Was That Supposed To Be Funny…

Comedy is hard. I know for a fact, if someone asked me to write an hour long standup sketch to present to thousands of people in an audience, I would have one hell of a time doing it. There are so many small quirks you must keep in mind before you can go out there.  If you want to be a successful comedian, you must present material that is unique and that has not been used before. This must be extremely difficult in the era we live in where everything someone says is being recorded and posted on the internet. You must present your sketch in a manner that is attractive to the audience. What I mean by that, you simply cannot go out there and read some jokes off a note card. You should be an entertainer and that takes a respectable amount of talent. There are many more traits needed to be a good comedian, but the last one I will talk about is sensitivity. Of course, I do not expect a comedian to be sensitive to material because let’s be honest, we find comedians so hilarious because they are able to say the brutal things we are not. I have seen comedians make humor out of everything from telling their fans to kill themselves, to making fun of rape victims. We are constantly exposed to the gruesome truth behind crime in America and Dave Chappelle makes humor out of it in his special.

Dave Chappelle claims that America is “too brittle” and I couldn’t agree more with him. What he means by this, is we are constantly walking on eggshells because we are always offending someone for something being said or done. A majority of our nation is so sensitive and caught up in their old ways, they cannot be told something that goes against their personal points of views. Rewind back to the Presidential Election 8 months ago and look throughout our college campus, seeing grown up adults crying because the candidate they voted for didn’t win the election. We are “too brittle” but that doesn’t mean some of the things Chappelle says do not cross lines. As talked about in the article Dave Chappelle Stumbles Into the #MeToo Moment by the New York Times, I found it hard to find humor when he was talking about the rape victims and how they would not have declared it rape if it would have been from a handsome man like Brad Pitt. Many of people’s lives were ruined because of these sexual harassment situations and there shouldn’t be room to joke about it.

I understand that Dave Chappelle is a comedian, and he is a very successful comedian who is going to fill every seat of just about any venue out there today, so he needs to make sure he has material to make those fans who showed up happy. I just simply did not find much of the humor funny. He went complained about politics just about the whole time and the joke he planted early in the episode and closed with at the end seemed so forced; it was cornier than the jokes in a 1990s Sit Com. The truth behind it is, he should not have made jokes about the sexual abuse victims. I can only imagine how many victims watched his special looking forward to a hilarious comedy, and were blind sighted by the horrible experiences that had happened to them in the past. This is something they have to live with every day and I could only imagine how upsetting it must be to have jokes made of their situation.

As far as Netflix trying to conform to the #MeToo movement, I find that they are doing a good job. It all started with them firing Kevin Spacey after his alleged sexual assault was brought into the eye of the public. Even though House of Cards was one of their top shows that had millions of users in love with it, they simply could not continue the show and it provided a great message that Netflix was not going to around and not do anything about it. Even though they lost a lot of money by not continuing the show, they did the honorable choice of cancelling it and I respect them for the bold move.

Jake

Thin Line Between Fandom and Obsessive

Fandom is something that goes beyond just enjoying a show. It gives a whole new meaning to being a fan of something. When I think of Fandoms, I think of my friends and their obsession with the Harry Potter films. They were constantly asking me questions like “What House are you a part of and what is your horcrux?” The hell if know was typically my response and then they would walk me through this website called Pottermore which apparently had all these quizzes and explanations of everyone’s characters and personalities. I am not here to judge and I have had my fair share of weird nerdy stuff in my life, but this seemed like a whole new level, and I honestly enjoyed it. It was a way for people to connect on a higher level other than just watching these movies. They were able to relate to other fans as well as the show in a greater depth and I enjoyed it. Its almost like a convention like Comic Con. They are massive events that bring together people of same interest to share experiences and to enjoy the company of others who are passionate about things like themselves. In my opinion, these social gatherings are great for each other. Having the opportunity to share a common interest with someone else, no matter what it is, is a great experience and allows you to build friendships.

 

For this week’s viewings, I decided to watching End of the World, Stranger Things, and Black Mirror and while watching these shows, it became obvious why each one could have a significant following. With End of the World, I feel like the following is for many different types of people. I think it could be for a younger generation who feels misunderstood, and feels that others do not understand the problems they are going through. For me personally, I found it quite hilarious to see Alyssa being blatantly rude and outrageous to people she did not even know. I would be lying if I said I was not dying when someone would ask her a simple question and she would reply with a sarcastic answer scattered with various curse words.

 

The episode of Black Mirror I watched reminded me of older Star Trek shows and the fan base for that show is one of the largest and oldest fan bases out there today. You will find these fans all over the world and they have no issue showing their support for the show. They appear at conventions all over and represent one of the most popular shows of all time.  I have not watched any other episodes of Black Mirror besides this episode but what I have heard from others, the show pretty much blows your mind ever single episode.

 

Stranger Things happens to be one of my favorite shows, and in the show, there are many different concepts that could attract groups of people. The first of which is the geekiness of the kids throughout the show. They are a part of the AV club, they constantly reference games, and my personal favorite, they play Dungeons and Dragons which I love. Alongside the geekiness of the show, there are essentially aliens in the show which could attract another audience and then finally the 1980’s themes to the show could bring in more people.

 

The USS Callister episode shows an example of extreme fandom. Obviously this is a fictional show and cloning people in a video game is not possible, but it represents when someone takes their fandom too far. For me personally, I am a huge Game of Thrones fan, and a big Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fan. I absolutely love the stories of each and the Medieval era shows always attract me but you will never see me get too involved into these. I am also a huge video game geek and love D&D but the most you will see out of me as far as fandom goes is maybe a Comic Con or Renaissance Festival appearance.

Jake

Netflix – Tackling Racial Issues

Netflix has is the one of the biggest influencers of TV in the modern day and they have begun trailblazing into different styles, different genres, and different ways we view Television. In the series Luke Cage, Dear White People, and On The Block, there are countless multicultural styles that give each show its own racial identity to appeal to their audiences. Each show hits its own different demographic of racial issues. Dear White People is showing the racism in modern day universities, Luke Cage is showing the poverty and racism in Harlem, and On The Block seems to be located in Southern California where gang violence is prevalent.

 

When watching Dear White People, we are immediately indulged into the truth behind racism in Ivy League universities in the United States. Even larger than that, the racism we see in the university is something that is seen all across the nation. Netflix had some “big rocks” to create a show on this but it was a powerful topic, and good choice. Currently our nation is divided quite drastically by a number of outliers, and Dear White People was brave enough to take the issues head on. In the show, we are given a glimpse of what its like to lead an African American student run organization. Within these organizations, we seem predominantly African American students who have a hatred towards the generic White population when they try to downplay the current state of racism in the United States. As far as the characters in the show, they do a good job portraying them but as a white middle class student, I cannot relate to them specifically because I have not felt the racism they have. I can see through Gabes eyes as he wants to help the situation, but even though he is trying, there is not much he can do to help.

 

In Luke Cage, the show is placed in Harlem, which is a historically African American community. When looking at the selected actors in the show, they chose everyone in the set by hand. Being in Harlem, the majority of the characters in the show were minorities. The landlord for his apartment and the owner of the restaurant were Chinese. The surrounding cast seems to be a mixture of Mexican and African American. This is different from most shows we see present day. We do not see this kind of casting for shows, especially in the genre of superheroes. Most superhero stories, the superhero is a white male or female who is ridding a city of crime. This is different for so many reasons. Luke Cage is a very strong character who is extremely likable to the audience. He is very witty and hard working and he doesn’t like people disrespecting others as we saw in the fight scene in the Chinese restaurant. He is a poor man who is escaping his past by working as a janitor and kitchen staff jobs to stay under the radar. If you look at any other superhero movie in the past quarter century, this is far from anything you would have seen. This is what Netflix does best though, taking something you would like to see that is outside of the comfort level of most studios, and make a powerful show from the idea.

 

Lastly, On The Block, which is set in what seems to be southern California. It demonstrates the lives of a group of high school kids and the troubles they face in the gang infested neighborhoods. Netflix takes the lives of children which tends to be full of life and happiness, and incorporates the troubles that infest these lower class, minority, neighborhoods. There is a group of 4 kids, each of them from their own minority background, trying to figure their way through high school. One of the four has a long line of gang members in his family and was just pressured into joining the gang. Alongside the racial issues, they have to battle the difficult task of being a teen just trying to journey through life.

 

In general, I enjoyed watching the three shows. Luke Cage was a magnificent change to the normal super hero movies we watch every year. He is a strong character who I found to be very relatable. He worked hard to make a living and he wants everyone to be respected. In On The Block, I found it nostalgic to see these high school freshman trying to make their way through the beginning of high school and stressing about these smalls issues like looking good on picture day and worrying about rumors in school. Lastly, in Dear White People, even though I couldn’t relate to the show as much as some of the others, it did remind me of the racial issues I see on a university modern day.

Jake

Animated Comedies (Blog 6)

When it comes to the new type of animated television shows versus the live-action television we are all so accustomed to seeing, I prefer the animated series. The comedies that are done in animated series seems to be quite a bit more vulgar and they can get away with it too. In F is For Family, Bill Burrs character, Frank, uses quite a bit of abrasive language that would seem to offend a majority of people if it were said by a real actor on live TV. Words like “God Damnit” and “Jesus Christ” are not used often on live TV but when you are watching these animated series, they are said often. You find this in many series beyond the ones assigned this week. Shows like Family Guy and South Park are full of crude humor that are meant to offend certain people, but it doesn’t seem as offensive as if we saw an actor in person saying these words. In F is For Family, they immediately bring up the fact that Franks son is high at the dinner table, which is not seen in live TV. This is something that would be alluded to, but it is not something they would outright say.

The language the characters use is not the only difference between live television, they can change the way the characters look as well. In Archer, they use Lana as a provocative, beautiful brunette woman who constantly has her breasts being flaunted. This is not frowned upon because it is in and animated show where nothing is real. If you were to go into a live TV show and show a woman like Lana, wearing the same outfit in real life, it would cause quite a bit of a stir. On the contrary, when it comes to live action shows, I find that they have a harder time being serious and catching the audiences emotions like a live action show may. There is something different about being able to see the facial expressions of a real human being that will always catch more attention than an animated face would. I personally cannot image many animated TV shows that are not in the comedy genre besides animated children’s shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

I find that Adult Swim on Cartoon Network has done an average job on the evaluation of animated series. There are pros and cons to what adult swim has done. On the bright side, Cartoon Network has released some shows that create a lasting impression on the audience and will always have their audience laughing. Adventure Time is a show that has been around for years and can appeal to a large audience. Whether you are an older adult or a younger teen, there is aspects of Adventure Time that can appeal to you. The problem with Cartoon Network is they release a plethora of shows that I have no interest for or they simply do not catch enough attention for a season two and it seems like a waste of time.

For me personally, I will always watch these animated comedies. The amount of mudslinging and offensive material I find in shows like Family Guy and South Park fill my cold heart with joy and happiness. Archer is a show that will always have a spot in my heart because it essentially remakes what I had always wanted to see in the James Bond movies. Then, Rick And Morty just signed another 70 episode deal and now they will be playing for what seems like forever, so Jacob is going to have animated comedies to watch for the rest of his life.

Jake

You can too fix ugly…

Really, when you think about the transition Netflix is making, going from just simple movies, then to entire series written and produced by themselves, all the way to the airing of reality programming, it all makes sense. What does Netflix want to do and what have they been doing successfully for the last decade? Being a popular alternative to cable TV. Cable tv seems to be dying at a rapid pace and the more these streaming apps like Netflix open their horizon of genres, the more people they will take from the large TV giants.

I personally enjoy reality TV shows. Especially cooking shows where they put chefs against each other with fun setbacks that make the show more interesting. One of my favorite shows is Chopped. In this show, they put four chefs against each other where they have a short amount of time to cook a meal for a guest panel of chefs using ingredients that are usually bizarre, gross, or ingredients that just simple should not be mixed together. It allows me to learn tips with cooking, but also have the opportunity to see some chefs compete at a higher level than just a traditional cookoff.

Nailed It was exactly the same experience I have when I am watching Chopped but there was more of a sense of humor attached to it. I enjoyed watching the chefs struggle to replicate the professionally designed cakes. These poor chefs tried their best and it looked awful but I truly enjoyed my time watching the show. Queer Eye was not as bad as I thought it would be. I simply cannot get into these makeover shows where they take a normal guy and get him all dressed up and everything but I will be honest, I found myself enjoying this show more than most makeover shows. These shows are usually something my girlfriend enjoys but I actually thought it was funny and cute. I found myself connecting with Tom when they were cleaning him up and it made me smile from ear to ear when he began blushing and his confidence began to rise.

It is easy to create genres with these reality TV shows. There seems to be a clear diving line with all reality shows that can put each one into a specific genre. There are dating programs, docusoaps, makeover programs, talent contests, cooking game shows and many more different types of genres. There are a lot of different makeover shows on the market present day and Queer Eye fits right into those just like Nailed It fits into those cooking game shows.

When I began watching Queer Eye, I didn’t know what to expect when they bring five gay men into a small country town in Georgia. There was even a part in the episode where Tom asked one of the gentleman who was the husband and who was the wife in his marriage and even though it offended them, Tom simply did not know better. This gave Bobby the opportunity to explain to Tom the aspects of a gay relationship that he was not familiar with and it also educated the viewers, myself included. This was something I did not expect when I began watching but it was a touching part of the episode. Of course, parts of the show are staged. Like when Toms ex-wife shows up to the car show, and when they take him from his friends in the beginning of the episode, but it’s just part of those reality shows. It may seem corny but it never seems to bother me too much.

As far as the amount of information retained from Nailed It, I find that show to be helpful as well. When the contestants were baking, they made many mistakes that I could imagine happen with bakers all the time. Like when one of the bakers put the butter cream on before the cake was cooled and so the cream began melting and created a mess. This is something that can be absorbed by anyone who cooks.

In the end, I found that there was information in both shows that can be deemed as valuable, and the shows in general not only gave tips on baking, personal hygiene, and other skills; they also taught lessons about character and that is something that I found to be most important.

Jake

Documentaries on Documentaries

In the Chapter of our book called “Netflix and the Documentary Boom” written by Sudeep Sharma, Sharma states “The Problem with the library metaphor for Netflix, however, is that it assumes the services has some larger interest beyond commercial needs. Netflix provides access to various materials, but purely on the basis that access to the material in some way improve profits for the company.” (Sharma, Loc. 3683) This may seem unethical to some viewers, but when it all comes down to it, Netflix is running a business and it has to make its money in order for the “doors to remain open”. Yes, Netflix is allowed to pick and choose which documentaries it will boast over others, but I feel like by Netflix hosting these shows, their chance of success is quite a bit higher than if they had decided to stick with Cable television or remained independent. Also, if these shows are fairly specific and in their own niche, their viewers will find the shows on their own. Whether it is from word to mouth or from it being shared on social media. In niche genres, there are not a large amount of material so eventually the documentary will have stumbled upon. I feel Sharma’s analogy is accurate, but I do not see a problem with it. As I stated earlier, these small companies are much more well off by partnering with Netflix than they would be if they were on their own.

For my feature length documentary, I watched the Academy Award Winning Documentary, Icarus. This film was about the recent Russia Doping scandal that shook the world. This film shines light on the state sponsored program which forced Russia to forfeit many medals, athletes, and records that were thought to have been brought up through the doping program. As Sharma claims in his book, “Netflix’s Original documentary acquisitions are very traditional in terms of film style and format – they conform to what an average filmgoer would expect from a documentary. Specifically, these films are often about social issues or biographies of famous people that deploy behind the scenes footage” (Sharma, Loc. 3793) Going along with what Sharma is saying, Icarus does not deviate from the normal standards Netflix uses. Netflix has numerous documentaries about social issues and Icarus is right there next to them. But, I do find Icarus to be different from your average Netflix documentary. Icarus is a film that shines light on the Soviet Union’s scandals like others have tried, but Icarus does this by recruiting the head of the state sponsored program. This is something that has never done before for many reasons as seen in the documentary. After Grigory Rodchenkov shared all the information he did in the documentary, his family’s and his own life were all at stake. This is not something a country would take likely, especially one that is notorious for killing off individuals that are essentially traitors to their own country. It did an astounding job enabling the audience to see right inside of what actually happened inside of the Russian doping scandal and it was a documentary like I had never seen before. It truly set itself apart from other documentaries in the past. I also enjoyed the aspect of the biking and how they showed us first hand on what can be done to cheat the system and we got to see how Bryans performance changed throughout his testing.

For my long-from documentary series, since I have already viewed the other four series, I decided to watch Flint Town. Flint town is a documentary series that spotlights the lives of the Flint Police Department in Michigan which is one of the most understaffed Police Departments in the nation. Flint has one of the highest crime rates and one of the lowest median incomes in the country and we get a glimpse into the lives of these officers both on and off duty. Comparing the two series, I found it much easier to become invested into Flint Town. Flint Town seemed to have quite a bit more emotional ties to me personally. You get to see these police officers on duty, being extremely tough and having to put up these tough fronts, but then you also get to see into their personal lives and how much their job affects their family members. The families are always worried for their lives and getting the opportunity to see their side of things is different and built a connection with me. I was able to connect to Icarus, but it seemed to hit closer to home whenever I was watching Flint Town just because of my respect for Police and the jobs they are tasked with.

Personally, I can see why watching a documentary seems for meaningful with one’s time than watching some fictional show but I also see the other side of that argument. Watching a documentary gives you the opportunity to catch up on facts and allows you to absorb real life material. When you are watching a fictional scripted show though, it allows your imagination to run wild and that should never be taken for granted. Feeding your imagination is necessary in life for you to grow. So, for me, there is a happy medium for both and I do not feel like one is more important than the other.

Jake

Single > Multi

Multi-dimensional production? What the hell is that? I honestly didn’t even consider there might be a difference between the ways television is filmed present day but it turns out there is quite a bit of time and energy exerted into the way a show should look. This makes sense because obviously certain material will need a specific look but I never put my thought into it. I also didn’t realize the army of people that was required to get one of these sitcoms rolling. The number of writers, stage crew, and other overhead staff was insane. It wasn’t as simple as gathering a couple of actors, a cameraman, and a writer; it is way more complex. When I was in middle school, I was a part of the stage crew and even though it was small, I had a blast doing it. So, seeing what the stage crew went through for Friends was a cool glimpse of what profession stage crew looks like.

I understand why these sitcoms are considered low brow when you look at them from the outside, but when you actually go behind the scenes and look at the amount of work put into these productions, it shows the amount of talent required. The actors are given a tremendous amount of pressure because they are in front of a live audience. This also effects the stage crew because they must make sure everything is perfect because they do not get an extra chance. It’s not like normal production where you can screw up, then cut the scene and try it all over again. The writers also must be familiar with the multi camera set up because they have to adapt the camera angles in order to give the best emotions to the audience. There is a lot more science behind it than what meets the eye.

I agree with Betancourt saying that the multi-dimensional sitcoms create a “sense of community” when they have a live audience and a laugh track. It is comforting finding humor in topics as other people and having the opportunity to laugh with others is a great feeling. It also gives you a little nudge to laugh, even if the material wasn’t that funny. I can honestly say that there were several times while watching One Day at a Time that I did not find the material to be very funny, but when the laugh track would start to play, I would find myself laughing with the material. This happened quite a bit when watching the show due to the fact that I didn’t find the humor to be too great. Except for the Grandma, that old lady had my girlfriend and I laughing our tails off especially because my girlfriend is Spanish and Mexican so she found the humor extremely relevant.

I personally am not a huge fan of the multi dimension sitcom. I find the laugh tracks to be extremely corny and they are outdated. The humor that the writers used seem to be too exaggerated and I absolutely despised the character of Elena. I think they googled the characteristics of an annoying, progressive, millennial and threw a character together with whatever Google search they found. Without her character, I would have found the show to be much more entertaining but unfortunately, she ruined it for me. Other than that, Grandma and Schneider seemed to be good characters that had me laughing.