Saturday, May 12, 2012

Humor Through the Ages

When asked about the anachronistic appearance of incessantly recurrent vulgarity throughout the scripts of his HBO's hit Deadwood, its head writer David Milch suggested that historically strong language leaning on profanity rather than on vulgarity would have left the characters sounding like Yosemite Sam. However, The Onion thinks blasphemy can be funny to the modern audience. In a recent "This Week In History" video, authors show this as the top of the Sears Tower ...
... which they describe as having been designed to provoke divine intervention still wanting after a middle-finger-clad twin-tower structure was erected in New York.

So, why are vulgarity and profanity interesting to entertainers? Apparently, they are supposed to be shocking. Shocking people gets their attention, and attention is viewership is money. It's probably why a lot of humor aimed at kids depends on fart jokes and insults rather than on clever language: it doesn't require much brains to get, and – and here I tread on thin ice as I don't write in this area – may be easier to write.

When I saw Deadwood with L, we laughed quite a bit about the recurrence of "cocksucker" and "cunt", but the thing that made it interesting was character development and conflict that kept moving through Season One and then seemingly died. Don't bother with anything after Season One. The Onion is pretty funny, though, mostly because if its absurd depiction of a fictional history. The punch line is probably New York's buildings – another intrusion on an American taboo.

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