Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Sixty-Seven


To Erik: Who are your comedic influences?

Despite the fact that I tend to not be able to stand any of the newer "comedies" that come out in movie theaters, comedy has always been a pretty big part of my life.  Watching stand-up performances, classic humor movies, and even older cartoons all set me down the path of trying to be "funny" (or if not that, at least mildly entertaining) from a young age.

There are some pretty obvious influences, but some that might not be as well known.  I've even included a few modern influences, since my sense of humor is constantly shifting and adapting as I find just the right tone of humor to be "me."


One of the earliest influences in my life I can remember is this guy:


That's me standing with my father, and if it wasn't for him, I would never have decided that it was great to make people laugh.  When I was little, he would constantly get me laughing my head off, whether from just being silly or doing impressions of Bullwinkle or other characters.  He's also the one who introduced me to so many other huge comedic influences in my life, I can honestly say I wouldn't be the guy I was without him.

That last sentence might be one of the dumbest and most obvious things I've ever written in my life, but I'm sure you all get what I'm trying to say.

Speaking of, here's another huge influence:


Growing up I watched a lot of the classic Hanna-Barbara cartoons, but my father made sure that I also got into his favorite cartoon character, Bullwinkle.  The show was much, much smarter than it needed to be, and even watching an old episode of it now I pick up on bits of humor that I completely missed when I was little.  ("Bullwinkle, that's a girl's team!  What kind of game can you play with girls?"  "Boy, this really is a kid's show.  Parcheesi, of course!").  The puns, sly humor to adult topics (seriously, the "Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam?"), and the fact that the whole show felt like a strange, twisted variety program set some of the early building blocks of my humor.

Other major influences growing up were the Three Stooges, Monty Python, Looney Tunes, Jonathan Winters, some classic movies like It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and a lot of the classic comedians who set up what a lot of modern comedians are still building upon.  I read the weekly Dave Barry columns obsessively, studying how he was able to take a simple metaphor and twist it around to the ludicrous level or simply present the information and let your mind fill in how ridiculous it was.

There are some modern comedians who I find have similar humor to myself.  Paul F. Thompkins is currently one of my favorites, and his work with the comedy team of Acker and Blacker for The Thrilling Adventure Hour is something I wish I had written.  The writing teams behind The Daily Show and The Colbert Report entertain me greatly, though they can sometimes be a bit more crass than I think is necessary.  I also enjoy listening to the hosts of The Nerdist podcast, where Chris Hardwick and his friends always seem to have a blast and make each other laugh.

But if I had to pick one guy who influenced my comedy the most without being a blood relative, I have to go with this guy:


The deadpan delivery, the layered humor that got funnier the deeper you dug, the ability to switch from ridiculous to the straight man at the drop of a hat, Groucho (and his brothers) are, in my mind, the funniest comedy team that ever existed (though Monty Python is a close second).  The fact that the humor could switch up from adult to slapstick, the quick way he could interact with people and improvise, and pretty much everything that made his works the classics they are have been things I've watched over and over again.  I've probably spent more time trying to work out just what it was about his humor that I could extract and add to my own repertoire than anybody else on this list.

1 comment:

NĂ©na Riley said...

I loved watching Rocky and Bullwinkle (still do) and fractured fairy tales makes me laugh every time!! I love comedy but I agree, most comedy that comes out now is disappointing to me. Comedy use to be thoughtfully constructed humor and witty punch lines, even at it's worst, but now comedy seems to have evolved into mindless drivel. It's sad.