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.
Comedy, like politics and religion, can be a big joke, or no laughing matter, depending on your point of view. And like political and religious views, it’s near impossible to convert doubters that your chosen path is the true one.
Knowing what makes a comedy ‘good’ is a dark art – you may have seen the Importance of Being Earnest more times than a maiden aunt but your favourite comedy is American Pie.
Likewise you love Monty Python’s Life of Brian as the greatest comedy ever made but find the troupe’sThe Meaning of Life turgid, yet both are rated as four out of five stars on IMDB.
What then makes a comedy great – how can a writer know what they write is funny, how can you argue your favourite comedy is ‘the best’ when another swears that you’re wrong?
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?