Yet to test it I need your help. I need you to read the scripts, count the funnies and reversals and enter them into the database below. I’ll let you know the results when they’re in – subscribe and follow me on Twitter to do so.
I generalise hugely, but I see the central belief of writing as an art is the attitude that you either have it or you don’t, it’s your calling, and if you want to become better all you can do is practice and self-reflect – it’s down to you and you alone.
Arts and eras
Yet we, people, like art. Art defines eras more than science (has anyone outside of physics heard of 1905 described as annus mirabilis?) yet artistic eras come easily to mind – the Renaissance, Gothic, Art Deco.
While writing isn’t the sole definition of an artistic period, it is part of the wider cultural movement. John Donne, The Great Gatsby, Brett Easton Ellis are linked very much as shaping and being shaped by the times.
“The humanities” – a malleable definition if there ever was and I’m not going to hammer out a new one. At my school humanities was the study of history – and its relatives including my chosen child, archaeology – geography and religion.
They are about people, even geography, which focused on humans and the land.
However the most judgmental of disciplines is science. Science is man’s measure, evaluator, tool, critic. It pokes and studies, alters and remeasures and publishes.
It is cold and exact, uncaring and indifferent if its work harms or helps humans.
That’s its image based on pop-culture, but how much of this has been produced by science itself.
Robert Millikan helped devise the oil drop experiment that helped determine the charge of the electron and throw an electric light on the new world of sub-atomic physics.
However, Millikan may have discovered more than this, or not even the proper charge of the electron – he had to judge and interpret his results. We know now his results were slightly yet he won the Nobel Prize – his experiment, it seems, was flawed yet he chose which results to publish and went ahead anyway.
This example reminds me of my days of scientific study – results are not neat, they never match the neat graphs and charts, even when following an expected test.
Science is as much about the scientist and their skill, judgment – and following their instinct.
Just like an artist. So how can I argue that one is better than the other?
Greater than the parts
What makes science greater than art to me is not the discipline. Artists work hard, like scientists the greatest have had training and spend years on their topic. They come together in movements but it seems to me to be more coincidental than through shared development.
Leave it out will you Del,
you've only got two pairs.
No, no, Trigger. It's alright,
let Del have his little
moment, come on Del let's see
your two pairs.
(Laying two cards
onto the table)
I've got one pair of aces.
And I've got...
(Laying another two
cards onto the table)
...another pair of aces.
Boycie is stunned as he realizes he has been beaten. His
cigar falls from his open mouth. Del smiles sweetly at
him. Rodney, Grandad and Trigger stare disbelievingly
at the four aces on the table.
That's four aces!!
I didn't know that you were
good at Maths either Boycie.
Four aces! I ain't never seen
Four aces! Four bloody aces!
Rodney turns to shout Grandad in from the kitchen, not
realizing he is stood beside him.
Grandad! Sorry! He's got four
I thought Del Boy might have
something up his sleeve!
Del reacts to Grandad's comment, indicating that is exactly
where the other two aces came from.
Oh look at all that lovely
I told you I could do it,
didn't I, eh?
There is general celebration, back-slapping, etc.
Oi Rodney now careful what is
Well done Del.
Where d'you get those our
bloody aces from?
Same place you got them Kings!
I knew you were cheating
Oh yeah, how?
'Cos that wasn't the hand I
The first joke – Del has won despite it seeming like he hadn’t. The second, that he has cheated. The third, so had Boycie. And he still lost.
A Losing Streak has some other good comedy examples, such as the recurring joke (again, a subject for another day) but I think it’s the weaving of more than one joke per scene (as indeed does other Only Fools and Horses episodes) that helps make it better.
The second joke makes me think of reversals, something else to be written about, and the how reversals coupled with jokes is what makes a good comedy. But this post is already long enough as it is.
So let’s leave with a question for you – does the second joke count or is it a nice addition, but not essential, to comedy?