Sometimes humor can cut the tension and seriousness, but it’s rarely done well.
I love most things horror and sci-fi related. But it can all get so heavy. Horror is basically about ghosts, witches, demons, vampires, etc. And as for sci-fi, well… science isn’t very funny. Scientists take what they do so damn seriously sometimes. Most times. Ok, 99% of the time.
In the fictional world there seems to be a stark divide. On one hand, there’s the hardcore, where you never laugh, except maybe unintentionally. Take Hellraiser‘s Pinhead. There is nothing funny about him. Compare that with the comedies — Spaceballs, Scary Movie 1 to infinity. Those play it only for laughs.
But then along come those rare shows that can balance drama with comedy.
The first one that comes to mind is the iconic series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At its core it was a tragedy: a teenage girl is chosen (against her will) to become a vampire slayer. These girls rarely see their 18th birthday. Fun, right?
Well, head writer and creator Joss Whedon and Buffy herself — Sarah Michelle Gellar — made it fun. The writing was sharp and clever and the jokes would fly.
But Buffy the Vampire Slayer never let you forget the tragedy at its core.
Another example is from the SyFy channel (or SciFi as it was called back then). Farscape was about John Chrichton (Ben Browder), an American astronaut who is shot through a wormhole to a thoroughly alien part of the universe. He accidentally kills the brother of a psychotic military captain, and winds up aligned with a band of escaped convicts. He spends the series on the run while trying to get back to Earth.
Farscape could be heavy, and many times it was. But Chrichton was written as a loose cannon, confounding his adopted compatriots for better and for worse. He was often serious as hell. But he was also funny, sharp and crafty.
I think we need more of this in these genres. Take time travel. Most of the time travel movies are 100% serious (the Terminator franchise). The only non-serious time travel movie I can think of is Hot Tub Time Machine. But that’s straight up comedy.
But there could be alternatives. I came across this short clip below, courtesy of io9.com. It takes place in a world where time travel is common, and is used by drunken assholes. It’s clever, and it left me thinking… what if? What if someone could successfully inject humor into time travel, while keeping the drama?<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/70410780″>Timeholes</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/mallaby”>Ben Mallaby</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I’m waiting, Hollywood.