I think of comedy as a way of being in the world. When something goes horribly wrong, or we’re embarrassed beyond belief, we can choose to laugh it off. Or we can dwell over it, allowing the pain to consume us. We can choose a less stressful existence by choosing how to react: we can choose laughter.
But is it really that simple?
When our survivalist brain kicks into gear, there’s not room for much else. Is comedy a luxury available only to those who can afford to laugh things off? Life without access to water is not a joke.
When we’re suffering, is it possible to make ourselves laugh? I suppose the well-disciplined mind can find humor in everything, even extreme suffering, but most of us aren’t at that level.
Even when we’re not in survival situations–if we’ve just had one too many bad days in a row–we need someone else to make the joke first. Perhaps you’re on the couch recovering from getting your wisdom teeth out, or in the hospital bed every day due to a terminal illness. By yourself in that hospital room, you’ve got a TV, which means you have access to shows that can lift your spirits.
I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to help that man from Pakistan. I don’t know if he can choose laughter. If I were to tell him that my ideal job is to write for a comedy TV show, what would he say?
So I’m almost done with season 3 of New Girl. I know, I’m behind. (And I only started watching at the very end of season 1….) There’s a lot of stuff I love about the show, and for a long time I thought there was not much room for improvement. But lately I’ve realized that the strength of the show is in its actors, not its writing. CeCe is a very flat character, and for a long time Winston was forgettable. I instantly liked Schmidt, and with each episode, I loved Nick more and more. I just watched the episode in which Nick and Jess try to build a toy for Jess’ godson’s birthday, but end up breaking up instead. Their whole breakup was a little unbelievable… did they really break up because of one far-fetched conversation about how Nick wants to live on Mars?
I read that the New Girl writing room is sometimes divided between punchline brainstormers and people who work on the episode’s arc. I think that’s a good way to work. Often if you’re on a roll thinking up punchlines, it’s hard to transition to the kind of thinking required to edit an overarching storyline, and vice versa. I would love to write a show like New Girl, but I wouldn’t prioritize making the characters as quirky as possible in every single scene. I would include some realistic, average, everyday stuff that doesn’t rely on overreaction. An Entertainment Weekly review of the pilot said, “Each scene seemed a bit more like a vignette than a cohesive part of a whole, making the ongoing plot either absent or slightly clunky.” This sounds like something I would unintentionally do. But I would aim to have a good mix of direct, overdramatic dialogue with quieter, understated humor, as well as physical comedy.
That being said, New Girl is still my fave. Nick + Jess 4ever. Amen.