SF Comedy: Look Who’s Laughing Now

This month I felt the twinge of a stitch grabbing my side as tears streamed down my face. Why? Because I was laughing so hard of course. Comedy is after all the only element of speculative fiction that can include irrational loathing with an outrageous twist, confusing covers that make no sense whatsoever, bizarre yet hysterically funny characters and so much more.

Now let’s remember what Speculative Fiction (SF) is exactly.  Some say that Speculative Fiction is hard to define. For most it’s classed as an umbrella term including many different fiction genres.  SF includes experimental, magical, supernatural, utopian and dystopian fiction. What about horror and its sub-genres, science fiction, the weird element, fantasy, urban fantasy, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction? Yes, those too. Then there’s alternate history that can also fit under this umbrella.  Whatever the definition it covers a broad selection of fiction genres. So come with me as I laugh my way through the wonderful world of SF Comedy.

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Let’s begin by defining Comedy. What is Comedy? I like the definition of “A humorous occurrence”

Back in early prehistoric times I’m sure comedy had some presence. Perhaps a diet of purely meat may have ‘given rise’ to the first joke about a fart. Farts can be funny and smelly but not necessarily funny at the time the bomb drops. Groans may have come first.

Let’s move forward now to 384-322 B.C.E when tragedies and comedies came to rise in popularity. Stage plays first told tragedies and then comedies appeared a century later. Aristotle said that “Tragedies dealt with spoudaia (serious matters) and comedies with phaulika (trivial subjects) If you’d like to know more here’s an interesting link about Tragedy and Comedy – Greek origins.

You can check out the timeline of humour as part of the history of humour, here. It may have all started with the Ancient Greeks as the first celebration of mischief, being the Greek god, Dinoysus.

In the 17th and 18th century comedy and tragedy went their separate ways. Full steam ahead to the slapstick comedies of the 1920s. Once again not speculative fiction but silent movies did give rise to slapstick comedy and the masters of such comedies were, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Keystone Kops. Then the era of talking films approached in the 1930s and 1940s. As for books, How to be an Alien was written by George Mikes in 1946 and was described as a classic of British humour.

 TRIVIA!

Here’s a bit of trivia. The first copyrighted film in the US was Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1894) a comedy. Okay, so it’s not SF but it’s worth the mention.

As we move on to modern day SF comedies they have never been so diverse, combining exaggerated everyday problems, irrational obsessions, bizarre characters and so much more.  Which brings me to my favourite SF comedy writer. Who doesn’t know Douglas Adams?

 Here’s a few books worth mentioning.

  1. The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I guess this is somewhat dated now but the book is so witty and intelligent that the reader can’t put it down.
  2.  Discworld by Terry Pratchett  It’s fantasy and it does deliver lots of laughs.
  3. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr Nope. I haven’t read this one. However, I’m told it’s very funny.
  4. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick This is one I haven’t read but I know I should. I like a bit of bizarre and hysterical goings on in the world of an undercover drugs cop.
  5. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison This series is not “extremely” funny but it will provide a laugh.
  6. Ringworld by Larry Niven  Once again, funny but not extremely funny I’m told.
  7. The Adventures of Reztap by Artemus Withers.

If anyone would like to add a great book to the list please comment below.

 Note: The film, Soylent Green was based the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison (listed above) won the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 1973.

Here’s a bit of stand up comedy from Woody Allen- Stand up comic: The Science Fiction Film.

Finally we hit the totally gross-out film comedies of today. There’s too many to mention. My favourite for 2011 was Tucker and Dale vs Evil.

Warner Bros presents a film by Tim Burton.  Mars Attacks.  Here we find cows on fire, flying saucers, alien obsessed worshipers and the might of America. Be prepared to meet a few irrational, bizarre, protectors of the world we all know and love.   I love the line, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Now let’s look at SF comedy for the kids. ParaNorman is classified as a 3D motion animated adventure comedy horror film about a  boy called Norman Babcock who can talk to the dead, he ends up taking on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups while attempting to save  the town from a very old curse.

A statistic for you to finish… “Laughing for 15 seconds adds 2 days to your life span” Now if that’s not incentive to laugh I don’t know what is. 🙂

So until next time. Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity.  And never be afraid to explore new techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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