I was driving today listening to the radio loudly (it hides the strange new noise coming from my front end–I mean who needs to pay $600 to a mechanic, right?) and a commercial came on. It was that Dos Equis commercial; “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” I like this commercial. It’s interesting. It’s funny. It has a nice film-quality, tension-building score, and when you’re listening to a radio commercial who doesn’t want a nice film-quality, tension-building score, right? Bottom line: I dig the commercial. I doesn’t get me to buy the beer but who cares? Well, besides the marketing folks doling out the mil to pay for it…
Anyway, you’re probably asking what this has to do with comedy being easy? What I mean by that, is sometimes–if you fine-tune your ‘sense’ of humor you can see things funny that other people don’t necessarily see as funny, with practice and a lot of work, (you knew there was a catch, huh?)–then comedy can be easy. In fact sometimes comedy just writes itself. I’m a big structure guy when it comes to comedy. Formula and structure win out all the time and they are time-tested and ageless. No matter how you slice it, or what comedian you are talking about. Structure wins. Because with structure you can create surprise and since surprise is the number one trigger to produce laughter in humans, you create comedy. Watch any comedian who was on top for a while, then suddenly they aren’t. They can’t seem to turn it around…they aren’t funny. It’s usually because they lost their structure or they never knew what it was in the first place. I won’t mention any names because it would be indiscreet–‘Dice’ Clay.
Back to surprise. There are several ways to formulate surprise in humor. One of them is to use incongruities; match two things together in a relationship that normally don’t fit together, (ie: Brittany Spears and motherhood) and you have surprise…surprise creates laughter. You have comedy! Easy? The key is, it takes a lot of work to hone that sense of humor so that you can more readily recognize inconguities not recognized by the masses and present them. (Otherwise known as observational comedy)…
Back to the Dos Equis Commercial…the humor in this commercial is evident in the body of the commercial. But, to me, it’s not as funny as the stuff that shows up that they didn’t plan to be funny. In this case it’s the product tag at the end. The announcer says in his announcer voice: “Imported by ‘Cervezas Mexicanas’… (here comes the incongruity..), White Plains, New York.” Of course he utilizes the spanish accent on the words “cervezas mexicanas” and goes back to the professionally-trained announcer voice on: “White Plains, New York.” The incongruity of something so authentically Mexican would be imported by something so white-bread that it even has the name ‘White’ in it, strikes me as funny! It’s like seeing a sign on a restaurant: “Authentic Chinese Cuisine…Se Habla Espanol.” Again: Incongruity.
In fact, with “Cervesaz Mexicanas…White Plains, New York,” you can actually imagine Conan O’Brien using that and then plugging in the running gag…”White Plains, New York” throughout an entire show; “…and later on the show, we have George Clooney paying us a visit, (pause for applause). He’s coming all the way from…(Conan flips his hair) “…White Plains, New York.”
Like I said…comedy is easy!
Jerry Corley is the founder of The Stand Up Comedy Cinic in “White Plains, New York”…just kidding! Burbank, CA.