Reader question: Does comedy always have to be funny?

You may have noticed the “Ask us your comedy questions” graphic on our pages. It links up to our page on Formspring, wherein you can ask a question and I’ll answer it! You can also ask us a question through our Tumblr page, which is here. Some of those sessions will end up here on our daily blog. Today, Tumblr user linnearodriguez asked us this question: Do you think comedy always has to be funny? And here’s my response.

By definition, yes a comedic piece has to own some element of humor.

On a personal level, however, I’m most attracted to comedy that deals with equal parts of inherently unfunny topics. When a comic can mine laughs from clinical depression, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, death, personal demons or any general tragedy, I’m impressed. And more importantly, I’m moved. Comics like Marc Maron, Maria Bamford, Greg Giraldo (RIP), Doug Stanhope, Joe DeRosa (keep your eye on him), Louis C.K. and Bill Burr all do this incredibly well.

I like to think of this kind of humor as the reverse of what you’d see in Shakespearean tragedies, which usually have respites of “comic relief.” In an hour-long Maron or C.K. set, for example, you might get three or four pockets of “tragic relief”— a break from laughing; it’s a time to take a few beats to think, to feel, to get in touch with your other emotions. A great comedian can weave back and forth between the two tones and keep the audience engaged. It’s Ying and Yang, the perfect balance. Without the bad, you can’t have the good (if you want to think of it in Taoist terms).

Hope that answers your question!


Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor emeritus of Laughspin.

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