Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is Comedy?

I just had an interesting chat with a fellow author. As with most truly interesting conversations we had very different opinions on the subject. What was the subject, you may ask? Comedy. What makes a book a romantic comedy as opposed to just a romance with some humor?

My fellow author was holding to the classic precepts of comedy - misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and what she felt were inherently comedic situations. I am of the belief that situations don't create humor. The treatment of the situation - perspective, internalizations, and dialogue - are what make a reader actually laugh. And to me, laughter is what makes a comedy.

I tend to draw the line between romance with humor & romantic comedy depending on (and this is oooh-so-scientific) how funny the book is. Is it a dramatic story with a steady diet of clever phrases and cute one-liners (a la Julie James, perhaps)? Then I would characterize it as a romance with humor. Is it a story with a smile on nearly every page, laugh out loud moments, and a pervasive sense of lightness to the tone that is occasionally reined in for some dramatic moments (a la Jennifer Crusie)? That would be a romantic comedy. I enjoy both, but I do think there is a difference - and to me that difference is not in the situations, but in the volume of the humor.

What do you think? When does something cross the line from an amusing romance into a romantic comedy for you? Or is it one of those things you don't care or think about when reading (or writing) a book?


Vivant said...

I too make the distinction based on how funny I find the book. It doesn't matter whether there is a ridiculous situation driving the humor, or just lots of witty dialog, or both. If a book makes me grin throughout and laugh out loud repeatedly I view it as romantic comedy. That tone can make the poignant parts even more touching, when the characters allow themselves to make a serious connection.

I saw a great quote from Peter Ustinov this morning: "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious."

Vivi Andrews said...

Oooh, I love that quote! Thanks, Vivant.


I think calling your book a romantic comedy is the kiss of death. Why people like to watch a romcom but not read a romcom is beyond me.

That said, I think most of my writing is comedy and people are always telling me to get serious.

Vivi Andrews said...

I love your voice, Kelly. Please don't get serious. I would cry.