Comedy and its Historical Development
Comedy is an undeniable phenomenon in human life. In general, comedy contributes extensively to improved wellbeing of the individual through moderated laughter. Specific comedy instances however vary in their ability to impact the audience positively, due to the difference in creation intentions. The quote above, adapted from the comedy ‘Blazing saddles’ is a conventional example of humorous pronunciations in movies.
From the written excerpt, it clearly brings out the picture of a comedy film that one would consider worth watching. The significance of this quote to the comedy context is immense since it gives a picture of a perfect humour in the most limited number of words possible. It would be advisable to watch the movie based on the experience of reading this excerpt alone. For instance, like the contemporary comedy films, the excerpt provides an explicit portrayal of a mix of congruity and the unexpected in its form. These make it a potential candidate for consideration in comedy reviews.
While being significance in the comedy industry, the excerpt, and the movie from which it is drawn both offer significant value to the contemporary world. Comedy in its entirety is of great value to the contemporary world due to various factors. Bardon (11) identifies the ways in which comedy adds value to human life through providing a release of excess energy and negative emotions, deflecting human suffering by providing alternative views to difficult situations and enhancing social interactions among people. These benefits associated with comedy make it an essential part of the contemporary world.
Such features are clearly visible in comedy movies such as Foul Play (1978) which features Chevy Chase as a key character, Tony. Instances in this film provide a combination of juxtaposition and irony in various scenes which make it a possible cause of incessant laughter among an audience. Similarly, a mental comparison of the conventional expectations from a Sheriff with what is purported within the excerpt clearly gives an avenue of energy release through laughter. It is therefore essential to understand not only the value of all forms of comedy in the contemporary world but also to recognize how the work in context can help in attaining these values.
Apart from these values, Meyer (310) highlights the uses that to which comedy can be put in the contemporary world. Uses such as identification and clarification of positions and values and enforcement and differentiation of norms and behaviour respectively, are valuable in the current times. Identification and clarification of positions are unifying while enforcement and differentiation can be distinctive. This implies that while comedy may unite humans in the contemporary world, it can also result in disintegration of relationships based on differences in ideologies and norms. The excerpt gives a clear distinction of these properties of comedy in that by contrasting the perceived role of a Sheriff and the claims represented by the speaker, it is possible to pick two sides on which to be. One can either support the Sheriff or walk away from his opinion.
In the historical times, humour was described mainly through the superiority theory, which suggested that humour causes people to laugh due to the portrayal of others as being in an inferior position compared to the expected position. The excerpt provides a new outlook on humour through provision of incongruity between expectation and reality. For instance, in suggesting that a Sheriff does not want law and order or that a Sheriff intends to drive people out of town through his actions is contrary to the expectation that the Sheriff should be looking out for law and order. The resemblance of the character to the reality of Sheriffs is limited to the attire and the official job description. This congruity is also viewed in most of the works featuring Chevy Chase. In his stand up comedy performances as well as in comedy films, this phenomenal actor has managed to create congruity in various circumstances. For example in ‘Foul Play’, the greatest instance of comical congruity is seen in the closing scene, where contrary to expectations that the audience would notice the mishaps on stage, the audience applauds Inspector Tony (Chevy Chase) and Gloria when they appear onstage with two dead bodies at the close of the play.
Another value associated with contemporary humour is the potential for enhancing open mindedness as well as the ability to view scenarios from different perspectives. This value makes humour a global human phenomenon that can help in the development of mental capability through recognition of shifts in the cognitive process (Gordon 20). Besides this, comedy is also described as capable of improving language use and cues used for different expression of opinions and perspectives. Body language as well as the verbal language used in comedy is significantly different from expectations in real life communication. An instance of this is seen where communication breakdown occurs in movies where the words and intentions of one speaker are taken to mean something completely different by other participants.
Various perspectives are presented in the excerpt from Blazing Saddles. Through this paragraph alone, it is possible to recognize the existence of the right mind in the operations of a Sheriff versus the existence of conflicting perspectives on the same. While one may want to adopt the stance of the misled Sheriff, others may adopt the right stand of a contemporary Sheriff in real work. It is essential for the audience watching the piece to understand the comedy from both perspectives and effectively differentiate the truth from the humour. Similarly, in Foul play, an instance in which an understanding of different perspectives becomes crucial is when Gloria, after being attacked in her house and fainting, is unable to explain to the inspectors and to her land lord that she was attacked. The inspectors strain to understand due to the absence of any piece of evidence, while Gloria strains to explain how it all happened. The audience has to understand both perspectives in order to avoid explanations which kill the comedy.
In conclusion, comedy as a genre of art can be used to express things differently from common expectations. This difference in perspective creates value through enhancing open mindedness and enabling observations through different perspectives. In this process, comedy enhances well being through creation of better relationships, cohesion, released of excess energy and overall improvement of communication. The excerpt, just like the movie ‘Foul Play ‘which stars Chevy Chase and others, provides an excellent exemplification of all the above values. Should ‘Blazing saddles’ therefore be watched? The conclusion speaks for itself, a combination of value and congruity should not be let go.
Bardon, Adrian. “The Philosophy of Humour”. In Maurice Charney, Comedy: A Geographic and Historical Guide. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2005.
Gordon, Mordechai. Humour, Laughter and human flourishing. Springer, 2014
Meyer, John. Humour as a double edged sword: Four functions of humour in communication. Communication Theory 10, 3(2000). 310-331.