10 Signs You Might Be A Character In A Black Comedy

10 Signs You Might Be A Character In A Black Comedy

“…and HE said, ‘because poison doesn’t have a Use-By Date! Badum-tish!’

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these. Remember being a chick-lit heroine? A cop in a crime novel? Or one of those waifs from a historical fiction novel?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about black comedy. Firstly, because it’s sort of my thing, but also because I’ve been watching a lot of black comedy on film and TV in recent months. And my my, but it’s getting blacker. In fact, black comedy is often now so black, it sometimes appears to have forgotten about the comedy part altogether.

I’m calling it Bleak Comedy:  when you know it’s technically supposed to be comedy, or at least it’s called as such by the critics, but literally nobody’s laughing.

So, with that in mind, for those of us who may sometimes feel that life is too dark to be destiny; too weird to be wonderful, and too terrible to be true – I’m both maudlin and delighted to bring you:

10 Signs That You’re A Character In A (Very Modern) Black Comedy

  1. It’s your birthday. Everyone hates you, but the dialogue is tremendous.
  2. Ten minutes after you decide to commit suicide in your kitchen, you receive news that you have won a budget holiday in the town where you live.
  3. You get a job in an office full of people who think they’re starring in a mockumentary about people who work in an office.
  4. Someone you dislike intensely has killed a man. They frame you with witty repartee and get away with it.
  5. You lose your house, your job, and your family. Just when you think all hope is also lost, you get run over by a truck.
  6. You go on holiday with your closest friends. Everyone ends up naked and crying. It’s hilarious.
  7. While out running an errand for your boss, you accidentally kill a mother of six. The guilt drives you to alcoholism. Fun ensues.
  8. You worry that your life is a lie, painstakingly constructed by people around you for scientific or entertainment purposes. This is true, but despite repeated attempts by concerned actors to tell you, you never listen.
  9. Everything around you is a potential joke. Even your fridge. Unfortunately, nobody gets it, not even you.
  10. You try for years to become a successful comedian, until one day, you realise that comedy doesn’t actually need to be funny. You become an overnight success after you do a public reading of your cancer diagnosis, dressed as a lobster.

**************

10 Signs You Might Be A Character In A Black Comedy

“…but there were no chickens left, because they all died of Bird Flu! BOOM!”

How did you score?

1-3 points:  Sorry, but life’s real, dude. It actually does suck to be you.

4-7 points:  You are a character in a novel which has won a very respectable literary prize, judged by people who are obsessed with Samuel Beckett.

8-10 points:  You are a character in a Channel 4 series screened after 9pm. In time, your series will be reclassified from ‘Black Comedy’ into ‘Depression Porn’, whereupon viewership will increase into the tens.

*****************

And there we have it. Call me old-fashioned, but I do like my comedy to be funny, and so much of what I’m seeing is downright bleak at the moment. I’m pondering whether this is down to economic circumstances, artistic snobbery, or some other force. If I ever figure it out, I’ll be back with my opinion dressed up as fact.

What do you think? Has black comedy become a bit too, well…. black?

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  70 comments for “10 Signs You Might Be A Character In A Black Comedy

  1. July 7, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Tara, phew, I thought it was just me! I used to like comedy but nowadays just switch off – this was like a lightbulb moment and yes, explains what is happening to comedy today. Had to laugh at your examples! 😀😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Well, I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think I was supposed to come away from watching or reading something feeling like my insides had been drawn through a meat grinder and the sun would never shine again. It seems there’s two of us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. July 7, 2016 at 8:56 am

    We are all characters in a black comedy– thanks to David Cameron, Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull (that last one is Australia’s fifth PM in five years who called an election to shore up his position and managed to shoot himself in the foot).

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Wish politics was the only reason some of us felt we were in a black comedy, Kathy. There are too many other reasons closer to home!

      Like

  3. July 7, 2016 at 9:23 am

    You’re so funny you should be on the stage. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 9:46 am

      It’s a nice thought, Colin, but I reckon if I was on stage it would collapse, causing a tragedy of bizarre but industrial proportions, perhaps even involving aardvarks.

      Liked by 2 people

    • July 7, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Next one out of town? Ah, if only the wine were as old as the jokes…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. janelovering
    July 7, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I write comedy under the heading ‘dark, psychological romance – with jokes’. It’s black in places, but i like to think it escapes from being ‘bleak comedy’ by having a happy ending. Maybe that’s why black comedy is too black these days – all this post-whatever-thingummy means that happy endings are passe and, if everyone doesn’t die, it won’t get on telly?

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 7, 2016 at 11:25 am

      I suppose that’s where I have a problem, Jane, because comedy by definition is supposed to have a happy ending. Back when there were only 2 forms of story or drama, and comedy didn’t necessarily contain any jokes, it only had to have a happy ending. So I really don’t see how it qualifies as comedy, if it doesn’t. Also, it’s not necessarily about living or dying, but an ending whereby the characters live to fight another day, albeit horrifically damaged, does not seem like comedy to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. July 7, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Hmm. I tried to watch ‘Flowers’. I got depressed and stopped watching. You may have a good point there.
    Perhaps black comedy now means finding dark things funny, rather than injecting a bit of humour to leaven a dark situation (I’m all for that!).

    I’m now looking around the office, wondering about #3. That is actually quite funny.

    Like

    • July 7, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Flowers is part of the reason I wrote this post, Rhoda. Not so much because it was about dark things, but because it was never funny, despite being marketed heavily as a comedy. If it had been marketed as a quirky drama, I wouldn’t have been so harsh on it, or felt so deadened by its ending. I felt the same about Julia Davis’ Camping, although the first 4 episodes of that were actually funny, whilst still tremendously dark. I think black comedy has always been about the comedy in dark things, but I’m sticking to my theory of it having to have a happy ending of sorts.

      Like

  6. July 7, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve never liked black comedy. It’s too much like an oxymoron. It’s like making comedy unfunny and hoping to get some laughs from that between the tears and sad face. If it’s going to be comedy, it should be funny. If it’s going to be black, it should be drama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Good point, Stanley. There should be nothing wrong with calling it drama. I wonder how much of it is down to careless or ruthless marketing. Double the audience size by calling it a comedy and put chocolate ads on in the middle – hey presto! Profit explosion.

      Like

  7. July 7, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    I haven’t seen Flowers, but I find myself thinking there’s a thin line between dark comedy and political sloganeering with some comedians. Mark Thomas, for example. He might well successfully point out the hypocrisy and shenanigans within politics but at the cost of more guffaws than opportunities for fist-waving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      I had to google Mark Thomas, Tenderlation, but I know what you mean. I would call that sort of thing satire. I know satire is under the broad comedy umbrella, but if I was watching it on TV or reading it in a book, I’d expect it to be classified as satire rather than comedy. Straightforward comedy, as we all know, means jokes about emus in underpants, and body parts out of them.

      Like

  8. July 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I believe you and I may be watching quite a few of the same movies. I enjoy the occasionally darker comedy, provided it is actually funny. So my preference is more like charcoal than black. It usually comes down to the dialogue. As long as that is witty (and, better yet, relatable), I can handle the not so sunshine and rainbowesqe circumstances the characters find themselves in.

    Thankfully I scored very, very low on your quiz.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Yes, Allie, I’m hoping it doesn’t make me a stick-in-the-mud, but I have to admit in public that I prefer my comedy to be funny. There’s a place for the darker stuff, and I watch a lot of it, but I’d rather I knew what (not) to expect.
      So you scored low on the quiz? That’s a pity. It would be funnier otherwise 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. July 7, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Bring back Reggie Perrin and Basil Fawlty that’s all I can say !!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. July 7, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I don’t think I’ve seen any black comedy. Remember, Tara, I live in a cave. Your post was pretty funny though – depression porn?!? I suppose if Trump wins we’ll be in for a lot of very bleak comedy. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      I think it’s more popular this side of the water, Diana, but we’ll have to send you over some of the black stuff, you’ll need it in an election year no matter what happens. And some comedy too while we’re at it…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. July 7, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    My assumption about comedy these days is that it won’t make me laugh. The last thing that did was In the Thick of It. Actually Frankie and Grace does but I’ve always loved Lily Tomlin so …

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      The Thick Of It was genius, Vicky, I agree. And black in its own way, although I suppose that falls under satire, in these arbitrary classifications I seem to be imposing in the development of this comment thread! I must look up Grace and Frankie, I had heard good things about it.

      Like

  12. July 7, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Gosh… I thought I was reading the wrong post for a minute there; sounds a bit too much like reality TV. Bring back Father Ted, that’s what I say! MY LOVERLY HORSE! With a swift kick up the arse for Fr Brennan… now that’s funny, and always will be. 😂😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 10:10 pm

      Now there’s another post, Ali! Why Reality TV Is The Black Comedy Nobody Ever Asked For. Father Ted for Pope, and President. Life would be immeasurably less black if every day started with a Father Ted episode.

      Like

  13. July 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I wouldn’t know, Tara, I just watch re-runs of Benny Hill, Love Thy Neighbour and On The Buses…

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Graeme, I’d shock you by telling you what year it is, but I don’t want another heart attack on my hands. The other seven were enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. July 7, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    I like dark comedy if it has an element of the absurd, thus leaving the victim too confused to be distraught. (Like Rich Hall having his back yard nuked; I can imagine his face when he steps out the kitchen door.)

    I agree with thingummybob higher up the comment chain, dark humour should be seeing humour in the darkness, not the humour itself being dark. I think that’s what I think, but anyway, if it isn’t laugh out loud funny, humour of any hue and visibility is just dead crap.

    By the way, I don’t know how many points I scored because I didn’t know how to take the test, but I thought nos. 2 and 5 were very funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      I like your explanation of the absurd, Chris. That’s absolutely my line of thinking: I love the absurd. I never really understood Reeves & Mortimer, but I bloody well laughed. (“Have you any beer for ‘t baby?”) Whereas some of the recent stuff which got me thinking wasn’t absurd, because it was just too close to the bone.

      I like the fact that you didn’t know how to take the test. That’s pretty funny. Full marks.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. July 7, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    Oh dear. Am I the only one who laughs at death? Isn’t it the funniest or am I in need of help? Cartoonish death is ok but the Black Knight scene in MP and the Holy Grail and the Salad days sketch from their TV series stand out as sicko laugh out loud – even though no one dies. Well, much. The duck death in About a Boy had me giggling. I’m clearly the demographic they are aiming at – sad old beardy white guys. I’m off to slip into my straight jacket.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 7, 2016 at 11:26 pm

      But I do think death is funny. I think most people do. It just has to be done the right way. As Chris says above, there has to be an element of the absurd, and you don’t get more absurd than Python (or you do now, maybe, but they were first!).

      I don’t find death dark in itself. It’s the way it’s handled in bleak comedy which takes all the humour out of it. Perhaps it’s supposed to be a meta joke, in that taking the humour out of it is what’s funny, and oh dear, now I’ve eaten my own tail, and it’s time for bed I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. July 8, 2016 at 5:57 am

    Well I suppose I won’t make any friends in elite literary/movie circles but I find so much of today’s fare depressing. SO damned negative! Yes, yes, they say they are “only reflecting the today’s world”, but I wonder if it’s actually the opposite. An old argument, I suppose.

    Having a teen, what really annoys me is how the most heavily promoted YA books have also become so gratuitously negative. Stories dark and lightless. Come on, I think to myself when I see them, can’t you save this crap for when they’re older and out of the raging hormonal/impressional phase (though I acknowledge that some of it has it’s place)?

    And it does seem a bit of a ‘joke’s on you’ when the blurb on a video featuring hopelessness, misery and suicide shouts it’s “hysterical!”, “hilarious!”, “two thumbs way up!” Positivity, it seems, is anathema to some.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 8, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      I don’t know if they are saying that they’re reflecting today’s world… I think they’re creating a very personal type of art, which is sometimes in vogue, sometimes not, and currently being marketed as comedy when it should be drama. In books, I don’t know what it’s being marketed as, because comedy fiction as a genre doesn’t really exist, unless you’re talking about romantic comedy. But I agree that YA has got a lot darker, although I don’t have a problem with that personally. Things got far too Disneyfied there for my taste. The real world doesn’t thrive on happy endings (how black is that?!)

      Like

      • July 8, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        I’m referring to literature in general. I agree with your ‘too Disneyland’ point though; no need to lie to people. OTOH, I am a believer in “you are what you eat”. A diet of constant negativity in all media can’t be good for our mental well-being as a society.

        /Sermonizing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • July 8, 2016 at 5:12 pm

          ‘Tis the place for it. We’re all sermonising around here – that’s why we’re so much fun at parties 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  17. July 8, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Having carefully calculated my score, it looks like I am indeed a character in a black comedy. That’s nice to know. Point number nine was particularly true in my case. If there’s one thing all my friends agree about, it’s that my fridge is hilarious (in a bleak and depressing way). The little tray for eggs is the punchline. I’m now working on a follow-up about my microwave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 8, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      It’s about time, Bun! Thank Blog for that. I’ve been waiting for so long for microwave comedy, I’ve gone back to using the oven. Did you hear the one about the thermostat and the fan? Their guarantees expired. Boom! Boom!

      [sorry]

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 9, 2016 at 10:43 am

        No need to apologize, Tara. When it comes to electrical jokes, I’m in my element.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. July 8, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Has to be the Big Yin Tara – off now to down some black capsules.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 8, 2016 at 10:38 pm

      He is a genius, C.J. A gift to the earth. Black, blue, purple or magenta comedy. King of them all.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. July 11, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    “….a bit too…” I think. Enjoyed the post. Number 5 cracked me up laughing.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. July 11, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I need some comedy recommendations from you! The Thick of It and in turn Veep are my favourites from recent years. Sadly though The Thick of It seems to have been a slow build up documentary to today’s political shenanigans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 12, 2016 at 10:20 am

      It’s mad how so much political satire eventually comes to pass, Donna, isn’t it? I re-watched Yes Minister / Yes Prime Minister a few years ago and it turned into a litany of “well, that actually happened… and that…. and that… and that happened twice, only worse”. I also love Veep. I love the way she’s despicable, but you’re still rooting for her.

      But do you know what shocked me lately? A really traditional straightforward sitcom on BBC called Mum. It had undertones, all right, but was really familiar, although no laugh track, thankfully. And it was positively gorgeous, I loved it. Funny and sweet. I suppose when it all comes down to it, it’s about superior skill and talent, no matter what genre you’re in.

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 12, 2016 at 10:22 am

        I can’t get enough of Veep! Between her and Jonah, there are so many unlikeable characters but you still get sucked in.
        I completely missed Mum, heard about it half way through the series. I’m hoping they’ll repeat it on BBC4 or something.

        Liked by 1 person

        • July 12, 2016 at 10:26 am

          The thing that annoys me about the BBC is that they don’t repeat their really good stuff, and they’ll only leave it on iPlayer for a few weeks. Yet you can’t get away from repeats on Dave etc of the ho-hum stuff. And now BBC3 is gone, there’s even less of a chance. I’ll keep an eye out though.

          Liked by 1 person

          • July 12, 2016 at 10:34 am

            Thanks, you’re as good! RTE sometimes picks their good stuff up. Two years later. And show it at 2am on a Tuesday morning.

            Liked by 1 person

            • July 12, 2016 at 11:17 am

              Yeah, they’re red-hot at the old scheduling business, all right. Which is fortunate, seeing as it’s 85% of what they do all day.

              Liked by 1 person

              • July 12, 2016 at 11:31 am

                🙂

                Liked by 1 person

                • July 12, 2016 at 2:25 pm

                  Btw Donna… I’m having a lot of trouble commenting on your blog lately. It just ate another one. Is anyone else saying the same? Because I was trying to accuse you of hacking my brain because you’ve been posting all the food I want most. Seriously. You have to stop. 😜

                  Like

                  • July 12, 2016 at 3:02 pm

                    Someone else did mention it to me. I did just get a comment on the spuds post if that’s the one you mean? I must look into it but the self hosting malarkey is proving too much for my puny brain!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • July 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm

                      It’s mad that it came through, because I got an error message… also, I can’t reply to you through the WP notifications channel at all, it just says ‘reply failed’. It’s making me paranoid, Donna. Great for black comedy. Not so great for nervous eating tendencies. 😉

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • July 13, 2016 at 11:40 am

                      🙂 Maybe they’ve blocked me? Now the paranoia will go in a vicious circle.

                      Liked by 1 person

  21. July 12, 2016 at 12:32 am

    What happens if one scores 12 points? (I did the math twice)…

    Like

    • July 12, 2016 at 10:22 am

      Oh my Blog. Sam? Samuel?? Sammy Boy???? Don’t tell me you’ve come back to explain what the hell you meant by Endgame. Just don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 13, 2016 at 7:41 pm

        You might have me confused. 🙂
        Therefore I will not elaborate on “Endgame”. 🙂 (Not a clue)
        Be good
        Brian

        Liked by 1 person

        • July 13, 2016 at 10:27 pm

          I see I have just proven that Beckett jokes are never funny. Some people need an entire thesis to do that. Go me! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • July 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm

            Very good. I must confess I have had en attendant Godot on my shelves for years now. And have not read it. Yet. So, no, Sammy has not come back from the dead. Now Paul Auster I have read. Thank you for tying some ends. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

  22. July 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Depression Porn!!!! Every night at 10pm on either BBC1 or ITV….. unless the football is on…. which is also depression porn….
    Sx

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      Well, there’s depression porn, and depression porn, Scarlet. Some is depressing for everyone; some only for a certain section of society. I have to say I do prefer porn that’s for everybody. 😉

      Like

  23. weebluebirdie
    July 14, 2016 at 8:49 am

    And what about comedy which is so surreal that even the lobster doesn’t get it?? I find those ones so perplexing that they hurt my hair. I also don’t get the phenomena that is a bloke dressed as a woman with his wife and children starring alongside him

    Like

    • July 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

      I had close ties to that Lobster, if I’m reading you right, and I have to admit I liked it a lot, but that was because I was so familiar with the making of it that I sort of knew what was coming. Anyway, I’m a big fan of surreal comedy, because it’s often the closest thing I can find to real life. As for the other phenomenon, I don’t think even they think that’s comedy.

      Like

  24. July 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Bleak. It’s the Republican National Convention. Melania, trophy wife of the racist bigot, has just stolen the black woman’s speech and passed it off it as her own word for word. The people are lapping it up. He of the honey-hued bird nest has appeared silhouetted against a white background like Madonna on tour to the sound of Queen’s song We Are The Champions (even though they’ve insisted twice that he can’t use their music) The guy from Happy Days is waxing on Trump’s genius as well as some washed up 90s Cavin Klein model who used to be lusted after by all the gays (Uff, not after this!) and then there’s some guy who’s head of wrestling. I know they said the new Ab Fab isn’t supposed to be any good but I will knock down old ladies on my way to the theatre!

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 21, 2016 at 11:18 am

      Yep. Great comment, Jackie, if not hopelessly depressing. There have been so many times lately I’ve thought ‘Christ, you wouldn’t read about it’, that I’ve contemplated giving up thinking that, and just taking to the bed. Wake me up when it’s over. Ab Fab forever. 😦

      Like

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