Ask any Comedian how they make their audience laugh, and I suspect you'll get a fairly wide range of responses. After all, there's all sorts of flavours to choose from these days, from the surreal brilliance of the Eddie Izzards to the Tim Vines of this world who make the one liner sublime both in construction and execution. However, many (including myself) would argue that the best kind of comedy is visual, which has the ability to cross both language and cultural boundaries. It's why Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean character is still a HUGE draw worldwide many years after the last show was made. It can also provoke unexpected feelings too. Take Mr C. Chaplin's brush with the Lion above, for instance, which begins funny but has distinct moments of both fear and discomfort, especially when you realise there was no stuntman and Chaplin himself was inside the cage for every take where the Lion appeared. This brand of comedy is a rare thing, because its not simply hitting the humour target, it makes the audience realise that laughing at fear can also be funny when it isn't us that is in peril.
However, not all visual comedy is either universal or indeed amusing.
|Oh look, it's an overprivileged teenage goat.|
Yesterday's 'April Fools' gags from Blizzard were the standard range of pokes and prods at not simply the company itself, but the people who play the games. A look at the 6.0 Patch notes shows a group of designers who clearly knows exactly where the majority of its audience sits, and the one liners it could tell as a result to their demographic to break the ice at any party. However, what is continuing to be apparent, at least over here where I sit, is that Blizzard still don't really know how to target a good joke for a sector of their audience. Yeah, they can use the Draenai female as a way to poke fun at what they do, and for most people that's going to get a smile and maybe an acknowledgement that they can take the mickey out of themselves. But when people on my Twitter feed yesterday saw this 'joke' for the first time and the response wasn't laughter but that people would be offended, then I knew what was coming. You see, people tell blonde jokes or fat jokes or YOUR MOMMA jokes off the cuff, and you know what you're getting. It's a fine line between what is acceptable in a group of your mates and what you'd tell to someone you hardly know. However, as soon as you add a massive audience to the equation, the rules change, like it or not. Blizzard shouldn't be pedalling potentially provocative material, however clever or accurate it might be in what they consider as their context. They really shouldn't try to be controversial, because it's not good for the image.
Somewhere inside Blizzard HQ, someone again needs to be reminded exactly who makes up their audience.
The moment I make this assertion, and it was the case on Twitter yesterday, someone is going to pop up and throw a word at me, and I know EXACTLY what it is. Because I am clearly implying that Blizzard are being offensive to women with this image, and I am a woman, I have A FEMINIST AGENDA [gasp!]. Let's just stop you right there, shall we? Yes, I do indeed have an Agenda here, and it's very simple. But it's not the one you want it to be so you can in turn make fun of me and what you mistakenly believe this is all about. There is only one rule here, and until everyone can actually follow it, I'm not even going to try and talk about any other issues.
Treat everyone with respect, regardless of whether they actually exist or not.
Yup, that's it. Take whatever prejudice you're wielding and leave it outside. I'm not here to further any cause other than decency and common sense. That means no mocking those who believe in God, or equal rights for ANYONE, or using people's ideals as a way to have a cheap laugh at their expense. You do not need to mock the afflicted to be funny, although it does often make for searingly good comedy. The reason people laugh? Relief that it's not them that's being mocked, mostly. It's the same reason why you don't need to swear to be funny or clever, but that doesn't stop people using that for a cheap laugh either. The thing is, I know full well the power of words, how as little as 140 characters can be more than enough to stomp all over someone's genuinely interested opinion. Words are genuinely dangerous weapons. Use them well, and you can achieve anything you want.
|Lesson One. Observational Comedy.|
So, Blizzard. Yesterday's 'jokes' were great. You were clearly happy with them, or else they'd have never made the light of day to begin with. The one that was a real group effort? The Patch Notes? Yeah, that worked. Whoever decided the Artcraft was acceptable for your entire audience needs to understand that what might seem funny for some people isn't funny for everyone when you'e making fun of body shapes or mental acuity. Please note I make NO reference to sexuality here at all. Just to be clear, that's not the issue for those of you still attempting to slap a label on me. PUT IT AWAY. This isn't about race, sex or gender, it is about common decency, and making your product acceptable to a broad-brush audience. I doubt it will ever change. So, for next time, I'd stick with the universal appeal and play it safe, because everyone likes a joke you can laugh about years after the fact and not feel embarrassed about because it highlighted an inability to accurately judge the range and sensibilities of your target audience after a decade.
Feel free to release some actual genuine Warlords of Draenor news any time now.