The Comedy Project

A project on laughter, life, and labor

CollegeHumor.com is a website with comedic videos, articles, and pictures targeted mainly at college-aged demographic. Their videos cover a wide variety of topics, including, but not limited to, pop culture, current events, and college life. Many of these videos have gone viral, in fact in 2009, they had a show on MTV although it only lasted one season.  

Honest Four Loko Commercial - http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6336373/honest-four-loko-commercial 

This video came out in November of 2010, when Four Loko were a big thing. Four Loko, which has since had the caffeine removed from the drink, is quite possibly the most disgusting alcoholic beverage to ever gain such notoriety, which is what makes this video so funny. As the voice over lists all of the awful things that can be compared to drinking a Four Loko, it’s all pretty believable. Even when he says things about the radiation and getting stabbed. It has a very “funny but true” element to it, while it is simultaneously completely ridiculous.

Siri Commercial Parody - http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6648229/siri-argument

This sketch, which is also a commercial, focuses on the same idea of satirizing a current trend; this time looking at Siri on iPhones. The formula is similar to the 4 Loko commercial: it begins as if it was a normal commercial and then gets progressively more ridiculous as it continues. The humor comes from the fact that not only is it making fun of the technology itself, but it adds in a bit of a story line to it. 

Realistic Hollywood Sex Scene - http://www.collegehumor.com/video/3474480/realistic-hollywood-sex-scene

This sketch, which is the all time most viewed video on the website, portrays exactly what the title describes it as: a realistic hollywood sex scene. There’s romantic music in the background, they exchange a couple playful words, and then they get to doing it. What is so funny about it, is that they throw in many funny little moments that movies tend to leave out from sex scenes. Furthermore, the most humorous aspect of this video is that throughout their entire sex scene, things keep going wrong and they keep changing what they’re doing or how they’re doing it, but then at the end they say, “wow, that was awesome.” 

Key & Peele is a sketch comedy show created by and starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. It is comprised of a series of prerecorded sketches that Key and Peele introduce in front of a studio audience. While the sketches range in characters and themes, they very often reflect on racial stereotypes and/or make racist jokes in general. 

I Said Bitch - http://youtu.be/5LGEiIL1__s

This sketch deals with the age old problem of who wears the pants in a relationship. Key and Peele play two friends who are complaining to each other about their wives in a manner that starts off as “funny, but true,” and quickly escalates to completely ridiculous. The humor is based around the fact that every time they are talking in private about their wives, they go on and on and each time it ends with them saying, “I looked her in the eyes and I said bitch…”, but whenever they are about to say “bitch” they look around to make sure the coast is clear. Furthermore, much of the humor is from the physicality and the location rather than just the dialogue. They keep hiding in more and more ridiculous places to make sure their wives don’t hear them, starting by hiding in the basement and eventually ending up in a space station. 

Auction Block - http://youtu.be/zB7MichlL1k

This sketch is a perfect example of some of the racist humor that this show has to offer. As you can probably tell by the title and the picture, it takes place at a slave auction and Key and Peele play two of the slaves being auctioned off. Each round of the auction, nobody bids on either of them, and at first they’re ok with it and shrug it off, but as the auction continues they start to get offended by the fact that everyone else is getting bid on are visibly weaker than they are. The humor comes from the fact that by the end of the sketch, they are giving reasons as to why they should be purchased as slaves, a fate that no one ever actually wants, but that they want just because no one has shown any interest in them.

The Penis Dialogues

I originally wrote this sketch a while ago for my sketch comedy troupe, but it was never used. It is meant to poke fun at—but NOT to completely make a joke out of—The Vagina Monologues. I’ve personally been in The Vagina Monologues twice and while I agree with the message of the show, I’m not really what one would call a “feminist.” So, I figured it would be kind of funny to toy with the idea of doing a sketch that portrays the male side of this in a light-hearted silly kind of way.

The beginning back and forth dialogue is scripted, but I couldn’t figure out exactly how to end it nor could I figure out exactly what kind of conversation would ensue about penises because I obviously don’t have one. Starting at the part where Eric says something about the “privileged penis” is where is starts to all be improvised. Filming this was particularly funny because they went in so many different directions with it in basically every take. 

Portlandia is a sketch-based comedy show about Portland, Oregon. I personally don’t know much about the city of Portland or its residents, but in this show it is described as a place where the 90s never died. Filled with hippies, vegans, feminists, and other such characters, this satirical comedy shows just how versatile the two creators and main actors, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, really are. The show revolves around many recurring characters and some characters that only appear once or twice, and the majority of whom are played by Armisen and Brownstein. 

Put A Bird On It - http://youtu.be/0XM3vWJmpfo

In this sketch, they play Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman, two people who love to put birds on things. The sheer nature of this sketch is funny—two people running around, putting birds one everything—but there are other hijinks within the sketch that add to the humor. For example, Lisa accidentally hurts Bryce on two separate occasions. I think that was a daring move because it could have taken away from the humor or just not been placed right, but it was done in such a way that it added to the comedy rather than taking away from it. Another example is the end of the sketch when a bird actually flies into the store. That entire part of the video is done very well, and is extremely funny for obvious reasons. 

Feminist Bookstore - http://youtu.be/msEfgBfXAW0

In this sketch, Armisen and Brownstein are two women who work at a feminist bookstore. There are many funny things about this sketch, basically everything is hysterical. First of all, Armisen is playing a woman, which he is weirdly good at. Second, just the characters in general are so hilarious and ridiculous. They have this snippy, obnoxious attitude, but they are also these hippy feminists who love to drink weird herbal teas. The majority of the sketch is this smart, funny, satirical banter between them and the customer, played by Steve Buscemi. 

Is It Local?http://youtu.be/l2LBICPEK6w

This sketch, which turns into a series of sketches, is another example of the satirical aspect of this show. Armisen and Brownstein, play a couple that is out a restaurant and they ask about the chicken that they are about to order. It quickly escalates from questions like “is it certified organic?” to them deciding to go to the farm itself to find out about where the chicken originated. The humor can be found in the sheer ridiculousness of both the characters and the situation in general.

Louie is a show created by, written, and starring Louis CK. It follows a fictional version of himself through ridiculous situations as a middle-aged stand up comedian, who is recently divorced and has two young daughters. The show itself has only a few recurring characters, most of which don’t even appear in every episode, and is very sketch-like in many cases. While each episode has either one or two overarching story lines, often times some of the stories will end without a defined resolution. There is also a decent amount of stand up in the show. Sometimes the scenes will be based off of the stand up, while other times the stand up is used kind of as a filler or a transition between scenes.

What I particularly like about this show is how he takes very real, very relatable situations and makes them extremely ridiculous while still acting as if everything is normal. Now, I know that might sound a little confusing, so I will look at some scenes that do exactly that.

Louie Goes to the Doctorhttp://youtu.be/8qOaZ4CQqKI

In this scene, Louie is going for a normal check up, but rather than seeing his own doctor he goes to see a friend of his, Doctor Ben (Ricky Gervais). This doctor basically turns everything into a joke and makes the entire situation very uncomfortable and annoying for Louie. The humor comes from the fact that this doctor is just completely ridiculous and keeps telling Louie that he looks awful and has AIDS, which are obviously things that nobody wants to hear when going to the doctor. 

Louie in a Movie - http://youtu.be/uD3yrKQGAWQ

Another particularly funny scene is from an episode in which Louie is hired to be in a movie directed by and starring Matthew Broderick. The movie is described as The Godfather, but two years in the future and everyone is Jewish. Louie was able to get the job because Broderick thought he was funny, even though the movie itself is not a comedy. The humor in this scene comes from a few different factors. First of all, prior to this scene, Louie explained to his agent that he doesn’t like acting and he’s not very good at it, but he does this anyway and essentially proves himself right. It is also very funny because of the back and forth between Louie and Broderick in this scene. Louie knows that he isn’t a good actor, but tries anyway and this is what happens.

It’s hard to pick out exact moments that are funny because it’s really the situations that make this show great. I highly recommend this show to anyone that enjoys Louis CK’s stand up or just to anyone who appreciates ridiculous comedy in general.

Creepy Friend: The Remake


For this week, rather than making a new sketch, I decided to remake my previous sketch. Using the original video as a storyboard, I already had all of my shots picked out, but I still made some changes. I found that having a prefilmed storyboard was additionally very helpful because I knew which shots didn’t work so well and I was able to fix those. 

One major change that I made was the addition of the scooter that Ralph’s friend trips over in the hallway. I had decided before the reshoot that I wanted to include that both as a way of breaking up the boring-ness of him just walking down the hall and it gave a more concrete action, which made editing a little bit easier. When I filmed that shot, I actually found myself laughing hysterically, which is something that I didn’t expect and to be honest, I don’t know if that will translate to other viewers who did not see it happen live.

Overall, it’s basically the same, but I do think that it is worthwhile to watch, even if you’ve already seen the original, mainly because of the better video quality.

 Asssscat

The Upright Citizens Brigade, or UCB, is a school of improv based out of NYC and LA. Asssscat is the name of one of their shows that starred Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh. For their show, they would have the audience give a one word suggestion, a person (typically a special guest) would tell a personal story about that word, and then they would based their series of scenes off of that. 

It’s kind of hard to explain what about improv makes it so funny because it’s really a series of multiple things working in unison. For example, in the Asssscat special, there is one scene about monkey boners. Here is the link: http://youtu.be/A4L5Lrucy3k 

There are a number of reasons why that scene is so funny. First of all, for the first several seconds, you cannot even tell what exactly the scene is about, but Amy is following Tina’s lead. Then as soon as she says, “monkey boners,” Amy responds with, “oh, now I see.” 

In improv, it is very important to follow the “yes and…” rule. This is basically the one main rule of improv. To not only accept what your partner says to you, but to take it a step further and develop the scene. This video of Asssscat is a very good example of how a scene can start with one situation and end up in something completely different. 

The humor comes from the fact that everyone is listening to each other and is therefore ready and able to jump in and take each scene a step further and make the situations more ridiculous and therefore more funny.

Creepy Friend

This video, in my opinion, might be one of the funniest sketches that I have ever written and to be honest, it was kind of a last minute idea. All week, I had some mediocre ideas of what I could do for a video this week, when all of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head on Thursday afternoon. This wasn’t my original plan though, it definitely went through an extensive evolutionary process similar to that which we know as Darwinism. 

It started with the simple idea of one guy inviting a friend over and just being really creepy. I originally wanted the video to start out with 2 friends playing video games together and one would just kind of randomly disappear and then reappear suddenly. As funny and cute as I found that idea, there was really no story to it. So, rather than just tossing the idea out the window completely, I just kept toying with this concept of a creepy friend who would randomly jump out of things.

From there, I started to write down my first draft, and about halfway through writing that, I stopped writing things down because I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I walked back and forth through my apartment with a notebook and took notes of what exactly I wanted to happen and for the rest of that day, anybody who walked into my apartment was coerced into taking the tour of how my video would go.

That night, I was so excited to film and edit it, that I ended up filming it on my handheld camera rather than on one of the nicer HD cameras. I figured, it might be a little shaky and grainy, but that’s not nearly as important as the comedy itself. Plus, if I really want to, I can always re-film it later with a better camera and a mic (SPOILER ALERT: I might actually just have to do that at some point).

One thing that I found critical in the editing process was the use of music. Like most filmmakers, I like to have music break the silence particularly in shots that have no speaking in it. But when I was watching this as I edited it, I couldn’t really decide which way to go with the music. I was worried that by adding music to it, it might take away from some of the comedy and/or it would set an entirely different tone than what I intended. So, I settled for only putting music at the end. And in case you were curious, I purposely made the credits go super long so that the song could at least go to the first chorus.

Enjoy!

Drunk Texting PSA

This video has definitely gone through some unplanned changes from the start of the idea to the final product. I originally had the idea of making a Drunk Texting PSA because, as a college student, I know that it is a growing epidemic amongst my peers. You know, those texts to random friends that you may or may not actually want to send, but you do anyway because “it’d be such a good idea.” 

To work on the PSA, I did some research by watching youtube videos of other PSAs. These were all about drunk driving and texting while driving which made me very sad and completely lose focus, but I had decided that it would probably feel more natural if the actors in my video improvised it rather than having a pre-written sketch.

I recruited people from my improv group, The Rumspringas, to be in it. I told them the premise of the video, a few suggestions of things that could happen, and then I filmed them improvising for about 15 minutes. It was all funny and great, but when I imported it to my computer, I realized that I had neglected to record any sound and therefore would be limited to working with the clips in which there was a lot of movement. 

I personally still think that it’s funny, but some of the comedy might be lost due to the lack of dialogue. While this might sound pretty obvious, I feel that it’s important to note that I found that it’s much more difficult to be in control of the timing of a video when all of the humor is found in the subtitles.

Hopefully you still enjoy it!


The Kids in the Hall is another sketch comedy show, but it is much different than SNL. It began as a Canadian sketch comedy troupe with 5 members—Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson—and became a TV show that was on the air for 5 seasons between the late eighties and early nineties. I honestly had never even heard of it until a couple of weeks ago, most likely because of my age, but I have since watched a few episodes from their first season and I have noticed a few things about its humor and just the overall quirkiness of the show. 

For starters, having an all male cast is difficult for sketches containing female characters. To me, this gives three options: Find a female cast member, write sketches that only contain male characters, or hire female actors as needed. They chose none of these options, and instead they would perform as the female characters themselves. Of course, there are several occurrences in which there are female actors in sketches, but usually just as extras or characters with very few lines or as part of a recurring bit—which I will get to momentarily. This is humorous and seems to become a running gag on the show, starting from the very first sketch on the first episode.

"Call Girls": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QWbpYkEiOM

There are also several recurring characters and bits that vary from extremely random to just plain weird. In both cases, the results are hilarious. One example of this is a bit called “30 Helens Agree,” in which, 30 women named Helen stand in a field, make a general statement about any subject, one or two of them add a couple of their own words, and then a narrator repeats the original statement. When I first saw this, I thought I was on the outside of some inside joke with the audience, but as it appeared more throughout the episodes that I was watching, I realized that it’s actually pretty funny. The organized randomness of it is what makes it so humorous.

"30 Helens Agree":  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBEDBShEc1c

Another one of these random/weird recurring bits is called, “Nobody Likes Us.” This consists of some situation in which the two main characters have extremely low esteem and, because of this, awful social skills. In the sketch that I watched, they were on a date—not with each other, but they were both there—that consisted of them doing odd things that are just completely bizarre to do, both on a date and in general. The humor stems from ridiculousness of the situation. The fact that they are grown men acting this way on a date is some combination of weird, uncomfortable, and, above all else, hilarious.

"Nobody Likes Us": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h01opb12eog

The last thing that I want to point out is another one of the main differences between The Kids in the Hall and SNL. Although SNL is a late-night show, it still has to be cautious of its content because it plays on a major network on cable. On the other hand, The Kids in the Hall ran on a network that did not require the same kind of censorship, allowing for more swearing, vulgarity, and controversy. There is one sketch in particular that reflects on this. In the season finale of the first season, there was a sketch entitled “Dr. Seuss Bible,” and yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. It is a very funny interpretation of the bible, complete with made up words, animals, and some arguably anti-Semitic comments. I personally found it hilarious for its originality and because of how they committed to its ridiculousness, which I think is a statement that holds true for the entirety of the show.

"Dr. Seuss Bible": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgILxqN_jxE

This is an under-acknowledged show that I would recommend to anyone that enjoys smart/weird comedy or just needs a good show to watch on Netflix.

Saturday Night Live is arguably one of the most well known sketch comedy shows on TV. Since 1975, it has brought joy, laughter, and music into our homes every Saturday night. For some comedians, SNL has been the starting point to helping them launch successful careers in both film and TV, while for others it was the apex of theirs. In either scenario, many of America’s most beloved and talented comedians have been cast members, featured cast members, writers, and hosts for this show. So, what about SNL is so funny? What makes it such a loveable show? What about it is so desirable from the standpoint of a comedian? I think the answer to all three questions is the same: EVERYTHING. But I’ll give a more in-depth answer anyway.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about SNL that is the most funny, so I did a little bit of research. I looked at what the most popular all time episodes were (based on those viewed on Hulu) and found that the top 4 had incredible guest hosts: Betty White, Justin Timberlake, Alec Baldwin, and Will Ferrell. The Betty White episode is just the right episode to answer all of these questions.

1.    What about SNL is so funny?

    NPR Sketch - Saturday Night Live NPR(6 min)

This sketch does a very good job of displaying the type of humor typically presented in SNL. This is done in several ways. The first is through parody. The sketch is a spoof of NPR, which is made clear not just through the dialogue itself, but also the way that the characters speak. The second is the sexual humor as shown through something completely nonsexual. In this sketch, the characters are discussing Dusty’s muffin as food, but to the audience, it is made to sound like they are talking about her muffin in a sexual way. This is funny both because of the irony of these wholesome people talking about muffins in a sexual way and because of the goofiness of the whole scenario.

2.    What makes it such a loveable show?

Maya Angelou Prank Show - Saturday Night Live Maya Angelou Prank…(2 min) 

Census - Saturday Night Live Census(3 min)

In my opinion, part of what makes SNL such a loveable show is how it pokes fun at current events in a very original and goofy way. The Maya Angelou prank show is one example of such silliness. Not only is the entire concept of this sketch completely ridiculous, but also it is relevant because the episode’s host, Betty White, has her own prank show. The SNL writers could have chosen to address White’s prank show in many more obvious ways, but instead they created a sketch that goes beyond just making fun of her show. The sketch about the census also reflects this creativity. Both sketches are comprised of these very silly one-liners that are both ridiculous and hilarious, and are completely unique to SNL.

3.    What about it is so desirable from the standpoint of a comedian?

Cold Open - Saturday Night Live Lawrence Welk Cold…(3 min)

This might seem like a very simple question to answer. For some, SNL is desirable because of its reputable name and the fact that it’s a good stepping-stone for a comedian. For me, I think that the Cold Open of the Betty White episode really answers this question. It’s the freedom that the actors get to create their own characters; it’s the way that the actors all work so well together on stage, whether or not they are actually cast members at the same time; it’s the goofiness that comes from both the writing and the actual presentation of each show; most importantly though, it’s the tradition. This might seem weird, but to me, having six former cast members say, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night,” really supports this idea of tradition. As any regular SNL watcher can tell you, the cold open always ends with one of the actors breaking from the scene and saying that. By having this group of former cast members and the host saying it—rather than just one of the current cast members who was in the scene—it shows that no matter where any of them might be in their careers, they will always be a part of SNL.

If you are reading this right now, congratulations! You are getting a first-hand look at what it is like to live and breathe comedy. Allow me to elaborate.

 

My name is Zoe Yellen. I am a college senior majoring in Comedy and this blog is the medium through which I will present my independent study. I will post every Sunday evening at 5:00PM for the next 14 weeks. Posts will be in the form of either writing or video. The videos will be posted biweekly, and they will be comedic sketches that I will produce, write, and direct, and they will be approximately 3-5 minutes long. Each video will also be paired with a short written piece that reflects on the process, from conception of the idea to finished product and will be posted with-if not, shortly after-the video. The written entries will be posted on the weeks opposite of the video entries. They will be analyses of specific comedic works and they will dive in why each work is funny, by examining both comedic and film techniques.

 

The mission statement of this project is to successfully accomplish two main goals: To create quality comedic sketches in a short amount of time and to gain further insight into the theory of comedy through film.

 

I also have 4 main objectives that I hope to achieve:

1. To gain skills similar to those of SNL writers: being able to conceive a comedic idea, write it, and make it happen within a few days. 

2.  To explore techniques of other comedians and employ them in my comedy.

3.  To expand my knowledge on sketch comedy through history.

4.  To reflect on my experiences through analysis of both my own and other comedians’ work.

 

TO SUM UP, this project promises to be both an exciting and an educational experience, not just for me, but hopefully for YOU too.

 

Until next week,

Zoe