Elements: Inappropriate Action 3/10

Posted on 07 May 2009

Innocents and geeks (a sub-set of innocents) most frequently express this style of humour. Think Stan Laurel, Frank Woodley, and Mr Bean. They don’t necessarily break rules, but they show an unselfconsciousness when it comes to social norms, expectations, and conventions. For example: wearing pants that are too short, laughing at a funeral, finding a space to park a car by removing a statue and putting the car in its place.

Even usually savvy characters can have an innocent moment when they act outside of expectations. A man could be brushing on a layer of paint and when he accidentally spills some, absent-mindedly wipes it up with his handkerchief.
When his girlfriend decked out in a business suit ready for a job interview sneezes, he could just as absent-mindedly offer her that same handkerchief resulting in her getting paint all over her face. No rules are broken here, but he has unwittingly compromised his sweetheart.

Our culture has so many shifting expectations and norms that we find a sense of relief when we can laugh at someone else who “gets it” even less than we do. These people can also become likeable anti-heroes. The film Napoleon Dynamite celebrates its lead character’s good-natured freedom from social convention. We laugh at and admire Napoleon at the same time, so it’s not solely an issue of superiority.

This element of comedy offers the possibility of subtlety and a means by which to build our understanding and sympathy for a character as a loveable doofus.

Peace and kindness,


Elements of Comedy Introduction

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