This is picking up on something mentioned elsethread
, the idea that comedic content benefits (or is at least tolerant of) distance from the character in some way. I'm interested in unpacking that a bit.
I'll kick off with a personal perspective. My improv group performed our first show together in this incarnation on Sunday. There are a lot of gifted people within it, with natural comic timing, quick minds, and a sense of the gag. We had a good show, the audience was entertained, we laughed.
We debriefed yesterday, in what was an intense and pretty wonderful peer feedback session (perhaps interesting to think about in an rpg context? But, another thread.). We found a lot of dissatisfaction with what we had been producing, and traved it back to (ok, our tutor shone a torch at) the tendency to step away from the human situation and sit at the meta-level, fiddling around for perceived comedic effect. We were distancing ourselves; we were taking pawn stance. We were getting the laughs, but the laughs were coming from high up, in the throat or head.
After talking for near 2 hours, we ran through some scenes, taking the various feedback to heart (frinstance I entered scenes with more physicality and pronounced characterisation). The final scene included James, a natural hoot who rustles up bug-eyed hysterics and grubby imbeciles without effort. Only this time, he stayed with the scene, in his character, finding that story and exploring it.
It was a wonderful scene, quite moving, surreal and playful. Pertinent to this topic, it ended on a comedic beat. A beat that had the room in shuddering, convulsive laughter for several minutes, looking back and forth at each other with smiles. The final ten minutes of notes had to be abandoned twice, on each occasion that scene was returned to; by the end I was crying. Just thinking about it now, I've done it again.
What was the joke? Out of context it's not worth a damn. But coming out of affiliation, connection to character and emergence from the true obvious within the scene - rather than "what we need here is" - made it a moment I don't believe I will ever forget.
So, that's improv, and this is gaming. Also, this is my story, I want to hear yours. Where have your best laughs come from in gaming? Do different approaches (stances) yield different kinds of funny? And other questions...