Weaving Laughter: How The Need To Create Laughs Shapes Comic Works

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Copyright: Alla, Albert
This creative practice thesis investigates the relationship between the comic moment and comic works to ask how the need to make people laugh, time and time again, impacts the forms and subject-matters of comic works. Together, the two components of the thesis—the dissertation and the creative work—ultimately offer new insights into the comic form. Drawing on an analysis of comic moments in P.G. Wodehouse’s Crime Wave At Blandings (1936), the dissertation component of the thesis posits that understanding the comic as the result of a safe and sudden incongruity is an appropriate basis from which to start a study of the relationship between the single comic moment and comic works. This is because such an understanding aptly characterises the comic moments I study, and because it is possible to follow the expectations that are at the heart of one incongruity across many incongruities. Using the comic theories of Henri Bergson and Arthur Koestler, I propose that the comic author is fruitfully viewed as a weaver of incongruities, with the expectations being threads and the comic moments being knots. I investigate the usefulness of this paradigm through the analysis of two different comic sequences in Michael Frayn’s stage farce, Noises Off (1982). Turning to a sitcom, Steven Moffat’s highly inventive Coupling (2000), I then argue that Moffat’s many comic devices serve to create patterns of expectations that can be turned into patterns of incongruities. From this insight, I propose a theory of comic structure according to which comic works first set up the expectations that they then weave into a dense pattern of knots. This form, I then argue, helps characterise the elusive genre of farce, because it describes the structure of works that are recognised to be central to the genre. The creative component, a stage farce titled The Play That Explodes, seeks to demonstrate that the weaving paradigm can lead to new ways in which to densify the weave, and can encourage the exploration of fraught but meaningful societal debates. For the purposes of this demonstration, the creative component depicts four drama students tasked with devising a ten- minute play for their graduation show, and combines in a novel way a number of comic devices explored in the dissertation (e.g., a play-within-a-play and sharply delineated characters), with a new device based on a comic acting technique called orthogonality.
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PhD Doctorate
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