 49. Pick the bits that fit experimental
  50. 50. Pick the bits that fit
  51. 51. Crawford Park: the page
  52. 52. Crawford Park: the stage
  53. 53. Get the audience laughter right…
  54. 54. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  55. 55. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  56. 56. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  57. 57. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  58. 58. Get the audience laughter right… “ A lot of people said that we didn't have a laughter track. We went through this bizarre ritual of saying: ‘But it did!’ And they would say: ‘No it didn't!’ And we'd say: ‘Well it did!’” --Armando Iannucci
  59. 59. The fashion changed.
  60. 60. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS.
  61. 61. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun:
  62. 62. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun: Q: According to Freud, what comes between fear and sex?
  63. 63. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun: Q: According to Freud, what comes between fear and sex? A: Fünf.
  64. 64. The fashion changed.
  65. 65. The fashion changed. hymns hers Mars Pa’s Bars Bars
  66. 66. The fashion changed. It will change again.
  67. 67. The fashion changed. It will change again. But slowly.
  68. 68. The fashion changed. It will change again. But slowly. Why?
  69. 69. Second guessing writers
  70. 70. Second guessing writers audiences
  71. 71. Second guessing writers audiences fashion
  72. 72. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
  73. 73. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
  74. 74. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
  75. 75. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors
  76. 76. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors
  77. 77. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers
  78. 78. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers
  79. 79. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers
  80. 80. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers
  81. 81. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers critics
  82. 82. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers critics
  83. 83. Who loses out? audiences
  84. 84. Who loses out? audiences
  85. 85. A writer wants:
  86. 86. A writer wants:
  87. 87. A writer wants:
  88. 88. What makes your peers laugh…
  89. 89. What makes your peers laugh…
  90. 90. … is not what makes the audience laugh.
  91. 91. … is not what makes the audience laugh.
  92. 92. A neurobiologist has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A
  93. 93. A neurobiologist has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A where
  94. 94. A neurobiologist has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A where R = recognisability of main character D = delusions of grandeur V = verbal wit F = n o of times characters fall over S = difference in status between characters A = success of characters’ stratagems
  95. 95. A neurobiologist has a formula: nonsense
  96. 96. The range of sitcom is so broad…
  97. 97. The range of sitcom is so broad… … some don’t even have any jokes.
  98. 98. The range of sitcom is so broad… … some don’t even have any jokes.
  99. 99. The range of sitcom is so broad… … some don’t even have any jokes.
  100. 100. The range of sitcom is so broad… Nighty Night
  101. 101. The range of sitcom is so broad… Nighty Night The Thick Of It
  102. 102. The range of sitcom is so broad… Nighty Night The Thick Of It (down here is not okay)
  103. 103. Jokes can be hidden…
  104. 104. Jokes can be hidden…
  105. 105. Playing with the timeline:
  106. 106. Playing with the timeline:
  107. 107. Playing with the timeline:
  108. 108. Playing with the timeline:
  109. 109. Playing with the timeline: … when it’s right for the story.
  110. 110. Mixing and matching: <ul><li>The Japanese businessman </li></ul><ul><li>The long-suffering wife </li></ul><ul><li>The sofa </li></ul><ul><li>The dreadful dénouement </li></ul>
  111. 111. Mixing and matching:
  112. 112. Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul>
  113. 113. Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the budget </li></ul>
  114. 114. Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the budget </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the tone </li></ul>
  115. 115. Mixing and matching: <ul><li>Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy” </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the budget </li></ul><ul><li>Fit the tone </li></ul><ul><li>Funny </li></ul>
  116. 116. <ul><li>Funny </li></ul>IMPORTANT
  117. 117. <ul><li>Funny </li></ul>IMPORTANT Danke Schön!
  118. 118. <ul><li>SOURCES </li></ul><ul><li>The Word Season 5 Episode ? [Channel Four, 1995] </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Wild Rabbit&quot; photo by Joshua Davis [cc licence on Flickr ] </li></ul><ul><li>Terry And June Season 3 Episode 3 [BBC1, 1981] </li></ul><ul><li>Father Ted Season 2 Episode 6 [Channel Four, 1996] </li></ul><ul><li>Respectable Season 1 Episodes 1& 6 [Five/Paramount, 2006] </li></ul><ul><li>Monkey Dust Season 3 Episode 1 [BBC3, 2005] </li></ul><ul><li>Laughter: A Scientific Investigation [Robert R. Provine, Faber, 2000] </li></ul><ul><li>Imagine: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Studio </li></ul><ul><li>[BBC1, 2006] </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Drury Lane Theatre&quot; engraving by Isaac Taylor </li></ul><ul><li>[RCM Centre for Performance History, 88E2] </li></ul><ul><li>Fawlty Towers Season 1 Episode 5 [BBC1, 1975] </li></ul><ul><li>Extras Season 2 Episode 4 [BBC2, 2006] </li></ul><ul><li>Crawford Park pilot [Pozzitive Productions, 2007] </li></ul><ul><li>Heresy Show 4 [BBC Radio 4, 2004] </li></ul><ul><li>The Two Ronnies Series 8 [BBC1, 1971] </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Del Boy is top of the class, say sitcom scientists&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>[The Guardian, June 7, 2005] </li></ul><ul><li>The Thick Of It New Year Special [BBC4, 2007] </li></ul><ul><li>Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Popular Culture Is </li></ul><ul><li>Making Us Smarter [Steven Johnson, Allen Lane, 2005] </li></ul>

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