Elements: Breaking Rules 4/10

Posted on 25 May 2009

We live in a big crowded world where rules are necessary for the smooth conduct of life.

Imagine what a busy intersection would look like if we had no traffic rules. The crash repair guys would love it. These rules frequently feel annoying. Perhaps you are late for a meeting and would dearly like to be going 100k in a 60k zone. Even worse, some guy cuts in front of you and you want  to rev the car up and smash his back bumper.

The rules of physics are equally as annoying. Fumble your mother’s chinaware and next thing you know you’re cleaning up a broken teapot for which you will be paying for the rest of your life…damn that gravity.

We all need humour to help us blow off some steam from the frustration of obeying or being subject to rules. We aren’t laughing at awkwardness here, as with inappropriate action. This is frequently the pre-meditated stuff.

One comedic trope is to put a big shiny red button into a room with a big sign saying “DO NOT PRESS!” You know before long that button is going to be pressed and the results are going to be disastrous and funny. The title characters in The Blues Brothers are considered heroes because they freely break rules in service of their higher calling: to get the band back together. Some similar humour is often had when a pregnant woman is being taken to a hospital to give birth: parking laws, speed laws, etc are all broken without a second thought.

But you don’t actually have to have a good reason to break rules. Warner Bros characters are endlessly breaking the rules of physics by, for instance, stepping out of an elevator before it hits the ground such that elevator is trashed, person comes off unharmed. We love the absurdity of breaking these rules, especially since they make the world a safer place.

Mind you, many people enjoy living vicariously through stand-ups who flirt with danger. The  comedian will tell stories about breaking various laws or standing up to figures of power such as police officers or even big bikies to a thunderous response. We are getting closer to wish fulfillment here.

Don’t think you actually have to break any rules in order to talk about it for a laugh. I have one friend who had a routine about dealing with a tax audit. He’s never even been in a tax office. However, I would happily stand beside George Carlin and break the law censoring free speech by reciting the “Seven naughty words you can’t say on TV.”

Peace and kindness,


Elements of Comedy Introduction

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