The Fascinating Evolution Of Comedy Across Human Cultures

The heart of comprehending why the C22HQS Problem is so hard to solve, you first must understand why Comedy Evolution has stalled in every country (apart from the UK & USA).

Comedy generally evolves like this;

  1. SlapstickPulling faces, bodily functions, laughing at other people’s misfortunes.
  2. Drag Queen/Clown Comedy It has its roots in the Court Jester. Where you lower your status or “debase yourself” to make fun of others. A man wearing a dress is saying “I look ridiculous therefore anything I say should not be considered offensive because I am less than you.”
  3. Parochial or Stereotype Humour aka Shared Jokes Among Friends/CulturesThese are the sort of jokes that if an outsider hear a group of friends laughing, he would not understand the joke. Usually the laughter signifies wanting to signify social cohesion not as a result of genuine comedic wit.
  4. Stand Up Comedy/Sketch Comedy – Then some brave souls in society begin to tell jokes on stage to a public (stranger) audience about society without any sort of mask (Clown Costume/Drag Queen). It is cheap to produce and just requires ability to understand how to craft a joke, the discipline to write, the bravery to perform, stage, microphone and an audience. In the case of Sketch comedy – thanks to cheap smart phones and YouTube – there is a plethora of young people uploading short comedy sketches mainly rooted in Parochial/Culture Specific Humour
  5. Universal Comedy Truths…rooted in solid craftsmanship and understanding of universal comedy story telling techniques.

Universal vs Parochial humour is very similar to the Archetype and Stereotype in Dramatic Story telling.

An Archetype is a universal human character like a “reluctant hero” or a “dishonest businessman” – every culture in the world understands those Archetypes.

A Stereotype is usually culturally specific – for example a “posh, arrogant Englishman” or a “Singapore Party Girl (SPG)”.

These can often be so specific to a culture that they would barely by understood by anyone outside it (without a long boring explanation that sucks all the humour out of the “joke”).

In fact, Universal (Archetypical) Comedy Truths (UCT’s) travel so well across all cultures that once you excel at it, comedy shows can be exported around the world.

The UK & USA have mastered Universal Humour, which is why they totally dominate broadcast comedy exports.

What’s interesting is that virtually every culture in the world – apart from the UK & USA (+ Australia, NZ  Canada to a lesser extent) stall at the 4th Stage of Comedy Evolution.

Like a marathon runner collapsing just before the finishing line, the 5th stage of comedy evolution (Universal Comedy Truths) is where you see massive success, audience appeal and money.

Actually in comedy, to truly garner success in a new market, you want a blend of both; Universal AND Parochial humour.

In a world-class sitcom, the underlying structure is made of solid Universal Comedy Truths (think of it like an architect’s blueprint for a building) with a added veneer or “spice” of Parochial humour to appeal to each individual countries culture.

Without the core Universal Comedy Truths fortifying the structure, you will have a low quality, amateur comedy product.

In the same way, the Taj Mahal obeys the underlying (universal) principles of Structural Engineering but its veneer is uniquely Indian (and famous the world over!)

Another simple example is bread…a (universal) basic mixture of flour, yeast and water but everywhere you travel in the world you will different local (parochial) versions; Croissant (France), Focaccia (Italy), Bagel (Jewish).




∙ Authored by Quilliam Potter
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