Rating comedy

In my previous post, I asked the rhetorical question:

Is anyone in Hollywood doing ROI for laughs?

LaughterSince it’s clear the answer is a resounding no, I’m going to help the cause. Why curse the darkness when there are candles and matches aplenty at hand? Herewith, my method for gauging comedic value. Although I’m speaking of movies here, there’s no reason my system couldn’t be used for any comic medium, including, but not limited to, plays, audio recordings, stand-up comedy routines, and political advertising.

So how do we judge comedy? Let me introduce Rick’s First Law of Amusement Appraisal, to wit, “If people laugh, it’s funny. If they don’t, it ain’t.” It really is that simple. It’s a wonder Einstein didn’t stumble on this.

So now that we have the theoretical groundwork laid, how do we go about implementing a measurement technology? If you know your movies, you’ll realize that a similar process has already been developed and deployed, but for a different emotional response. Think “Monsters, Inc.” but with laughter instead of screams. That’s right, we have Pixar create a device for measuring response to humor rather than fear. Hey, they’ve already figured out how to make consistently good and popular films. This should be a breeze… if Disney doesn’t screw it up.

In fact, I’ll give them a head start by quantifying a selection of laughter responses. I can imagine assigning to each a point score.

  • Hah! A simple laugh is good, worth a point.
  • A snort is the next level of laughter. A good snort, depending on volume and duration, could net two or three points. A bonus would be allotted if mucus were involved.
  • Salivary discharge is also worthy of an increased score.
  • Like any other laugh that involves bodily fluids, peeing one’s pants is a major coup in the humor department. Point allotment could be affected, however, by age and gender of the subject.
  • “I laughed till I cried” isn’t just an expression, it’s an apt description of a truly impressive fit of hilarity. Score up to a dozen bonus points in this case.
  • In some instances of uncontrollable merriment, it’s not unusual for the subject’s ability to breath to be suspended temporarily. This is rare enough to warrant a huge award of points. A problem arises when this condition lasts too long, resulting in…
  • Death. Laughing unto death is the ultimate funny. However, surely even Hollywood producers can see the down side of this result: No repeat ticket sales, the bread and butter of the blockbuster. Therefore, if this level is reached, all points are lost and the movie must be rewritten, preferably by the writer of “Mortdecai” to ensure the humor is completely wrung out of the script.

There are probably more variations to consider. Dick van Dyke (as the character Bert) delineates a fine variety as he sings, “I Love to Laugh” in “Mary Poppins”.

There. I’ve given the PTB (Powers That Be) a ripping head start. A little due diligence on their part will spare us any future debacles of the “Mortdecai” variety.

You’re welcome.


Note to subscribers to this blog: I apologize for an errant post I generated last week as the result of not carefully reading instructions about how to create a WordPress home page. The good news is that the page was eventually created, although it still has a ways to go before I can call it complete. Feel free to check out the current revision here. I hope it’s worth the hassle of the superfluous notification.

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