I have a pure love of the English language, in both written and spoken form. It’s one of the reasons I do what I do. I also love the power of laughter. Novelists, poets and playwrights can all move us with their language, as performed by actors. But comedians are the people who really have to master the currency of language to earn a living; deciding what to say, how to say it and how to connect it tonally with an audience, either in-person or through a screen. And that’s not easy!
The great comedians are linguistic maestros
We all have our favourite comics for a host of reasons. But if I look back over time, many of my favourites are those for whom the crafting of language was key to their success. Two names jump out:
Where is this going?
Comedy, like any form of communication, has to move with the times. I’d argue the above examples are pretty timeless, but comedic communication these days is very different, often more complex and sometimes much darker than in the 1970s. Comedy began to mix with drama and comics became better actors. Two of my (very different) sitcom favourites are:
Stand and deliver
Live stand-up comedy remains the apex of the artform. The blankest of canvasses, just you on a stage; cheer us up, make us think, shock us, make us laugh so hard that we cry. What are you going to do? Stand-up taught me more about how to be persuasive than any debating society or expert analysis. It taught me how to take any bias or presumption and attack it from any angle, using any tone. No rules, no second go, just your ideas, your personality and the opportunity to change people’s emotional state… however you see fit. Thrilling!
Comedy = tragedy + time
An old quote; but one that speaks to what makes things resonate, comedically or otherwise. Taking experiences and events, looking at them anew and placing them in a context that says something valuable about today and the future. That’s the basis for how I write pretty much anything, and I hope it brings a tiny sprinkle of the same powerful magic contained within a single, hearty laugh.