What IS funny?|
Vance Lehmkuhl writes:
Just stumbled across this whole string of posts en route to trying to find out the composer of a rag that was played on tonight's rerun because---ahem---you did not bother to credit it on the show. It was Rich Dworsky.
As to the book title: I haven't heard anyone else say it, and someone has to: What about THE TOLLEFSON BOY? It's extreeeemely pedestrian, yes, but from what I understand so far the story would have to do with his collegiate attempt to recreate his identity as something other than what he always was in Lake Wobegon, so there is a sort of hidden irony in it. Also, any PHC listener who saw the title would instantly know it was a Lake Wobegon story and would be inclined to grab it up more aggressively than with a title like, oh, I don't know, GOING HOME. Think about it. Although if you're not going to make use of this suggestion, I'll throw my endorsement to Mindy's BRIGHT COLLEGE DAYS. It fits with LAKE WOBEGON DAYS and anything that reinforces Tom Lehrer's stance as a cultural icon is positive, in my book.
Politics: Well, as a political cartoonist I don't think you can have too much politics in humor, because they're always there anyway. There's politics in what you choose not to say as well as what you say. So go ahead. Knock yourself out. As long as your politics remain parallel to my own, of course. (I'm 34, by the way, if it makes any difference for your demographic study.)
I'd like to second or third the caveat about Larry becoming a tycoon. This is a very fragile character in terms of his relationship to the audience. There's still room to do a lot more (not every week, of course) with that subtle interplay before doing something so drastic. Look at what happened to Fonzie---a wonderful secondary character, a boring primary character, who the writers kept having to top week after week with another situation which would cause some confrontation with his basic (simplistic) nature. Also witness Roseanne, whose show in its early days was one of the all time greats (although I know the humor style is a little contrary to yours) and who got to the point where they'd run the characters into the ground with frivolous plot developments and finally turned, in desperation, to: Roseanne becomes a tycoon!
In general I think you should have more recurring sketches and fewer appearances of them week after week. It gets to be a little like Saturday Night Live (which now has gotten to the point of doing ONLY recurring formula sketches in EVERY segment---lame!). The 5-minute classics and stories of famous people's lives always seem to be much funnier, if only because the content is usually fresh.
Also, look into drawing subtle connections, a la Seinfeld---things in Lake Wobegon stories that refer to others in ways that faithful listeners will get. You do this sometimes, but often it's just to summarize a previous story. Think "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"---seeing the same story from the opposite vantage point. Also, play with our expectations, maybe by starting a sketch that sounds like, say, a Fred Farrell segment, but escalates into something disastrous and winds up as a Be-Bop-a-Rebop ad.
Keep up the good work with music acts. I agree with the call for more Spike Jones---also consider Raymond Scott, who's just undergone a renaissance. You might consider having The Squirrel Nut Zippers on, or others that are on the fringe between pop and novelty/folk.
Nothing on PHC has offended me. Hope I haven't offended YOU with all my TV references in this post. And as everyone says, because it's true, this is too long already, so I'll stop for now.
I'll only add that I've enjoyed your wit and candor in replying to other people. Don't spare me!
Dear Vance ----
Thanks. I feel I owe you money for all of this analysis of what works and what doesn't on the show, and I appreciate it. Like most writers, I'm fascinated by recurring characters and situations ---- it's a small form within which to work, like the limerick, and its limitations are stimulating.
There was an old fellow named Vance
We could sit and write those all night. And eventually one would be pretty good. So one does want to stick with Dusty and Lefty, Guy Noir, Larry, insofar as possible ----- after all, this is a game, and games have limits.
Anyway, thanks. GK
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Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).