The Horror/Humor Problem

Posted: October 5, 2009 in Braak, Horror, poetics
Tags: ,

I’ve noticed this problem in the past and wanted to finally, officially, address it.

Have you ever noticed that, generally speaking, while people get a kick out of watching bad horror movies, no one ever really gets a kick out of watch bad melodramas?  Bad comedies?  Why is that?

When comedy fails to achieve its effect, it’s boring.  When drama fails to achieve its effect, it’s boring.  But when horror fails to achieve its effect, sometimes it’s funny.

Recently I saw a play that purported to be a horror play, and every incident that was meant to be scary elicited chuckles and snickers from the audience, while every incident that was meant to be poignant just made us want to go to sleep.  I find this fascinating.

In the past, I’ve argued among friends that horror and humor have the same basic structure, and share a certain important elements in common:  a really obvious expectation/reversal and the juxtaposition of absurd elements, in particular.  In fact, a lot of horror can be described exactly the way that you’d describe a joke:  the Twilight Zone (many episodes of which clearly fall into the Horror category) is often best understood as having “a punchline.”  (i.e.:  “It’s a cookbook!”  “It’s not fair!” “Power lines!”)  The form of most of these episodes is the form of a story-joke:  the protagonist is involved in an ordinary situation which progresses to the extraordinary, and then is revealed to be the opposite of what the story led us to expect.

And mashing up two unrelated elements against each other clearly creates a spectrum of weirdness that starts at the frightening and progresses to the hilarious.  For the sake of argument, we shall call this the Brundlefly-to-Mansquito continuum.  Hopefully, the reasons for this are obvious.

So, what exactly is at play here?  One of the things that Holland and I were talking about, recently (in regards to YET ANOTHER secret project) was how rarely you see people making jokes in a horror movie.  Everyone in horror must conduct themselves VERY SERIOUSLY.  There are, I think, practical reasons for this:  in the first place, laughter begets laughter.  This is one of the astonishing powers of comedy–once the “humor seal” is broken, as it were, the threshold for comedy is lowered and lowered.  Probably, this is because the biological condition of amusement is inherently pleasurable–once your limbic system remembers how great it feels, it will happily set off the humor triggers again and again.

Horror, however, is not self-perpetuating.  Because most of our fear-response mechanisms are designed to acclimate ourselves to fear, rather than propagate it, being frightened early in a piece actually makes it harder to be frightened later on.  A comedy can just throw jokes out at the audience; it can be forgiven for not having a plot or characters as long as it continues to be funny.  Horror movies, on the other hand, have to generate suspense and slowly dole out their horror-moments, only at opportune times.

I can’t think of an example off-hand, but it is extremely easy for me to imagine a circumstances in which SO MANY crazy horrorific happenings occurred that the movie actually becomes ridiculous, and you wouldn’t be able to help laughing at it.

If you look at it this way, with humor as a self-perpetuating mood and horror as an artist-maintained mood, it’s easy to see that comedy presents a very robust structure–one in which the audience will do most of the work for you–and horror presents a very fragile structure.  Once laughter begins to penetrate the ambiance, it will begin to accelerate at an increasing rate.  The threshold will lower, and your monster, which might have been towards the Brundlefly end of the Mansquito Continuum, will start to look more and more absurd.

Of course, dramas require people to be serious, too, and yet their structure is more robust.  In part, this is because there are not as many opportunities for failure.  A drama rarely has to present a horrible monster; and failure to create a horrible monster is never going to be anything but ridiculous.  It’s often been said that a monster that you can’t see is more frightening that one that you can (there are reasons for this, I think, but it will be another post, one day), and part of the reason I believe this is is because a monster that you can’t see offers no opportunity for bad design.  Dramas are generally immune to “cheesy special effects.”

And dramas can be amusing–especially when people are over-acting.  The over-acting demand is a demand that the audience take you seriously–and the harder you demand to be taken seriously, the harder a time people have with it.

This leads us to the fundamental relation between horror and humor.  Here is an important question:  that people scream when they’re afraid has obvious evolutionary uses–it notifies the members of your tribe that there is danger, and enables them to act accordingly.  So, why do we laugh when we’re surprised?  What is the purpose of a noisy, social response in a situation like that?  Well, if you look at laughter as the recognition that something you thought was dangerous actually isn’t–i.e., a caveman is stared by a snake, only to discover it’s really a stick, and so laughs in response–it’s a way of defusing the alarm state created by fear.

If we accept this possibility, then the reason why horror can dissolve into humor so much more readily than drama is the fact that laughter is, specifically, a mechanism that exists solely to let everyone know that something tried to scare you and failed.  This makes the horror structure even more fragile–not only is the counter-structure self-perpetuating, but a single wrong move as a horror-maker will be enough to trigger it.

So, how do you add jokes into a horror movie?  This is interesting, because sometimes it does happen, and sometimes very effectively.  In the first place, you have to make sure that your real horror is air-tight.  One of the places I think this could work is the theater–horror benefits from verisimilitude, but only from perfect verisimilitude.  Beyond that, any attempt to appear realistic is actually counter-productive.  Because theater immediately obviates the expectation of perfect recreation, the demand for perfect presentation does not exist.

In the second place, this is where “don’t show the monster” comes in really handy.  By creating strange scenes of real things that are weird (the American version of The Ring comes to mind), you don’t run the risk of doing them badly.  If you keep those scenes air-tight, then the banality of characters telling jokes to each other will actually make the horror stronger.

This is why a guy in a movie who is inexplicably wearing a mask can be creepier than a guy who has a monster face–because the guy with the mask perfectly resembles what he’s supposed to be (a guy in a mask).  But a guy with a monster face runs the risk of imperfectly resembling what he’s supposed to be (a guy with a monster face) and instead resembling what he is (a guy in a mask).

The other thing that you can do is have your horror based on people jumping out of places.  That’s because it’s an effect that’s easy to create perfectly.

Given that, it kind of makes sense that so many horror movies have devolved into guys in masks jumping out at people–it’s the easiest way to achieve the desired effect, and f there’s one thing we know we’ve got plenty of in the industry, it’s lazy filmmakers.

  1. Lord Wackadoo says:

    First of all people do enjoy absurd melodrama. “Showgirls” for instance has a good sized following and I don’t think it’s because anyone takes it seriously.

    Secondly, your comparison to the structure of humor and horror by way of “Twilight Zone” could be explained by the satirical undertones hidden in many “Twilight Zone” episodes. The cookbook one in particular.

  2. braak says:

    First of all, I’m not saying that no melodrama is enjoyed ironically. The argument is predicated on the fact that many more people enjoy watching hilarious horror movies than enjoy watching hilarious dramas. Witness: while some people say that they enjoy “bad horror movies”, generally people who enjoy bad melodrama enjoy a specific bad melodrama, as opposed to the larger set.

    Second of all: how so? Does satire follow a humor-structure-formula, necessarily? And, if it does, why isn’t the fact that the structure of “To Serve Man” as a satire is concordant with the structure of “To Serve Man” as a horror story? Why is this similarity of structure irrelevant?

  3. Lord Wackadoo says:

    “Have you ever noticed that, while people get a kick out of watching bad horror movies, no one ever really gets a kick out of watch bad melodramas?”

    I took that to mean that you felt that no melodrama is enjoyed ironically.

    Satire does not necessarily follow any kind of humor structure formula, George Orwell’s Animal Farm for instance. But to be fair this only concrete example I can really think of.

    I think you are mixing with formulas in this discussion. Satire cannot follow a humor structure formula because satire is not a joke. Comedy is not a joke either. Comedy is a dramatic structure in which jokes are likely to appear. This is also true of satire but but unlike comedy satire can sometimes get away without having any joke. (i.e. Animal Farm.)

    The Twilight Zone, like many other shows popular at the time (Alfred Hithcock Presents, and The Outer Limits) was popular for its twist endings. Which is often ironic, or some manner of poetic justice and therefore often resembles a punch line, but I don’t think this is true of horror as a whole. “Halloween” for instance is just teenagers trying to escape a crazy killer.

    Of course Halloween is just another example of a type of horror sub genre wherein a group of innocents somehow find themselves under attack by some hostile and deadly and usually horribly/evil force. I’m not prepared to offer any proof for this, but I would say most horror fulfills the “Halloween” structure rather than the “To Serve Man Structure.”

  4. Lord Wackadoo says:

    P.S. Horror is often a vehicle for the morality tale. In almost every episode of The Twilight Zone, when a person comes to a horrible end, they had it coming. This is another way in which The Twilight Zone resembles a comedy. The moral order is restored and everything can then return to normal. This does not contradict what I said about the incompatible structures of comedy and jokes, comedies can often use a joke as a suitable dramatic climax, remember the appearance of Brett Favre at the of, “There’s Something About Mary.”

  5. braak says:

    Regarding horror/melodrama: fair enough, fixed.

    Regarding the remainder: If you’re going to describe “Comedy” as “a dramatic structure in which jokes are likely to appear,” then you’ve got to likewise describe “Horror” as “a dramatic structure in which horror-events are likely to appear.” (provided we define “joke” as “humor-event”, which I figure we might as well) The formula for the horror-event (expectation-juxtaposition-reversal) resembles the structure of the humor-event.

    The Twilight Zone–yes, like many other shows at the time that made use of “twist endings”–resembles on a macro-scale the structure of the humor/horror event. Because episodes are usually only a half-hour, they are not obligated to create an over-arching dramatic structure in service to many smaller-form humor/horror events. The Twilight Zone draws out the same structure present in the short-form joke into a very long form, giving it the sense of a unique dramatic structure.

    I’m puzzled by your argument here, though; my point is that many Twilight Zone episodes clearly resemble the horror-dramatic structure (Terror at 20,000 Feet, for instance, or Talking Tina), and that they bear also bear a structural similarity to humor-events. You said that that structural similarity could be explained by the satirical content of the Twilight Zone, but now appear to suggest that satirical content does not preclude horror, nor does it necessarily include jokes. So, if satire doesn’t necessarily include jokes (nor even, unlike comedy, require them at all), how does satirical content explain the joke-like-structure of a Twilight Zone episode?

    Likewise, if both horror and comedy are often used as a vehicle for the morality tale, why should the Twilight Zone’s moral reckoning preclude either similarity?

  6. Lord Wackadoo says:

    I’m not saying that comedy is chiefly a genre that contains jokes. But jokes still are very much a staple of comedy. I agree with you that the structure of many, perhaps even most Twilight Zone episodes bares curious similarities to comedy. Talking Tina and Terror at 20,000 Feet could be easily compared to The Singing Frog.

    While satire is not by rule humorous, one of the reasons why it almost always is funny is because of the way satire relies on immense exaggeration. Again, Animal Farm, not at all funny. To Serve Man, also not funny. But “To Serve Man” does through its exaggeration propound the satirical warning of not trusting politicians whose promises are too good to be true, (at least that’s what I get from it.)

    The similarities between comedy and satire are not comprehensive, but I feel they are too prominent to disregard. I think it is extremely rare to have intelligent satire that is not funny. I don’t think there exist links between satire and horror that are nearly so apparent. That is not to say that it is impossible for a satirist cannot use horror as a vehicle for great satire, just as the writers for “The Twilight Zone” were able to do so successfully. I just think that in linking the structures of comedy and horror, you have isolated a particular example that has specific intentions, which lead it in the direction of the comedic structure, but does not represent a link between the entire horror genre and comedic structure.

    In other words. I think that The Twilight Zone absolutely resembles the comedic structure, but I feel that this represents more the exception than the rule. I would be willing to bet that the majority of horror does not hold up to such a comparison.

  7. braak says:

    But how, then, do you explain Terror at 20,000 ft? Clearly a horror story that uses the same structure as a humor-event, and yet has no apparent satiric content?

    I am willing to bet that you are wrong. I will just have to do another post that breaks down some certain classic horror movies to demonstrate my proposition.

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    I’ve been thinking about this. (Like Chris said, we’ve been talking about this a bit, but I’ve been capital-T Thinking now.)

    Let’s take the old vaudeville joke about the guy who goes into the doctor’s office with a frog on his head. And the doctor says, “What seems to be the problem?”

    “Doctor, please, you’ve got to help me – I got something stuck on my butt!” says the frog.

    Is there a way where this can be read as a (very, very brief) horror story? Sure: there’s a frog talking, and the man is not.

    Like most things, it’s all in the delivery.

  9. braak says:

    And, presumably the follow-up.

    How, after all, is this different from this?

    Well, okay, there’s one fairly obvious way. But if regard parody as a separate dramatic event layered on top of a pre-existing dramatic event–or, alternately, consider the second scene in a context that that maintains its seriousness–practically speaking they ought to both be fairly horrific.

  10. Moff says:

    @Wackadoo: Well, how isn’t comedy a genre (or rather, the genre) that chiefly contains jokes? I mean, if we’re using the terms “comedy” informally here, as I think we are. I realize there’s a technical definition that covers, say, Dante as well, and I’m often a big advocate of precision in language; but I also think it’s clear we’re just talking about Billy Wilder or the Farrelly brothers, etc., here.

    And how are those sorts of works — any story we’d normally call a comedy on TV or in a movie theater — not defined by chiefly containing jokes? I’m going with the Merriam-Webster definition of “joke” here as “something said or done to provoke laughter.”

  11. […] has a really interesting post up about the similarities in structure between comedy and horror. I just made it sound boring, but I […]

  12. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Conditioning an audience to respond to traditional characters in an unexpected way, can also influence their interpretation of atmosphere, morphing a story that would’ve been classified as “horror” based on all other componants, into romance or comedy. Examples: Vampires + pathos or romance. “Charlotte’s Web”. Illusionists. Laughter over destroyed zombies in “Shaun of the Dead”. Sympathy for the ghost of a mother who murdered her children in “The Others”. These are examples of characters that are devloped in a way that influences an audience into responding to something differently than they’d normally would’ve. People are most forgiving of this formula when it involves attempting to empathize with supernatural characters, since those same characters are unlikely to exist and pose any real threat (should any actual vampires ever be revealed, they’d have an easy meal in 90% of the “tween-teen” viewing audience).

    Audiences are also more likely to overlook cheesy special effects if the characters’ reactions to them are genuine; the purposefully cheesy mind-erasing headgear in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was accepted by audiences because the characters gave it credibility by being nonchalant about it. They reacted to what the gear was intended to do, rather than geek-out on how technologically cool it was, that this colander-looking thing could actually erase memories. As a result, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was a well-crafted blend of cheesy-horror (seeing faces melt and memories meld in your mind, while undergoing the treatment), actual horror (the horror of being powerless to retain memories quickly slipping away–an actual horror for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease), comedy (funny quirks and interactions between characters) and true poignance (the vulnerabilities and feelings of love and loss that humans experience). Atmosphere is an incredibly important part of defining what kind of story one will be, but fleshing-out characters in a way that audiences will appreciate can turn atmosphere upside-down; this is the sort of thing that can allow audiences to feel pity for a child-vampire lamenting over her state, while the corpse of a woman surrounded by dolls decomposes in her bed.

  13. braak says:

    @Moff: Adam actually IS using a slightly more formal definition of Comedy (though possibly not necessarily one that includes Dante), and it’s a definition that does not explicitly include jokes. I would argue, however, that if the essential purpose of Comedy under this definition is to reinforce social stability it is a definition that implicitly includes jokes–because I’m working from a definition of “joke” that posits as a primal structure something like: an event which addresses danger only to reveal safety.

    That is to say: Yes, the purpose of Comedy is to reinforce the social status quo. The way that Comedy does this is by: 1) threatening the status quo (i.e., presenting a caveman with a snake) and then 2) unexpectedly reversing this danger (i.e., revealing the snake to be a stick). Everyone laughs, hahah. This definition–I think–by extension yields the definition that Comedy is a genre that chiefly includes jokes.

    @VIP: Yes, I am of the opinion that every individual work of art teaches the audience the rules by which that work should be understood. It’s true that a priori knowledge has some influence, and so often it’s a mistake to overlook that knowledge, but ultimately we know how to respond to the thing by the way the movie treats the thing.

    I would argue, though, that in Eternal Sunshine’s case, it’s not the genuine-ness of the reaction that’s important, but the fact that the reaction is genuinely non-chalant. That is, we can divide the characters’ reactions into two sort of general spectra: the first is “how do they react” and the second is “how effectively is that reaction portrayed.” “Genuine-ness” is probably rightly a measure of efficacy–and because the characters’ (actors’) reactions are genuine, we, the audience, are correctly instructed as to the nature of their response, which is non-chalance.

  14. V.I.P. Referee says:

    @ Braak: Well, with “Eternal Sunshine…” genuinely nonchalant reactions would’ve read as THE BIG JOKE between director and audience–a blase sensibility; it would’ve been black comedy. I didn’t get that. There was a strange sincerity to the premise and the director managed to propose a little nonsense while avoiding the realm of irony.

    Going back to the “dream logic” topic mentioned yesterday, I’d apply that same concept to the characters’ reactions to the procedure within “Eternal Sunshine…”; the “genuine-ness” presented is in the characters earnest acceptance of the procedure and the audience’s ability to allow credibility to the props that represent the procedure. Had the the props been flashy in presentation and the characters half-aware of the outrageousness of the premise, it would’ve only succeeded as comedy.

  15. braak says:

    the “genuine-ness” presented is in the characters earnest acceptance of the procedure and the audience’s ability to allow credibility to the props that represent the procedure. Had the the props been flashy in presentation and the characters half-aware of the outrageousness of the premise, it would’ve only succeeded as comedy.

    Well, yes. That’s what I mean by “genuinely nonchalant.” If the props had been obvious and the characters ignored them, probably a better descriptor for them would have been “ostentatiously nonchalant.” A character ignoring something that they should notice is as non-genuine as a character pretending something is real that is clearly fake. Or failing to pretend that something is real when we’re clearly meant to understand it as real.

    But noticing how fake your props are is a lazy kind of humor. It’s what writers and humorists call “winking at the audience” (or “lampshade hanging“)–not using the internal structure of the play to create the humor, but trying to create a supplementary or contingency layer of humor by creating an artificial relationship with the audience. The best comedy is genuine also–if the characters in Eternal Sunshine had been aware of the outrageousness of their situation, Eternal Sunshine would have succeeded as lame comedy.

    I wrote about this in my Schmucks review: there’s something painfully smarmy about characters acknowledging a flaw in the dialogue/plotting/design, &c. It’s like, if the character can say it, then someone involved in the show must have known it was there. Why didn’t you do something about it? Because it’s easier to make a joke about how boring Groucho’s anecdote is than it is to actually make an interesting anecdote.

  16. V.I.P. Referee says:

    …it wasn’t a slight of craft, I meant. The ability to only hypnotize willing participants or create a primer for the audience to use in interpreting the world a story unfolds in. The weight in “Eternal Sunshine…” rested entirely on how genuinely the characters react, suffer and emote around the experience of building up to, engaging in and dealing with the aftermath of the procedure and the office drama within the clinic that provided the service. It wasn’t about the procedure itself and how well the characters could pass-it-off as something other than it was, but how significant the implications of a procedure like that would be. Not “how well can our performance convince you that this black box is a moor/slab/train car” but “Black box is slab in crypt. Now, moving on…”

  17. V.I.P. Referee says:

    That’s why I find it difficult to appreciate Marx Brothers humor; I can understand its role in distracting audiences from the societal gunk and disaster of its time, but it was also a form of comedy destined for extinction. This is why poor “Carrot-Top” has been assigned the title of “Joke”, rather than “Respected Comedian”.

  18. Jeff Holland says:

    Is it possible that trying to endlessly define “comedy” has sort of derailed the actual topic of conversation? There’s good meat to be picked apart here, stop arguing about what the bones they sit on are called.

    Anyway, VIP says:

    “Audiences are also more likely to overlook cheesy special effects if the characters’ reactions to them are genuine”

    This is important. This is VERY important. I am a major proponent of story based around characters. Getting an audience to invest in a character is much more powerful and effective in storytelling terms than asking them to accept shitty monsters or scary concepts.

    Because ideally, it’s not ABOUT the shitty monsters, it’s about how the characters respond. And if these are couched in believable human emotions – and as far as I’m concerned, humor is a vital emotion – well, then, you’ve done your job as a writer.

    And that, I believe, is how you can manipulate tone properly – you can have some utterly hilarious scenes and still reinforce a sense of danger and loss (I’m thinking here of “Shaun of the Dead”).

    Treat the characters like people instead of props, and you can utilize both humor and horror, without one outweighing the other.

  19. braak says:

    Hm. I’m not sure that I understand the point that you’re illustrating here. Are you suggesting that the procedure itself, by virtue of not being the focus of the characters’ emotions, made the content of Sunshine stronger? That, by extension, a film that did center on the procedure itself would necessarily fail?

    Because at first I thought you were saying, “We could accept that the machinery in Sunshine looked kind of stupid because it was clearly not the point,” which I thought I was agreeing with by saying that the movie taught us how to interpret itself. What do you mean “a slight of craft”? I wouldn’t call something like that a “slight” of craft, as in, some kind of trick, but certainly a function of craft–it can’t be an accident that the script was designed the way it was.

    The characters teach us to not care about the shape of the machine by appearing to genuinely not care about the machine. But I don’t think that a movie that was about the machine would be implicitly any less good–you’d probably just have to design and build a better machine for it. (Though, in fact, there is some precedent for having banal and ordinary things be more terrifying through their banality.)

    As for the Marx Brothers–I’m not sure I see where you’re coming from here. Carrot Top is a prop comic–he just makes a lot of puns. Is that…you’re not saying that that’s functionally what the Marx Brothers did, are you? Because, on the one hand, I’m not sure that’s at all correct, and on the other hand, I don’t think puns have gone extinct yet.

  20. braak says:

    @Holland: Well, it is important that we agree on what we mean when we say things, but your point is well-taken nonetheless.

    Still, I’m not sure I buy this whole “the story is about the characters” thing. I mean, I know that everyone says it’s true. I don’t think you can bring up any kind of story about anything, anywhere, and not have someone tell you that really it’s about the characters.

    But what does that mean exactly? If the monster, for example, or the situation, is thoroughly fungible, then why is there a monster at all? Is Inspector Legrasse’s discovery of Cthulhu and the Elder Gods identical to Robert Langdon’s discovery of a conspiracy in the Catholic Church–because both stories are about how men respond to vast, previously-unknown problems?

    Maybe the problem is that I just don’t find other people that interesting. I mean, the fact is that people respond in a handful of basic ways to whatever you put in front of them. We can, and do, simplify the human condition so completely whenever we write about anyone. Isn’t every writing class constantly imploring you to say, “What does the character want? What stops them from getting it?”

    There must be a reason that your characters are facing monsters, and not something else–and there must be a reason that we, human beings, have monsters in the first place.

    Well, anyway, maybe that’s just what I find interesting. Not the complex-but-mechanical interplay of want and neurosis, but the weird, muddy tangle of subconscious that seems to think a good way of expressing want-and-neurosis is with a movie about Jeff Goldblum turning into a huge mutant fly.

  21. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Sort of: I think focusing on the gear in, specifically, “Eternal Sunshine…” would’ve swamped the story and been made at the expense of character development. There are limits to what can effectively be presented without entering the realm of the laughable; it requires a great investment of storytelling resources to pull-off technical plausibility in a film and you still need enough left over to convince an audience why they should even care about such stuff in the first place. That sort of thing works better in sequential films that build-upon an established base; pacing the investigation of the technology within the story, over the course of a series.

    Concerning my mention of “…slight of craft”: In “Eternal Sunshine…” the players are not attempting to create an illusion, for the sake of manipulating an audience into believing something they know is false, but ask the audience to begin at the point of such an agreement and deconstruct what the illusion would’ve been intended for in the first place; why do humans invest resources into creating such things? What are the implications of using them? You don’t have to believe in the plausibility of the mind-erasing gear, in order to truly believe that should such a thing ever exist, the implications of using it would be life-altering and society-shaking.

    While I wouldn’t classify Carrot Top’s work and the work of The Marx Brothers as entirely the same thing, they both conjure up a similar response (for me they do, anyway): Don’t force me to laugh with a whistle, wink and nod; win my laughter (different than “earn”; you don’t have to work hard for it, just tickle me by surprise), don’t anticipate it. There’s not enough of a progression allowed in a prop joke or vaudeville set-up to satisfy. I could blame television advertising for this response. They’ve worn-out many people’s ability to respond to certain kinds of humor by exhausting such brands of comedy in the name of advertising. And slowly, but surely, they’re cutting-off oxygen to situational irony (ugh, if I have to watch one more deadpan actor, present an advertisement as if they weren’t, I’ll scream)…

    …and now, I see the breadcrumbs are gone and I’ve lost my way in the woods….

  22. Jeff Holland says:

    “a good way of expressing want-and-neurosis is with a movie about Jeff Goldblum turning into a huge mutant fly.”

    Well, hard to argue with that at least.

    Damn, you Goldblum, you unimpeachable son of a bitch!

  23. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Having commentor’s remorse: Scratch my comment about the Marx Bros. I do appreciate some of their work, just need to be in the mood to do so. And my whole Marx Brothers to Carrot Top connection didn’t quite gel. This has nothing to do with Braak’s semi-superior tone.

  24. V.I.P. Referee says:


  25. braak says:

    That tone was not semi-superior. It was perfect fourth above root. Get it RIGHT, vip.

  26. V.I.P. Referee says:

    No one chastizes prettier. Consider me educated.

  27. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Ooo–and I’ve even misspelled “chastises”, so there’s plenty of fruit for the picking…

  28. braak says:

    Isn’t “chastises” the English spelling? I have to admit that, though “izes” is more accurate, linguistically speaking, to the Greek root, I prefer the “ises” ending.

  29. […]  Humor is a shield that we use to protect ourselves from terror (I’ve written more about the Horror/Humor Problem […]

  30. […] dark, though, it starts to lose some of its punch.  (The guy next to me was chuckling; this is the Horror/Humor Problem at work.  Incidentally, I hope someone was making sure they have a completely full lighter every […]

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