Tag Archives: steve martin

Thoughts on Comedy Influence and Style

Last night I went to the State Theatre Indie Film Showcase. It was really cool to see films made by Mississippi filmmakers. Three Good Commitment shorts were shown. One of them was Disborderlies. This is one we made by tremendous effort in a single weekend for a sketch competition. The other two were parodies.

Someone asked me afterward if we were influenced by Stella. I had never thought about it before, but there is a Stella feel to Disborderlies if you look for it. I’ve seen a bit of Stella’s work and I’m not sure if James and Gabe (co-writers on Disborderlies) have been exposed to Stella at all. The sketch was about the exploits of three oblivious, self-entitled Americans. I think the absurd, Stella tone of the sketch grew organically as we pieced it together. Overall, we are very proud of what we were able to do in two and a half days, though a few weak places show through from the lack of dedicated director/script supervisor.

Having someone ask me about being influenced by another comedy source got me thinking about what makes me laugh and what kind of comedy I tend to make. Confident, idiot characters that lead to awkward, tension-filled situations make me laugh. People who do this well are Steven Colbert, Danny McBride, and Zach Galifianakis. Of course, dick jokes and kicks to the groin also have been known to make me laugh too. But the classic set up (build tension) and punchline (relieve tension) are not usually what I come up with when I have an idea.

I generally don’t analyze too much when an idea hits me and it makes me laugh. But I got to thinking about why I find something funny when a lot of times people aren’t sure if it’s supposed to be funny or not. For example, this last video, My Today Song doesn’t really have a punchline. It builds tension and never relieves it in a satisfactory way. Who does this sound like?

Steve Martin.

Honestly, I’m not familiar with Martin’s ground-breaking comedy routines of the 70’s except for the arrow-through-the-head and happy feet. It was all a bit before my time, but I read his memoirs when they came out and he talks about building tension and not relieving it to let the audience figure out on their own where to laugh. I imagine countless comedians were influenced by Martin and I have been indirectly influenced by him.

So that was an interesting realization to make. I’m influenced by lots of comedians. Certain styles and sensibilities rub off on me when I find them funny. I try not to ape other people’s material or routines but take it all in and sometimes it’s interesting to see what comes out.