Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another comedy test: Do you find this funny?

Haven't done one of these in awhile. I show you a comedy clip and you tell me what you think. In the past I've mostly done classic comic scenes from the past.  Here is oneHere's another.  And still another.

Today I'm going to present something a little more contemporary. This is from Ricky Gervais' recent HBO series EXTRAS (in which he plays a movie extra). I'll share my reaction after I see yours. As always, thanks for participating. I have nothing to give away.

Tomorrow: my reaction to your reaction.


Akhen1khan2 aka Jack Eason said...

I'm puzzled why you consider this humour? There is nothing remotely humorous about it.

While Ricky Gervais may be considered a comedian by some, personally I cringe whenever he appears on the television and rapidly change channels.

Poetic_line said...

I think it has more drama than humor. The last line about Uncle Sam is a bit narcissistic though and I almost laughed. But not really.

Ellen said...

I did laugh a few times, but I was so self-conscious about having my sense of humor tested that I wasn't giving it a fair shake.

Still, when it got to the part with the doll my cringe meter went into the red zone and I clicked out.

Diane said...

My husband and I watched and both found it hilarious. I think that, with Ricky Gervais, you either like him or you don't. The same goes for british humour. The pacing is slower in this clip, but at the same time but the jokes come fast. Ricky in the background when she tells the actor that she hates reggae is, to me, hysterical.

Max Munro said...

There are funny parts, but her character is too caricature compared to all of the others.

You can see most of it coming - the questionnaire, and SLJ being in The Matrix, etc.

And we have our first Gervais hater, who can't seem to see that he's acting a part and think he's being himself.

DwWashburn said...

Didn't work for me. Much much too slow. Not that I need need a Marx Brothers / Three Stooges pace to be funny, but if the actors don't seem interested in their parts it's tough for the audience to be interested. And these actors looked like they were "phoning it in".

The same chris said...

It's brilliant! So funny! I love Extras.

doggans said...

This isn't the funniest Extras clip (certainly not compared to the Patrick Stewart, Orlando Bloom, or Ian McKellan episodes), but it's certainly amusing.

rchesson said...

I'm somewhat biased in that I find Mr. Gervais's work to be very funny almost across the board.

I haven't seen but some very short clips of EXTRAS so can only base my opinion on the viewed clip. Although somewhat uneven, I like the juxtaposition of "broad" humor with his trademark "cringe moments". He does tend to poke fun at the charcters' expense (with a "wink, wink" to the audience) that can be a bit cruel at time ("See. They are mostly stupid but You an Me, we can laugh at their cluelessness").

Overall I find the clip humorous and clever. Certainly not typical American TV humor.

Sebastian said...

Two nitpicks:

a) Not a good example. The best episode is the one with Orlando Bloom. I nearly peed I had to laugh so hard. Oh and of course that scene where Gervais had Kate Winslet basically explain what the only way to get an Oscar is - and then that was how she got her Oscar later on ;-)
b) HBO show? BBC show!


Extras is insanely good, but like Seinfeld, The Office (UK) and Curb your Enthousiasm you have to push through the cringeworthy parts (the parts that contain what we in germany call "Fremdschämen" - when you feel ashamed for what the protagonist does on stage) to get to the parts where all the cringeworthy stuff leads to insanely funny payoffs.

Jim said...

Good dialogue and setups -- who would you rather have serving you tea: Johhny Depp or O.J. Simpson?
"But according to you, you wouldn't want him waiting in your house when you got home tonight?"

"Ooooh, now he's breaking and entering as well"

Characters grasping desperately for something they want all the while diminishing themselves through their words and actions in the eyes of the desired leading to frustration? What's not to like.

WilliamJansen said...

I think Extras is hysterically funny, but it does have very long build-ups.

When done well, as in the case of 90% of what Ricky Gervais does, I prefer the long build up to the conventional American sitcom; joke, straight line, straight line, joke, straight line, joke, joke, straight line, straight line, joke, end scene.

B.t.w. it would be interesting if commentators could add their nationality to the comments.


Anonymous said...

I watched until the obligatory "OOPS" of the bus scene: " You stay with your kind.." I thought the reaction of the woman was extremely muted. I wasn't expecting a broad " OH MY GOD, I SO DIDN'T MEAN THAT!!", but a bigger horror look should have been there. Nothing funny at all, really.

goodman.dl said...

I think the humor is in the build - for long stretches it's more like drama - but it really serves to set up the last scene with Samuel L Jackson. That scene's incredibly funny - in large part because of how the first 10 minutes really establish who Rick G and his blonde friend are...

John said...

I agree that Gervais' type of humor is more what you used to see in feature films in the U.S., because it requires quite a bit of time to set up the situation, something the traditional 30-minute-with-commercials comedy format over here doesn't have much to spare.

When you have these more "naturalistic" situations, you really need to be on the mark with your pay off, because you're asking the audience to wait a long time to be rewarded with the laugh. If the payoff falls flat, there isn't another joke coming along a few moments later to try and make up for it -- which kind of makes this type of humor the TV comedy equivalent of Dave Kingman; it's either a home run or a strikeout.

As far as this scene, it's kind of a passed ball third strike situation to me. The payoff's OK, but the obsessive-compulsive routine with the buses comes across more irritating than funny, based on what the final payoff ends up being. There is a place in the world for broad comedy, and the limited payoff you get from this set-up isn't worth the time investment, when your available time to tell the story dictated in 30 minute blocks.

Angie said...

A slow start, but the race issue was laugh aloud funny until it became a bit tiresome and, yes, cringeworthy.

Lauren said...

Loved it!

Warren Z said...

Heh, the irony's delicious.

Dan said...

I thought this was great.

Seinfeld once did a gag where Jerry and Kramer keep offending a native American woman by going through a litany of stereotypes right in front of her (someone calls her an "Indian giver"... Jerry can't help but make a pun on the word "reservation" while taking her to dinner... a cigar store Indian is repeatedly paraded in front her, etc). In that episode, the source of the humor was just that this woman kept being "accidentally" offended.

In this version from Extras, the source of the humor is character based. She's discovering that she may be a little more preoccupied with race than she was willing to admit to herself.

I feel like the jokes in both versions are similar, but here they're used to greater effect -- to tell a character story, whereas Seinfeld just used them as a gag.

Mork said...

I loved it. I loved it the first time I saw it, and I loved it this time. Yes, it's incredibly cringeworthy, and it's almost painful to watch, but it's funny as well.

That said, I've always found Ricky Gervais' style (both here and in the original UK version of "The Office") to be best experienced in small doses.

GRayR said...

I liked it. I found the dialogue witty, quick, and much smarter than what passes for dialogue in the typical American Sitcom. The acting was also better than most. It does make you cringe a bit at times. I personally really like Mr Gervais, he seems to like to play verbal tricks on people to get them to see their foibles. All and all a good British sitcom. Gary in the Central Coast of CA.

xjill said...

Agree with what some others said, Ricky Gervais is an "acquired taste" and I find him hilarious almost always. Ashley Jensen kills me as well. So yes, I find this funny.

I love the little stuff like the first time she tries to get on the actor bus and after Ricky leaves she just goes "I'm not with him, can I get on?" - that made me chuckle.

I watch a lot of BBC so I'm wondering if being familiar with "British humor" or at least the difference in pacing makes a difference?

Ref said...

I loved it (first I've seen of this show,BTW.) It requires a little thought and it isn't "safe", but it's quite funny.

Tammy said...

I love when the boundaries of comfort are pushed in humor and that clip definitely did that. It's clever and very funny. I'm a huge fan of Ricky Gervais and British comedy.

Anonymous said...

Very funny, but very uncomfortable to watch. This isn't laugh until I cry humor, but I do enjoy it in small doses. I much prefer two of your other tests - Jim taking his driver's test and Niles starting a fire. Those make me laugh just thinking of them.

acheekymonkey said...

Hilarious. How fitting that German has a word for that feeling of embarrassment for another (see Sebastian's comment.)

This is comedy of identification. Not just racial identity, but with the embarrassing person. Without that sense of empathy for her, the payoff won't be as big. If you feel you have never been in a similar situation, it's probably not funny to you: it's just a person acting foolish. The cringe factor adds fuel to the funny fire.

As with some others who enjoyed it, I'm familiar with british comedy, my mother is british, etc.

Brian said...

I thought this was pretty funny. It takes time to build. I think the issue of not being allowed on the bus was pretty clever. Of course its blown out of proportion, but aren't a lot of shows that way? They take something humorous, then blow it out of proportion because they only have a small amout of time to amuse the audience with a single joke.

David L said...

It's hilarious. Painfully so. But definitely funny. I enjoyed the series when it was on HBO, so perhaps I'm "biased."

And in regard to the commenter who asked us to state our nationality, I'm a New Yorker. An ex-pat now living in California.

David L.

Kevin said...

"Extras" is tremendous. I hadn't seen this episode in a few years. Some excellent stuff. Love the "Racism Test."

Wayne said...

Hilarious character torture!

MATT said...

Ken, it's hilarious. White middle class folks are obsessed with appearing, PROVING, that they are better than their parents, and don't see colour. The result is a ridiculous level of over compensation, in which they contrive to actually appear racist, which sppoks them into trying to make it better, only to make it worse.

Mister Charlie said...

Amusing, embarrassing...I like gervais well enough, though I understand he puts others off. Never seen Extras, and I must agree it was a tad slow but mainly it was amusing, not laugh out loud (except the racist test kind of had me laughing).

Not bad, and I suspect this was not the best clip you could showcase for the show...UNLESS you are trying to make apoint about how to work with sensitive subject matter.

Matt said...

I grew up with Monty Python, Mash, and Soap. British comedy is fantastic, but so is American (I was raised in Kansas City.)

This was painfully slow at times, with a couple laugh out loud moments. White apology racism has been done a million times before. Yawn.

I don't like comedy that pushes the boundaries of making people feel uncomfortable. Unless Andy Kaufman was speaking lines that other people wrote, he was a complete ass. He wanted to make fun of the put one over on them. I won't ever pay for that.

Inside jokes are just that...inside. To people on the outside, the joke flies over their heads at best, or is insulting at worst.

Jason said...

I made it about 3 minutes in. Painfully sad people being painfully sad? That's not funny, that's depressing.

The Milner Coupe said...

Very funny. The policeman's test and the 'hate rating' were hilarious. I'm a bit tired of the stupid white people around way cool minorities bit though. The on-set discrimination against extras was a nice subtle background to the racism discussions. Quite similar actually. The depth of writing on this show is impressive.

Alia said...

Nope. Not funny. And I like Gervais most of the time. I liked many of the actors involved with this, and some of the lines, but I found myself alt-tabbing over to other windows while it was playing because I didn't find it interesting at all - let alone funny. Could be the storyline, the characters ... just meh.

I with british shows all the time, love many many many of the humorous shows of all kinds.

West Coast USA.

(ah ha ha ha - my word verification was "blytor". How faux-british! Ya bloody blytor!)

Jon said...

Both The Office and Extras are gold standard comedy in the UK, more or less redefining sitcoms with the mockumentary format that is now everywhere.

It's characteristic of British comedy to be wry and uncomfortable and this clip does that brilliantly. Imagine how different it would sound with the laugh track common on traditional sitcoms.

To me it subtly keeps pushing you along with it (rather than leading you), often expecting you to get to the funny line yourself before the character says it. There is less reliance on a payoff and more value put on the overall scenario, so all the gags (less funny as 1 liners) gain a lot from the context and wouldn't be funny on their own.

Some bits are quite British eg the opening sequence is a kind of triple bluff as it mocks the traditional british mocking of what we perceive as US gung-ho John Wayne types played by S Jackson.

Clever comedy, but aimed at an engaged audience, no good for a Friday night with a few beers but hilarious if you have the time and inclination (hope that doesn't sound too pretentious)

emily said...

Funny as a funeral...
no, wait...
my WV was funnier...
Hate it.
"Hate it" is what I was looking for.

I hate it.

Karen said...

to appreciate the humor, you need to watch the show and know who the characters are. the better you know them, their discomfort is more amusing.

Cap'n Bob said...

Between my computer's speakers, which suck, and the British accents, I needed closed captioning for most of this. I gave up after watching about 25% of it. Never so much as smiled.

l.a.guy said...

A few good laughs. I appreciate the attempt to explore deeper social issues through humor, but I think it's a bit labored and the pacing ends up killing the humor for me.

Sort of the same reaction I had to the "Invention of Lying". I loved him in "Ghost Town" though.

RyderDA said...

I made it to 7:30 before turning it off because it was not funny, nor even interesting for that matter.

Samuel said...

I have real trouble with this style of humor, not that I'm a racist (like so many of the other posters here) but it't just too close to my personal experience, you know, like when someone makes a cancer joke just after you've just returned from your best friends memorial, not that I'm a cancerist or anything.

Brian Fies said...

Very funny, and not slow at all--not a wasted line, everything contributes to the building humiliation. Even better, no one's a villain, all the characters seem nice and reasonable--Sam Jackson just looks bemused, the potential boyfriend is gracious and understanding (at first), and I love how Ricky's character tries to save his friend from herself while digging the hole deeper and, at last, giving up with a groan when she insists that Jackson starred in "The Matrix." Despite the best intentions of decent characters the tension builds, aching for release, while everything just sprials to hell. The woman's final aside, "That one," is the perfect cap to the clip.

In other words, it's funny 'cause it's true.

So I love it. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure my wife would hate it. She has zero stomach for squirm-inducing humor (she can't watch either version of "The Office," either: all she sees are violations of human resources policies that make her angry).

Nationality: USAan.

John said...

Just as a "compare and contrast", Ken, I wish Tony Randall's "Smile and say 'Midget'," bit from "The Odd Couple" was available on YouTube.

Similar set-up and the same sort of crigneworthy failed attempt at being politically correct bit as in Gervais' routine, but from 38 years ago, and with the broader style of humor that American sitcoms traditionally favor (and which I prefer over the Extras clip). In both cases, you know what's coming, but with Randall's routine, the road to the final payoff (to me at least) is far funnier.

Anonymous said...

I love Ricky Gervais. He often goes for uncomfortable subject matter - I think this is brilliant, as she keeps getting herself in deeper. I have watched Extras in its entirety, twice. Never get tired of it.

Nancy said...

Giant stink bomb for this viewer.

We're getting Ricky G as an awards show host, a series, a stand-up routine, and even a frickin' cartoon these days!

He's HBO's Jim Thorpe.

I can't blame Extra's writers for reaching back into the Gervais/Merchant bag of UK Office tricks and re-cycling a variation on a theme from Season Two. But extending it and beating it to death? With Samuel L. Jackson?

This bit played better for Ricky G as David Brent when he riffed the same zingers off the black office worker Oliver during that entire season 2 of the UK Office. The Ricky G/Brent/boss continually attempted to ingratiate himself with Oliver showing how 'hip' he was, referring to Dr. Dre and the 'hood.' Those were occasional, passing jabs sprinkled throughout the entire season.

The Brent/boss always revealed himself as pathetic, moronic, and lame -- which was idiotic and funny at the same time. The timing on when they popped up was unexpected and unpredictable.

This extended bit from Extras strains to take itself way too seriously. And transferring all the Brent/boss twititude to clueless sidekick Maggie -- it doesn't fly at all for this viewer.

Roger Owen Green said...

Cringeworthy, actually, and unfunny. But I'd never seen the show before, ever, so maybe that would have mattered.

Eitan Loewenstein said...

Kinda funny but too close to reality. Anyone who's been on set as an actor or an extra knows this is EXACTLY how it is. Real life extras are crazy.


Jaded and Cynical said...

A) It was funny.

B) Stephen Merchant, the co-writer, deserves more credit than he gets (just saying).

C) The series never took off because the Ashley Jensen character was dumb to the point of being retarded. A good sitcom requires more than a steady flow of jokes.


media_lush said...

I loved the series and thought this was one of the weaker episodes. That said it takes a special skill to make something really 'cringeworthy' and you'd have to say no one does it better than gervais. The vip club scene with David Bowie has to go down as a brilliant example of British angst when it comes to classifying themselves on the class/celeb ladder.

Can't wait for his new series about a an agency for dwarf actors..... should reach previous unattainable levels of 'cringe'

Sherri said...

Sort of amusing, but the payoff wasn't enough for the build. I'm not much of a fan of cringe-inducing humor, though; never cared for The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm.

West Coast US. British humour? Loved Python, Jeeves and Wooster, Blackadder. I will watch almost anything that has Hugh Laurie or Stephen Fry in it.

Mike Schryver said...

I spent way too much time cringing to get past it to any laughter.
Clearly not my cup of tea.

cshel said...

I thought it was funny. I love Ricky Gervais. I love British humor. I like the UK Office and Extras. I like him as an awards host, in interviews, etc. I enjoyed his two films here, GT and TIOL, even though they weren't that great.

I understand why some people may not think his stuff is that funny, because it definitely makes you uncomfortable, just like Larry David and CYE, which I love. But I don't get the comments about it being slow or dramatic. WT...?

My only complaint is that, with just his TV show character(s), I end up missing some of the dialogue due to accent, slang, and talking fast or low. But it's not his fault I'm a Yank.

James said...

"Do you find it funny?"


I actually like it better than The Office.

I'm not sure if it is because it is an "insider" show, because I think it has broader appeal than that. But contrasting the segregation on set with real racism is hilarious. But maybe it's one of those things you have to experience being on set.

I like the perspective of the show. Of the cast and crew, extras are probably the closest thing to outsiders in a film production. I think Gervais feels that way too and tapped into what's humorous about it.

I'm not sure the show would work if it was about grips. Or even stars of a running serial. The humor comes from the outsider's perspective. And these outsiders just happen to be on the set while it's shooting giving them a unique POV.

The show also has a built in device that I find pretty damn funny. Each week there is a different star that has a cameo because the Extras are working on a different production. They generally use this device to have the stars go against type. Patrick Stewart is hilarious.

The Orlando Bloom episode is probably my favorite. Great role reversal in it.

Yes. I find it funny.

I'd watch it over Two and a Half Men.

Anonymous said...

Funny, best part was the racist test.

CL said...

The clip is funny, and challenging to the audience. You're cringing when you see a bit of yourself on screen.

By the way, there is a ton of terrible, terrible british comedy out there... I guess most of it doesn't get exported.

rock golf said...

Laughed & laughed & laughed. I'm white & my son-in-law is black, and it really did take a while for me to feel comfortable, not because I care one way or another about skin color, but something I might do without any intention of racism might be interpreted as racism.

Example: I had a shelf of old books and among them was "Black Beauty". Would he be offended, I was concerned, if he hadn't heard of the book and found out that is was about a horse?

Anyone remember the similarly themed episode of Better Off Ted, where the motion detectors installed by the company failed to register black skin? They ended up having to install separate water fountains for blacks and whites.

DesertFriar said...

This is the first that I have seen "Extras". Also I only saw the clip once.

Not funny to me (the only mildly amusing part was the Johnny Depp/O.J. Simpson line).

For me, the clip was more confusing than anything else. In the lunch/bus scenes, the whole set up too long (to get to the laugh) while being too short (in terms of "real" time). The first scene is with the extras trying to get on the actor's bus. One of the actor's goes past them into the bus to eat. In the next scene, the extra are eating when (it looks to me) them same actress who brushes past them is now trying to get on their bus. Why? Isn't it the same day? She leave the first bus, gets more to eat and then wants to get on the other bus? Why? The actress never give a reason for the bus hopping.

It seems to me that it would have made more sense if there had been another (different scene) and then show the extra's bus scene on another day.

Also the premise seems to be that these extras get to hobnob with the actors in every show. To me, this doesn't seem remotely realistic.

You have real actors playing themselves, with Ricky Gervais playing an extra (but in reality seems to be playing him just like any other role I have seen him in) so he really seems to be playing himself while his sidekick is playing a buffoon. Way too confusing.

Also the jokes seems way to telegraphed.

Robert "kebernet" Cooper said...

Couldn't stop laughing at it. This is what I tend to love about most Gervais humor... it stews for just long enough for you to get a little comfortable, then it explodes into bits of either heinous discomfort that lasts just long enough to make you stop liking it, then it hits complete absurdity.

Ron said...

One joke shouldn't last that long.

Mac said...

For me it was mildly amusing until the 'Crimewatch' line .. and then it became quite funny.

It's a typical farce type story - a generally likable person does something mildly embarrassing but then makes things worse at every step by their attempts to fix their mistake.

It's interesting to imagine how an American sitcom would handle the same storyline - I imagine it would make a good plotline as a B story for Phoebe in 'Friends' - but only as a B-story. The series style of not having two plotlines (like 'Friends') means that this one joke seems to drag on waaaaay too long.

Why doesn't this series have another storyline? It isn't a Brit .v. US thing - the I.T crowd could also do this as a story for an episode .. but again they would have another storyline for the other characters.

It's the way this series is formatted - a single storyline for about 8-12 minutes. Is it a weakness of the show or a strength?

I'll be curious to see other opinions of ..err.. my opinion.


Anonymous said...

I loved it. Yes, it was cringeworthy, but I thought it was very funny. (I also loved the entire series, BTW.) Really like the "racism test"--no one could pass that one, and the way she kept digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole. I guess all the negative comments kind of surprised me. (I'm from Illinois.)

A_Homer said...

Love "Extras" -- but it isn't made for getting sitcom-style "laughs" - after all, that's the whole premise behind Gervais's character meteoric rise to final "success" in a horrible BBC comedy show, complete with vapid, stupid catchphrases. Throughout it's built with dialogs, everyday pacing, and beautiful character studies between Gervais and his blonde partner, more than about those long drawn out film scenes like with SLJ. Gervais states his main influences are Laurel and Hardy, it's about reactions and real, everyday situations building up. You also see that in the way he has the actress play a kind of Laurel, she's not a dumb blonde, but has a clownish "naive" side, with uncanny moments of Laurel-like expressions, and yet given insightf at the right moments to realize she shouldn't be exploited by the director, and most importantly, she knows throughout what Gervais needs as the series and his successs continues (someone to recognize he has in fact, to simply put it, a soul of sorts) and in the end, they really do a L&H ending and go off together in their little car.
Gervais humor allows for set-ups where someone can make harsh fun of Gervais character -- David Bowie creating a song on the spot making fun of his career, rather than recognizing him as he wishes... and so on. Hard stuff really to watch because it is believable, and in the next moment funny.

Mac said...

There's funny moments in there but it's far too protracted for me. They could have done it in much less time.
Speaking as a fan of Ricky Gervais, I thought he (brilliantly) took akward comedy to the max in The Office, this just felt like flogging it past its sell-by date. There comes a point where you stop cringing and just start seeing the same old techniques.
The end gag about confusing one black person with another has been done to death; it just made me wonder how dumb the 'Maggie' character is supposed to be, and what level of realism it's trying to achieve.
I thought Ricky was funnier in the few minutes he did at the Golden Globes than in most of Extras, mainly because he did some actual jokes. Ten years after The Office, watching people makes idiots of themselves just feels a bit old-fashioned.

Mac said...

That should of course be "watching people make" not "makes." Unless you're Popeye, in which case, stick with the first one.

David O'Hara said...

Very funny. The best kind of humor is where not everybody gets it. Not a fart in the clip.

Kirk said...

It was hiarious.

Manuel said...

Stuck w/it thru 8+ min. Another reader said it wasn't a comedy, and I tend to agree. Dramedy, at best. At least for 8+ min. I do like British humor, I do like Gervais most of the time. It's the material that I didn't particularly care for - as humor. Or humour. Give me Fawlty Towers, any and every day.

selection7 said...

For the people finding it boring, the characters make their everyday conversation compelling. Having not seen the series you don't care about the characters yet so it's understandable.

To those people who can't find anything to laugh at, I'm bewildered. It took me all of 10 seconds to find a laugh. Both of their characters are quite serious about their longing for success in the industry, yet here they are screwing around pretending to be indignant and professional just to get away with making a dirty pun and pretending to use a mace can like hairspray because he "wants his prisoners to look good". ...So very in character, and you can see their chemistry and the friendship between their characters. If I can get a laugh out of a few lines of throwaway intro, then you should have no problem finding the humor in the major gags for pete's sake.

Another minute in, "I'm sure you've had major roles in other things" "He hasn't" "Shut up!". Her innocently simpleminded way to be a headache for Ricky at the most innoportune time is a character based recurring joke, but surely it doesn't take watching previous episodes to for that to work. And at this point we're still just barely into it.

Part of this show's M.O. is to put characters into inherently funny situations so punchlines aren't the only payoff. Complaining that you've seen some variation of it before is like complaining you've already heard good songs in a major key before and besides, Elvis did it better. I just plain don't believe anyone who claims they saw all the best gags coming.

selection7 said...

Great show, great scenes.
For the people finding it boring, the characters make their everyday conversation compelling and you probably don't know the characters yet.

To those people who can't find anything to laugh at, I'm bewildered. It took me all of 10 seconds to find a laugh. Both of their characters are often painfully serious about their longing for success in the industry, yet here they are screwing around pretending to be indignant and professional just to get away with making a dirty pun and pretending to use a mace can like hairspray because he "wants his prisoners to look good". ...So very in character, and you can see their chemistry and the friendship between their characters. If I can get a laugh out of a few lines of throwaway intro, then you should have no problem finding the humor in the major gags for pete's sake.

Another minute in, "I'm sure you've had major roles in other things" "(earnestly) He hasn't" "Shut up!". Her innocently simpleminded way to be a headache for Ricky at the most innoportune time is a character based recurring joke, but surely it doesn't take watching previous episodes for that to work. And at this point we're still just barely into it.

Also, part of this show's M.O. is to put characters into inherently funny situations so punchlines aren't the only payoff. Complaining that you've seen some variation of it before is like complaining you've already heard good songs in a minor key before and besides, Elvis did it better.

droszel said...

I agree with selection7 comments above. Hilarious.

Al said...

I find it hilarious. I'm from the Western US (California), have done plenty of extra work, and am African-American (it's pertinent here so don't flame me for bringing it up).

I think part of the problem people may be having is relatability/character identification. I find it relatable, having been in similar situations where well meaning people, who aren't racist by any stretch of the imagination, trip over their own words because they want so much to prove that they aren't racist. For me I relate to the guy being asked out in the sense of giving someone the continual benefit of the doubt, only to have to eventually give up, not because the person is racist, but because the person clearly can't get past their need to prove that they're not.

I think a lot of viewers identify with Ashley Jensen's character, which I imagine increases the cringe factor exponentially and makes it so uncomfortable as to be unbearable. Cringe humor is like that. I watched it and was pounding on my desk laughing at the same time as resisting the urge to turn it off because I felt so bad for her good intentions going horribly wrong. Even for me it was at the very edge of being bearable. For me that's where the humor comes from.

Cringe humor is a fairly recent trend, popular in large part due to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchan'ts work on The Office, and for some folks it is not a pleasant experience.

In my own spec writing, I know I'm on to something potentially funny when I get that feeling of embarassment for my characters. Things that I would do to alleviate a situation in real life I have to make sure my characters don't do, otherwise the script becomes a boring tale about people who are sensitive to others and are socially astute. Who wants to watch that on television?

Johnny Walker said...

I'm British, so maybe I'm biased, but I like Extras (well, the first season, at least -- it became a one-joke show after that)! I was watching through my fingers a lot of the time... so unbelievably cringeworthy.

It makes me laugh, and it also makes me smile because it's got its heart and brain in the right place.

Weird editing, though, and no resolution... I'm guessing a sub-plot was removed from the episode?

Johnny Walker said...

Not sure what you're asking from your readership, other than if they find it funny? :-/

I could certainly write a bit about how I don't think you could do this sort of thing on network TV in the US. About how it's ok to have unlikeable characters in a sitcom in the UK (perhaps Extras isn't the greatest example of that, though). I could also write a bit about how Ricky Gervais is kind of a one-joke guy. There are times when I think he's a genius, but there are times when I find his stuff to be obvious and lacking in depth.

From purely a comedy POV, and without analysing it to death, this is funny to me.