The comedian Stewart Lee once talked about the the funniest thing on TV ever, as voted by the UK public. Please remember this is the UK, the country known for its biting wit and social satire, where some of the cleverest comedians of all time learned their trade saying some of the cleverest jokes ever heard.
This is what was voted number one.
Was that funny to you? People say that all art is subjective - which is true up to a point and will be explored in a later post - but the fact is if you didn’t laugh at that you’re wrong.
The only acceptable excuses for not laughing are:
- You’ve already seen it a million times, four of which were today, or
- This happened to your best friend, he had the golden ticket to stop living on the streets hustling but when he fell over in a bar just like this he was so ashamed of himself that he had a drink that night to forget about it, ended up in a fight and broke his arm so he couldn’t play ball and never made it out.
Stewart Lee uses this scene as an example of audiences clueless to good comedy and instead voting for something lowbrow and lacking in comedic taste. This is one time Lee gets it completely wrong.
Falling down is comedy at its purest and most primal, it is the third triangle of the triforce of comedy, next to farting and masturbation. You don’t need words to find it funny and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, it transcends race and culture. These are things that we were laughing at as neanderthals in caves; when Gralk was chasing a moose and accidentally rolled down a hill, going “ow oh ah!” with spear and tooth necklace all flying in different directions, you can be sure his best mate stood at the summit looking down pissing himself.
We all loved seeing people fall over at some point in our lives but then some of us decided we were too cool for it anymore. How can anyone stop finding it funny? It doesn’t matter if its babies falling over.
Or a family of ducks being blown around in the wind.
That is funny to us on the same level as water being good for you and a campfire feeling nice.
On top of this falling over is the great equaliser, sure its funny when anyone falls but when its someone who shouldn’t fall over its just so much better. This includes the rich and powerful and the elderly. If you’re an elite ruler wanting to look relatable then forget skolling a pint, just have footage of you falling over go viral and everyone will see you as a man of the people.
Possibly the best example of a great comedic fall is the epic stack Australian legend Frank Lowy took at the 2015 A-League final.
Its said that that the easiest way to stop something being funny is to explain why its funny but in this case lets give it a shot.
- Its a rich old white man falling, over so its someone in a position of authority as well as an older person who just shouldn’t have that happen to them.
- When you listen to the commentators in that clip you get to see something special; absolute silence. Its the collective intake of a thousand A-League employees as they watch the man who did more than anyone else to build the sport potentially hurting himself because of it. Thats the sound of a thousand people collectively thinking “oh shit my paycheck.”
- He got up. Unlike the players he was standing with who would have been stretchered off the pitch with someone pumping oxygen into their lungs this tough old man stood up, dusted himself off and stood back on stage with half of the pitch still stuck in his hair.
So next time you see someone fall over and wonder whether you should laugh just do it! Although maybe check on them first if they may have hurt themselves. You don’t want to be the guy publicly laughing at an old person breaking a collarbone - in that case wait until you’re on your own before giggling.