Elements: Transformations and Instant Inversions 6/10

Posted on 02 July 2009

Transformations and instant inversions are in part about the exaggerated suddenness of a change, partly about the absurdity of the change, and sometimes the pleasure in observing a little instant karma.

Transformations are when something or someone changes into something comically distinct. Usually comic transformations are fast, like a prince turning into a frog, but they can also be slow.

The film on which I completed the principle photography last year makes use of both slow and fast transformations. One character, the son of a bogan father, has caught an STD turning him into a fairy. Throughout the movie we watch as he suffers the embarrassment of gaining one fairy-like characteristic after another, such as poofy wings on his back. His transformation is a running gag. Also in this film are a horde of minion ninjas. When the ninjas attack, they are ultimately defeated by our bogan fairy, who with a wave of a sausage stick (his erstaz wand), turns ninjas instantly into harmless mascot bunnies.

The humour in transformations may come from the surprise factor. It may also come from that stage in our childhood development when we learned about the continuity of beingness. A can of beans will continue to be a can of beans, even if we turn away then quickly turn back. Therefore it’s funny to pretend that maybe it turns into a confused warthog. We now know reality doesn’t work that way, so it’s funny to intentionally get it wrong (perhaps a form of
rule breaking humour). This is the same reason why some people find the misplacement of apostrophe’s hilarious.

Inversions have a similar comic impact as transformations, but the change must be swift in order to be funny. Someone at the top of a tall ladder who unexpectedly, but safely, falls to the bottom is funny. Someone at the top of the ladder who climbs down in a minute or two is not.

Usually, someone in a high position suddenly moving to a low position is the funniest inversion. A king instantly
becoming a street sweeper we find funny because it speaks to our frustration and desire to see those above us fall below us. However, someone being given a balloon and improbably being jerked up, such that they are flailing around in a panic—that’s funny. It’s also funny when a bunch of tough guys are all fighting over a prize, thereby making it possible for a little bespectacled geek to go from zero to hero and carry off a trophy twice his size. Mind you, the tough guys have been brought low, but it has been made funny by the exaggerated change in circumstances for the geek.

Inversions can be horizontal as well as vertical, or any directions you like. It’s a matter of going from one extreme to another: old to young, short to tall, weak to strong, etc.

Peace and kindness,


Elements of Comedy Introduction

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