Saturday, May 24, 2014

Serious Look at Comedy, Part XIB

Part XIB
An Hysterical Analysis: Galaxy Quest, Part II

Just an FYI: May 30th will be my launch of Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent, Volume I. I'll post more details here once I know some. It is several YA fantasy/comedy serials I wrote for Big World Network.

Anyway, when we left off from the last episode, our intrepid heroes were about to be blasted into atoms by the evil, lizardlike Sarris.

38:40 into the movie. So the ship goes into combat and gets shot up. That's not so funny, but it does increase the tension. It's important to point out that tension is a very needed part of good comedy. When are things funniest? Often times, it is right after a stressful situation. Good comedies know this and utilize it, like here. Humor following tension allows us an even better release.

39:45. Here is a brilliant combination of two comedy techniques: parody and understatement. Fred reports from engineering in a deadpan tone, “Generators won't take it. The ship's breaking apart and all that. Just FYI.” The understatement alone is humorous, but when you realize that this is a parody of the original Star Trek, it makes it all the funnier. Whenever good ol' Scotty reported from the engine room about how bad things were for the Enterprise, he was the total opposite of Fred as he would be screaming in a panic, “She just can't take it anymore, cap'n!” We could also say there's a little slapstick here, because while Fred is delivering his report, the aliens behind him are in a panic and look like they are about to be sucked out into space.

40:ll. The mine field scene. More tension, but also humorous quips to break it up. We see Tommy's panicked reaction while Guy dives under a desk. Alexander says to Tommy, enunciating distinctly, “Try not to hit every single one!”

42:43. The ship's computer doesn't respond to the other crew members. The aliens, in their efforts to make the ship exactly like the TV series, set it up so that the computer would only respond to Gwen. And then all she does is repeat what the computer says. When Tommy gripes, “That is really getting annoying,” Gwen replies, “I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I'm going to do it!”

43:47. Mathesar takes the blame for the disaster because he'd seen the crew (in the TV show) overcome greater obstacles. The crew decides it's time to explain that they are just actors and not real heroes. Gwen asks, “You don't think Gilligan's Island is real, do you?” Mathesar answers, “Oh, those poor people.” We still get a laugh at their misunderstanding. Just when we think the Thermians might be starting to understand, they laugh in their goofy way and think the crew is just joking.

45:50. Fred group hugs the Thermians who just helped him find out how to solve their power problem. This is a cute-funny.

46:00. Alexander finds out he has a protege. One of the Thermians has taken the Dr. Lazarus Mak-tar code as his own. Alexander doesn't know what to think of it, but we get to laugh at this Thermian for dedicating his life to a non-existent code. Alexander forbids the alien from saying, “By Grabthar's hammer,” referring us back to his earlier panic attack over the line.

47:15. The crew has to go down to an alien planet to get a new power sphere. Most of the crew looks nervous while Fred smiles and eats his cheese and crackers that he got from the vending machine before leaving earth. Again, we see opposite reactions as Guy has a panic attack about dying again. Alexander uses an old cliché, “Are we there yet?” This shows that clichés can be a great source of comedy when used right.

48:38. After landing on the planet, Guy panics when Fred opens the shuttle door. Guy, “Don't open that! This is an alien planet. Is there air?” and he holds his breath. Fred sniffs and says, “Seems okay.” Again, opposites.

49:27. We get a chance to laugh at and mock Alexander. He played the scientist on the TV show but doesn't know how to operate a real scanner the Thermians gave him. Tommy adds insult to injury by saying, “I actually thought you were smart.”

50:49. They see the 'cute' aliens. “Are they the miners?” Alexander asks. Fred answers, “Sure, they're like three years old.” Alexander responds, “Miners, not minors,” giving us a combo of word play and ridicule humor. Gwen sees a hurt one and wants to help it. Guy, in his near panic mode, stops her and asks, “Did you guys ever watch the show?” When the aliens turn mean and ugly, as Guy predicted, the crew turns and runs. Gwen says the classic line, “Let's get out of here before those things eat Guy,” playing on Guy's fear that he is the expendable one. To make things even more uncomfortable (thus funny to us) for Guy, they come up with the plan they used in episode 81: the episode Guy's character, Crewman Number Six, died in. Again, some good parody of the red shirt phenomenon in Star Trek.

53:05. They try to come up with a signal. Tommy wants to make a 'caw' sound until Jason brings up that they have communicators, thus ridiculing Tommy. They get Jason back, though, after he rolls around all commando-like and then loses his gun.

53:38. We get a comic look at Fred as he is rolling the beryllium sphere and carrying his snack bag in his teeth. Jason says, “Never give up, never surrender,” and the rest of the crew tells him to shut up. Tommy, who is on the lookout, starts screaming, “Caw, caw!” Here is the repetition technique, bringing up the earlier joke and giving us another laugh at it.

54:00. We see their comical escape as they roll the sphere back to the shuttle. When Jason ends up staying behind so that the others can get away, Alexander brings up his jealousy from when they were doing the TV series, “You gotta be the hero. Heaven forbid anyone else gets the spotlight.” Jason punches Alexander into the ship. As they lift off from the planet, Alexander adds, “It's always about you!”

55:25. We get some classic awkward-uncomfortable humor when Jason wakes up to the large, slimy tongue of an alien pig. Fred has to try and figure out how to use the digital conveyor, which is a parody of the Star Trek transporter. Gwen tells Jason that it's perfectly safe and then the Thermians inform them that it hasn't been successfully tested. Meanwhile, tension for Jason is getting ramped up as he has to deal with the pig-thing. They test the conveyor on the pig and it is beamed up inside out. Gwen tells Jason everything is fine but one of the Thermians interrupts with a truth statement (something true but shouldn't be said), “But the animal is inside out.” Jason starts to panic and the crew lies to him again that everything is okay. The pig remains then explode, spreading guts all over them (discomfort). The Thermian adds another truth that should be unsaid, “And it exploded!” This isn't helping to calm Jason at all.

59:00. To make matters even worse for Jason, a rock monster shows up. Tommy suggests that Jason go for a vulnerable spot. We get another true but funny line when Jason yells back at them, “It's a rock! It doesn't have any vulnerable spots.” Guy's next suggestion falls into the non-sequitor humor category when he says, “Form some kind of rudimentary lathe.” This might also be harking back to the Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk used raw materials to fashion a cannon to defeat the Gorn.

1:00:47. Fred figures out the digitizer (after a smile from Laliari, the cute Thermian girl) and brings Jason up to the ship. Jason, of course, lost his shirt during his fight with the rock monster. Alexander gets in his quip, “I see you managed to get your shirt off.”

1:01:55. Sarris boards the ship. Guy sees him and passes out (slapstick). When Sarris learns that the crew are really a bunch of actors, he enjoys revealing to the Thermians the concept of lying. This devastates them, giving us a serious moment again that we'll need some release from.

1:07:25. Here we have the 'whiff of death' moment (see: Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder). All seems lost and the characters are about to die. Jason and Alexander fake a fight to distract the alien soldiers who are about to kill them. They succeed, sending the alien lizards out the airlock. Fred returns us to a lighter vein when he apologizes for the airlock door being sticky and he'll have one of his boys get some WD40.

1:10:40. We don't stay humorous for long as the ship is about to explode. They don't know how to shut down the reactor until Jason remembers that the kids on earth were into all that tech stuff and they have a real communicator. He calls up the leader of the kids, Brandon. Brandon goes into a semi-depressed mode and says, “I understand completely that it's just a TV show.” Jason tells him, “It's all real,” which causes Brandon to have a complete turn around in the opposite direction as he shouts excitedly, “I knew it!” I think this taps into an inner desire many of us geeks have: that our fantasy worlds are real and we can go there.

1:14:07. During a doom and gloom scene with Sarris, we see one of the aliens that was ejected into space smash against the ship's window like a bug hitting a windshield. It's kind of a slapstick/parody of life.

1:16:09. Guy decides to accept his role that he is the “red shirt” and going to die no matter what. He decides to be a distraction in order to save the others. Fred suggests, “Maybe you're the plucky comic relief,” which is exactly the role that Guy has been playing throughout the movie (truth). 

1:17:18. Meanwhile, Jason and Gwen have been running through the bowels of the ship in an effort to prevent it from exploding. They go through all sorts of ridiculous situations like you'd see in a cheesy sci-fi show. Gwen finally blurts out, “This episode is badly written,” poking fun at several sci-fi tropes all at once. After barely surviving the 'chompers', she screams, “Whoever wrote this episode should die!”

1:18:29. Fred gets an idea to take out the aliens by digitizing the rock monster into the midst of them. As the rock monster takes out the aliens, Fred says, “It's the simple things in life you treasure.” Laliari then kisses Fred, causing Guy to say, “Get a room.” When Laliari's tentacles wrap around Fred, he just looks at them and continues kissing her. Most people would be grossed out by it (like Guy), but Fred takes it all in stride (opposites, doing the unexpected).

1:20:00. Alexander and his protege rescue a room full of trapped Thermians. The Thermians give Jason the credit, causing Alexander to grimace and say, “It's just not fair.” At the death of his protege, though, he takes on his Dr. Lazarus personae, dispelling his previous disdain for the role. He says his famous line from the show, “By Grabthar's hammer, you shall be avenged,” and attacks the alien who shot his protege.

1:22:30. Jason and Gwen finally make it to the room and push the button to stop the timer. The countdown doesn't stop. In a panic, they try to call Brandon. We get a quick cut scene of Brandon running out of his house while taking a bag of trash to the garbage can. He is trying to explain to his mom the life and death situation he's involved in while his mom reminds him about the recyclables. Back to Jason and Gwen, they prepare to die until the countdown stops at exactly one second. This is again making fun of a common trope, since the countdown on the show always stopped at one.

1:24:00. We get some action here for a while. Sarris is supposedly vanquished by using the unknown 'Omega 13'. Unfortunately, though, the ship is about to crash to the earth (tension).

1:32:00. Brandon is running out of his house with an armful of fireworks. His parents see it and we get a humorous non-reaction from them when Brandon tries to explain that the ship is about to crash. His mom just tells him, “Dinner's at 7.” After he leaves, his father gives his mother a questioning look, prompting his mom to say, “Well, he's outside.” This is a truth statement pointing out that we nerds have a tendency to want to stay inside and play on our computers instead of get fresh air.

1:33:50. The ship crashes into the convention, panicking the crowds. The crew exits the ship, eliciting applause. The announcer proclaims, “What effects,” not realizing the crash was real. Guy is introduced as “another shipmate.” They say of Alexander, “Give a big hand, he's British.” When Sarris appears, the crowd shoots Nerf guns at him. They applaud when Jason disintegrates Sarris with a real ray gun.

Okay, I know I skimmed over a few things here to shorten this. A lot of what I found funny were all the 'awkward' moments throughout the show. And of course, the little parodies of Star Trek were brilliant. I hope you learned a few things from this analysis that you can use to help you in your own comedy writing. 

Unfortunately, my schedule is getting more hectic and I'll have to take a hiatus from this series. I'd like to continue, but it probably won't be weekly. There's just too little time and too much to write. I've got five novels screaming inside my head to be let out, so it's kind of noisy in my skull. Still feel free to send questions or thoughts about this series, I'd love to hear them. Until next time, live long and prosper and party on, dudes.

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