Sunday, August 10, 2014

Let Me Get This Straight

Zack Handlen's reviews of classic Monty Python episodes aren't much to write about, so I usually don't.  But then there's this in his discussion of the Argument Clinic sketch:

There is set-up, but since part of the humor derives from the strangeness of the idea, the set-up takes pains not to over explain anything. “Who’s On First” has a straight man (ie, the guy who doesn’t know team names) and a trickster (ie, the guy who does, and may or may not be fucking with straight man). “Argument” has Palin as the nominal straight man, but it’s not as though Cleese is introducing a wild card element into an otherwise normal scenario.

Huh?  "Who's On First" has a straight man and a trickster?  The trickster, who knows the team names, would then be Bud Abbott. Which makes Lou Costello the "straight man." In what world is Lou Costello the straight man?

Whether or not you think Abbott is a trickster (and he's not--he's simply trying to impart information to Costello and failing), he is unquestionably the straight man.  Anyone who doesn't know this shouldn't be writing about comedy.

PS  Handlen also claims Cleese cons Palin out of a fiver in the Argument Clinic.  I'm not so sure.

PPS  Wikipedia's entry on Martin and Lewis called Martin the straight man and Lewis the comic foil.  The latter was incorrect, so I changed it. But you can't fix things at the A.V. Club.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I've never timed it, but I think the audience is supposed to presume that inthe heat of argument, 5 minutes did pass.

9:21 AM, August 13, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

That's how I've always seen it, because the Cleese character comes across as quite officious. He may be involved in a bizarre job, but he takes it seriously. On the other hand, it is possible, because his job is about arguing, that he pulls this trick to make extra money and be guaranteed of a good argument.

11:17 AM, August 15, 2014  

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