Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thoughts on humor and Catherine Tate

I only just discovered Catherine Tate, a fairly well-known British comedian with her own sketch show (yay for YouTube). She has loads of funny sketches, but I was struck by one of her repeat characters, Lauren, an insolent adolescent who works hard to prove that she doesn't care what other people think of her. Some examples include:

Lauren talks about Beyonce
The party
The field trip
Lauren in science class
"Are you gay, sir?"
Lauren at the burger bar

Part of what makes this funny is the rapid-fire, farcical, back-and-forth patter, as well as the stream-of-consciousness quality of her references once she gets going. This takes talent and loads of rehearsal to get the timing just right.

Once the pattern is established, then she can play with it:

Lauren's French oral exam
Catherine Tate and David Tennant
Catherine Tate meets the Prime Minister -- I love this one!

The repetitious, partly-predictable nature of the sketches is interesting from a theoretical perspective on humor, as some theories of humor emphasize that surprise is a key factor in humor, but here, the laugh comes in part from the recognition of the familiar ("Am I bovvered?"). There are still surprises along the way, of course, and part of the humor is carried by the intensity of the anger and disrespect she shows, or by her rise/fall in the eyes of others.

Interesting stuff, and now I have some new catch-phrases!

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