* Explanation to Come. (Although you may feel free to guess.)
In an episode of the comedy-western I created called Best of the West, entitled “The Necktie Party”, the town villain Parker Tillman is about to be strung up for cattle rustling. In a compassionate gesture by the lynch mob’s ringleader Kincaid, Tillman is permitted to deliver some final words to his previously unheralded “best friend”, Tillman’s ineffectual henchman, Frog. Tillman’s last words, in a desperate effort to avoid the inevitable, are these:
Frog, I want you to go up behind Kincaid, put your gun in his back and say, “If he hangs, you die.”
(NOT UNDERSTANDING) If who hangs, who dies?
If I hang, he dies.
You want me to say, “If I hang, he dies?”
No, you say, “If he hangs, you die.”
(TEARFULLY TERRIFIED) I die!
That, for better or worse – for me better, for you, possibly for worse – is an example, lifted from my oeuvre, of “pure comedy.” Which probably requires no explanation, so I shall keep it short in case it might, while extracting minimal moments from your busy and hopefully satisfying lives.
“Pure comedy” is the “Dribble Glass” of the “Hilarious Undertakings.” Consider, as a prime example of “pure comedy”, silent comedy, demonstrated at is loftiest level by the orchestrated mayhem of Charlie Chaplin (watch him roller skating convulsingly close to disaster in Modern Times) and Buster Keaton (the entire side of a building topples in his direction while Keaton stands obliviously – and safely – in the designated doorway.)
“Pure comedy” is the indecipherable “Double-talk” specialist. The serial “sneezer.” The Armageddonal pie fight. The unconventionally-walking inebriate. The hyper-exasperated paperhanger, unable to extricate himself from the insidiously glutinous wallpaper.
It is also nonsensical wordplay. (See: “If he hangs, you die.”)
“Pure comedy” has no “soap box” intentions, no hidden agenda, no edicts of solidarity, no subliminal communication.
It is simply, generically and uninhibitedly…
Funny. (For the premeditated sake of being funny.)
This, I believe – and have previously mentioned – is the most enduring comedy of them all.
Evidenced by the indestructible staying-power of I Love Lucy and, more recently, Seinfeld, whose syndicated reruns I continue to lap up because, despite the specificity of its narcissistic characterizations – which we as a culture shall hopefully someday overcome – and by the way, my apologies for the stringing together of big words; I just could not think of a better way to say it – on Seinfeld the “funny” always came first. Accentuated by Kramer’s signature, pre-verbal jabbering.
So, you might reasonably ask, if I have a predilection and a proclivity for “pure comedy”, why did I not assiduously stick with it? (Good Lord! I seem to have contracted an unshakable “Big Word” virus!)
Well, herein arrives the allusion to today’s post title:
“O R’s P.”
Which stands for – and if you guessed it, vociferous kudos to yourselves –
“Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”.
(Oh, dear. Methinks I have reached the nadir of my “Big Word” afflictionism.) (Though with a modicum of pride. How often do you see “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny” referenced in an every day blog post? And you are getting this for nothing!)
Okay, so what do I mean by “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”?
First, let me answer my original question – why I did not stick with pure comedy.
The answer (though let the record show I never abandoned it entirely) is:
I couldn’t. Not because of external pressure to move on. But because moving on was a genealogical imperative.
As defined on Wikipedia: “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny” refers to “a biological hypothesis arguing that, in their development from embryo to adult, animals go through stages resembling or representing successive stages in the evolution of their remote ancestors.”
This natural and inevitable evolution happens in comedy as well.
Is what I am parenthetically adding to the mix.
Comedy bursts into our consciousness in its most unadulterated representation – “pure comedy” – and little by little, it becomes more grounded in reality, more
sophisticated, more psychologically attuned and more driven by a culturally articulated point of view.
Comedy went through those evolutionary stages.
And so, recapitulating comedy’s inexorable phylogeny in my personal development,
Advancing – though that descriptive may be debatable – from the generic access point of “pure comedy”, as in, “What is the funniest thing I can think of?” to instead asking myself, as a starting point to my writing, the comedic incarnation of “What would realistically happen in this situation?” and “What exactly is my perspective about that?”
You can’t help it.
It is a biological imperative, and you are required to adhere to it.
During my assiduous research for today’s blog post, I discovered that the “Ontology Recapitulates Phylogeny” hypothesis has been scientifically discredited.
Meaning, the leg I’ve been balancing myself on has been unceremoniously kicked away.
To which I unregenerately respond,
In biology, perhaps.
But, based on personally accumulated evidence,
Not necessarily in comedy writing.