Comedy runs the gamut from subtle to outrageous, and Xena Warrior Princess is no exception with episodes from the sublime to burlesque. Comedy has a long history as an integral part of writing. It may be a subtle play on words, a 'wink wink -- nudge nudge' dialog, or broad strokes of parody. It creates an ambiance for dialogue and character development, softens the tense dramatic moments or allows topics to surface in a non-threatening manner. Perhaps comedy is the necessary survival kit for compassion, a complement to tragedy, making it whole and allowing the writer to offer not only the tragic, but also the power of recuperation, just as in real life. The ability to be amused and to generate amusement is unique to the human species. But what may tickle one person's funny bone may also create a blank look on another's face or a rolling of the eyes.
Finding the right comedic tone and style to augment a story can be a challenge; having the whole story infused with comedy is an art. To that end, creating a character that the reader can share in the laughter, whether it comes from the character's attitude or predicament, is what it's all about. Hopefully, when all is said and done, the reader will still love the character. Through conversation with various bards, this theme hopes to explore what brought about comedy stories in the Xenaverse and what made it work.
Joining us today are:
Advocate [The Story of Me, You've Got Scrolls, Castaway, Madame President]
AJ [Roadkill Café]
Vivian Darkbloom [White Trash Series, From Hair to Eternity]
Inyx [Strings Attached]
Kamouraskan [The Gabrielle Effect, Spider, Rat, Tender Mercies]
Trish Kerr [About That Kiss, Honeymoon, Heart and Soul, Vacation in Tartarus]
K. Simpson AKA ROCFanKat [Several Devils Series]
EM: What kind of comedy do you prefer and did this influence the tone of your story?
Kam: Here's a very pretentious statement. I am very serious about comedy. I've always preferred verbal as opposed to slapstick humour; the Marx Brothers rather than the Stooges. The illogic of the absurd, rather than seeing pain being inflicted. I always make references to my favorite comics. The "Gabrielle Effect" was originally supposed to be a Feydeau Farce, with slamming doors and mistaken identities, but I threw in a scene from South Park. Never Paint A Moustache has everything except Red Dwarf in there. Lots of Monty Python and even Warner Brother's cartoons.
Physical comedy without wit doesn't do anything for me. The episode Punch Lines lost me with the pie fight. It wasn't just that it was poorly done, there was no point or reference to the characters. It was just people throwing things, including the writers at the viewers.
Vivian: If I have any sense of how to do a parody correctly, it's no doubt due to Carol Burnett. I watched her show faithfully as a kid, and her parodies of pop culture...like soap operas and movies... were great. I also loved Bugs Bunny cartoons as well. When I was in college the one thing that made me laugh most... other than the fact I was an English major with no discernable future...were the Smiths [a 1980s British rock band, for those who aren't familiar with them]. I would listen to their records and laugh like hell. I still love you, Morrisey!
ROCFanKat: I'm all over the map--Woody Allen, Monty Python, & the Marx Brothers, but also "The Full Monty" & "South Park: The Movie." "The Lion in Winter" is a drama, but it's full of wicked, hilarious dialogue. And I think Linda Ellerbee & Molly Ivins are two of the funniest people writing today. (If you don't think Ellerbee is
funny &/or a writer, read her books.) W/out meaning to, I probably borrow from all of them.
Inyx: I love just about any kind of humor, I think the greatest thing in life is to be able to laugh.
'While you were Sleeping', has got to be one of the best and funniest movies I've ever seen. That and Sandra Bullock is gorgeous. It was smart, witty and about this lonely woman who wanted a family and the hilarity of it all was just the funny things that happened in her life as she got her man, just not the one she expected.
My favorite comedienne/actress in comedy (outside of Sandra) would have to be Janene ëIf it was funny I would have laughed by now' Garafalo, who became the basis for Kelly's cynicism in "Strings Attached". She's smart, down to earth and a cynic. And nothing escapes her notice without a remark about it. Though I don't think I was as blunt in my story and Janene would have been.
As for humorous stories I love... come meet my family... there's enough weirdness to go around the world. They and my friends are my inspiration.
Vivian: More recently, I've been influenced by "Absolutely Fabulous," which is probably the funniest TV show I've ever seen. (Runner-up to this is a show that was on Comedy Central: "Strangers With Candy." I think it's cancelled now, unfortunately.)
So I don't know what this says about the kind of humor I like. I think I like all kinds of humor. But I guess you could classify my sensibility as sort of campy, absurd, and nihilistic. Which might be a good way to describe the "White Trash" stories. I don't know.
EM: I'd say you've got a winner with the "White Trash" stories, everyone recommends them to read.
Kam: The chapter headings alone are hilarious. Gabrielle: The Other White Meat [laughs].
AJ: I've always liked situational comedies that were character driven. My favorite childhood author was Beverly Cleary who wrote "Beezus and Ramona and Otis Spofford". The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and M.A.S.H. were my favorite television shows. I don't particularly like slapstick. I enjoy stories that define their characters and put them into situations that are made humorous by the way that the characters naturally respond to them. Satires always draw my attention, too. I've been told that there's a dark side to my humor. I'd have to give credit for that to real life and the fact that I grew up reading MAD Magazine. I'd have to say that my favorite comedians are Bill Cosby, for his story telling; Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters, who can think faster on their feet than anyone I've ever know. Lily Tomlin, who I wanted to be when I grew up; and Ellen DeGeneres, who makes an art of being overwhelmed by life.
ROCFanKat: I do like biting humor, so it's probably not a coincidence that the characters are sarcastic. If you want to find a 'Xena' connection, watch 'A Day in the Life.' The relationship between X&G in that episode is exactly what I see between my characters. If that's not coming across, I'm not doing it right.
EM: Well I think you're doing it right ... I love those characters and their living demons. Trish, Advocate you've been mute so far... how about your views?
Trish: I'm not a big comedy movie fan and sadly, it's the last aisle I'll go down in the video rental store. And only then when I'm really desperate. Maybe it's my innate need to get the most bang for my buck that keeps me hovering in the action, thriller, adventure section. But if I had to pick it would be the more black comedies - ones that are just a little twisted....
For me I like to see the comedy integrated into a bigger story, in ways that add to the viewer's experience. I really favor the sarcastic quick-witted dialogue as opposed to the slapstick approach. ( ie: Three Stooges) all seamlessly integrated into the story line so you don't feel you've stepped outside of the box.
On the television I migrate (quelle surprise) to the sarcastic biting comedies such as 'Seinfeld', 'Fraser' and Friends. The writing is very tight and the comedy just naturally flows from the characters' interaction. I love the connection elements used in 'Seinfeld'; how seemingly unrelated story lines somehow intertwine in ways that bring them together to form a whole. It really is exceptional writing.
For 'Friends', I think it's the dialogue and generally relaxed natural interaction that make it tick. Apart from the one liners you actually buy into the relationships which makes the comedy flow quite nicely.
'Fraser' works so well because of the highbrow snobbery. It allows for very sharp tongues but also makes them easy prey because of their large egos. If you can create a character completely full of themselves it becomes all too tempting to poke fun.
Advocate: In actuality, I'm generally not a big fan of comedy films or half-hour situational comedies. I find myself preferring wit to slapstick, probably because zany, slapstick is so difficult to pull off. When you fail, you fail huge. But there were a few shows that hit the mark for me. The ëCarol Burnette Show', ëI love Lucy', and ëLaverne and Shirley', all still make me laugh when I see them. I also adore the movie ëPrivate Benjamin'.
In my own writing, I guess I try to use a combination of what I, myself, find funny. I look at what appears to be a normal situation and hunt for the humor in it. If you look for it, it's always there. Or, sometimes I take a completely crazy situation and try to imagine acting totally normally through it. Then there is always the completely nutty situation where the characters just go with the flow and become part of the mayhem.
EM: Actually Advocate, I think you do great screwball comedy ... "The Story of Me" is a perfect example and is so reminiscent of 'Bring Up Baby' or 'My Girl Friday'. Your latest, "Madame President" is very witty and I noticed you often use animals as comic foils.
Advocate: [groans] Not the squirrels again! [everyone chuckles]
EM: How did you decide to write a/or use comedy... was there a central idea that inspired you and how did you maintain that idea?
Trish: I never actually sat down and attempted to integrate comedy into the stories. It just came out that way. I guess it's probably my style. I don't think I could write something that didn't incorporate comedy on some level.
I had good intentions. It started off somewhat serious but the next thing I knew little bits of ironic observations were being made by the characters, irritating quips passed back and forth. So I quickly gave into it realizing quite early on that I would never be a serious dramatic writer.
In "About that Kiss" there were little snippets of comedic interaction throughout but it was after the rescue that it was allowed to take over. The entire ordeal was so draining I really felt that a party at the end was needed. Thinking back now I was the one that probably needed the party. So, partly inspired by a drunken night out with friends, the party was born. And I really had a blast writing it... far too much fun.
Vivian: In regard to the "White Trash" stories, specifically the first one, there was no conscious decision on my part to write a comedy. I don't approach writing in that way, like, "I'm going to sit down now and be funny." It doesn't work. I may have certain themes, plots, characters, or ideas going through my head, but whether or not they turn out to be comedy sometimes remains to be seen, at least until I get them on paper and decide what I can and can't do with them. Some characters or situations will seem funny, or will have the potential to be that way, and I'll just expand on that.
For instance, "Love and Death in the Trailer Park" actually started out as more of a serious piece--not heavy drama, mind you, but more of a slice-of-life kind of thing. But somehow, the humor just crept in as I wrote the story... perhaps on some level I sensed how extraordinarily boring it would have been otherwise... and got more and more out of hand as the series progressed.
"From Hair to Eternity" is also a good example of pure spontaneity... there was no conscious decision to write a comedy, no prescribed set of characters, no plot outline; LN [James] & I were just goofing around, and we discovered that we enjoyed writing together. It was also our group project at Betty Ford. Our therapist liked it and gave us gold stars. We would have preferred vodka martinis, but we kept quiet because otherwise we would have lost sauna privileges.
AJ: I'd been editing other peoples' stories and helping them to overcome writer's block a time or two. With much encouragement from Carrie Carr, my partner, as well as a few other writers, I tried my hand at an uber piece of fiction but got nowhere with it fast. The basic story was good, but writing was more of an ordeal for me than a pleasure then.
On one of the mailing lists that I was on, someone made a comment about road kill. I was living in an area of Illinois where seeing road kill was a daily occurrence. When I had first moved there, one of my neighbors joked about how I needed to go to the local Road Kill Café and try out some of their dishes. It was, of course, a joke that was frequently told to outsiders just to gross them out. The comment that was made about Road Kill on the mailing list set me off writing emails from the Road Kill Café's Chef AJ and some of her staff.
Carrie encouraged me to take those emails and make a story out of them. I decided that "Fresh From The Road Kill Café" was a safe place for me to start writing. It wasn't supposed to be taken seriously, so if it bombed, it was no big deal. However, I couldn't figure out how to make a story go past a few pages. So I set my limit at 5 or 6 pages per episode in order to take some of the stress out of the experience of writing it. Then Carrie came to my rescue. She told me how she writes and it proved to be the key for me. I gave the characters their own lives and personalities, threw them into one situation after the other, and just watched and wrote what happened.
Advocate: Even when I was trying to write drama, these goofy thoughts kept popping into my head at the most inappropriate times during the story. And since they didn't fit with what I was trying to do, I always had to rein myself in. So, finally, with "The Story of Me" I gave myself permission to write the crazy the stuff that had been going through my head all along. I let the characters have the inane thoughts we all do, even at the most inappropriate moments. We all are thinking those things, right? Uh oh.
The way I maintain that idea through a story, is just to continuously ask myself ëwhat if?" and ëwhy not?" What if squirrels had thoughts, lives, and relationships just like we do? What if ancient Greece had scroll lists and their list community as crazy as the ones we have today["You've Got Scrolls"]? What if I (we) threw caution to the wind and embraced stereotypes, adding just a teensy, tiny, infinitesimal bit more color to a group of misfit game show contestants on an island [Castaway]?
ROCFanKat: Truth? I didn't--the original drafts of "Several Devils" were very bad horror novels. The friend who read them finally told me to stop reading Anne Rice. The story itself was inspired by 'Bram Stoker's Dracula', but the connection was written out many drafts ago.
One of my brothers is in advertising and I covet his job, so I borrowed it to see how it fit. But J/J/G is really based on the Miles Drentell agency in 'thirtysomething'. The celibacy part set up a natural conflict, since I know a few stories about ad agencies that I can never tell.
EM: I've just gotta ask... why did you choose demons to be the catalysts for the hilarious predicaments of the lead characters?
ROCFanKat: Because you can get away with so much if the laws of physics & common sense don't apply. Also, the underlying theme is the demonization of sex. If you demonize something, you're eventually going to get a demon in some form. Dev & Cassie have been lucky so far, but their demons are about to get darker.
Kam: Most of my ideas start with absurdity. Ask anyone that knows me [grins].
Xena is perfect for this. We have this supposedly nasty killer, who is constantly put into to situations where she has to do good. So you can easily create humour through adding to her stress by putting her in more ridiculous situations. But you must always remind the reader that she is dangerous. The threat must be real or there is no humour. People who write stories where her character is completely watered down miss this point I think.
I started "The Gabrielle Effect" with the same concept as applied to Gabrielle. I was going to force her to be quiet and demure, and see what exploded first.
But in all my stories the characters have first vote. "Spider" is the best example, in that I had a whole other tale planned for Gabrielle to tell, and then she got up on that stage and shocked the hell out of me.
"Rat" was based on a one sentence request by a friend, and the characters wrote their own dialogue.
"Tender Mercies" was thought out on a walk, and typed as dialogue only in 20 minutes. I had the great good fortune to have a brilliant bard waiting at home. Though she hated the story, Lariel typed in all the descriptive narrative in a few minutes, added two scenes and then I edited it. Whole thing took maybe an hour and a half.
Inyx: After watching a movie starring Janene one evening long ago and not so far away my muse came up and whacked me on the back of the head. [I came up] with an idea of two best friends sitting at a bar with loud music playing and people dancing around while they made comments about the people and the music. And one (happy, cheerful) informs the other (cynic) that she by accident of a drunken fling is now... with child. I wrote the chapter titles and the first scene with the cynic talking in first person and my muse left me!!!!
A year or so later my muse came back and informed me that the characters I had been missing were to be based on that of X&G; and Kelly and Jess stepped in and the laughter and smiles flowed as the words came. Even now when I go back there are parts that just make me laugh. I found with the chapter headings I just followed the girls along for the ride and wrote down what they did. Which is where all the swearing came from! I was shocked that Kelly swore so much! My limit goes to about Jess'.
Mostly though you have to have some sense of direction of where the story is going to end, if you don't know where your journey (story) ends, then you can get lost quickly.
Trish: In "Honeymoon" [I] really got into darker realms. So I [thought] some comedy relief was in order. And you can't write a werewolf story without a bit of camp. I'd always liked Salmoneous and I needed someone to provide the cheap silverware. In the early Xena episodes he was always peddling something so it was a perfect fit to bring him along. He added the comic relief that was much needed in between the hopefully suspenseful scenes.
I'm a big horror buff but the ones that I really like poke some fun at themselves ñ The campy 'American Werewolf in London' did an exceptional job of this. There were parts that were downright scary but it [wove] a wicked sense of humor throughout. So I tried to incorporate that aspect into "HoneyMoon".
In "Heart and Soul" there were so many comedic angles to play. Again, I really didn't start off planning for comedy but it just lent itself to it. The overblown Lynchia, the over the top gaudy castle, the crazy sex shop, the self obsessed and egotistical Pan... the entire story was a series of extremes and with everyone taking themselves far too seriously it was prime stomping ground for making fun.
I've always loved the villain portrayed as an insane egomaniac with a deep drive to 'control the world'. And since Lynchia was so pompous you knew even that wouldn't be enough ñ she needed to be master of the universe ñ so of course she was doomed from the start. Picking on such an archetype is not just fun, it's mandatory.
I like to pay homage to the show and the Xena fandom through little inside jokes that only true nutballs get. I think it adds to the richness of the stor... incessant little details. Which brings us to that doll. If anyone remembers the first Xena dolls they put out, oie vey, they were absolutely terrible designs! They didn't look anything like her at all. So incorporating that ugly doll into the story was a way of working through that irritation and having fun with it.
I also had to prey on Xena yet again. She's always so uptight... she really doesn't let go enough. I would love for once to see her drunk on that show. I know it won't happen but I'd still love to see it! Enter yet another, self-serving writing scene. Aren't they all? So after the drama up at on the mountain I thought everyone really needed to unwind and what better way than to stage a drunkfest at the castle. And who better to pick on that poor old Xena. So I took artistic license and got into the drinking games. But it did actually have a purpose. I had always planned to somehow get everybody back down to the castle so I could act out the final tower scene. This interlude allowed everyones' guard to drop just enough to allow Lynchia to slink down the mountain to attempt her final revenge.
In the closing tower scene I tried to mix comedy with the seriousness of the situation. Lynchia was extremely dangerous at this point having lost everything and pretty pissed off to boot. But like all archetypal villains she had a role to fulfill. She had to go down of course, because they aren't allowed to win, but she had to go down in style and from her own egotistical failings. So she spirals into the standard monologue on the injustice of it all and the why me and the other cries of sabotage while she waits to enact the final revenge against Xena which you know will never be. This was a perfect scenario for comedy and not to be passed up. It just wouldn't have worked any other way.
By the time I wrote "Vacation in Tartarus", comedy was the central theme. Or perhaps it was irritation. It just felt right at the time to get a bit lighter, especially since we were finally going to head out on the honeymoon vacation they had been fantasizing about for 3 stories. I mean, how dark can a vacation be? I thought it would be great fun to explore the isle of Lesbos and have a bit of fun with it. But of course there was no way I was going to allow them to actually enjoy themselves.
I've always been slightly jaded when it comes to vacations. I don't have much luck with them. I've had a few crazy doomed experiences that seem funny in the retelling, but downright horror at the time. Let's just say I'll never go the Dominican Republic on a last minute deal again...ever
I also loathe organized groups of any kind. I think I'm actually allergic to them. Yes it's neurotic. I know it is. "Vacation in Tartarus" was partly reflective (perhaps more than) of a Michigan Women's Music Festival I went to way back when I was a very naive suburban lesbian. Politically correct, and vegetarian friendly, organized and sanctioned to death I was completely claustrophobic within hours of arrival. There were these sign up tents and instructional videos, and tours, and different names for various camping sections, itineraries galore... it was crazy! The entire experience was a complete culture shock... and I think it resurfaced horrific brownie flashbacks from my early childhood. Makes me tight just thinking about it. So "Vacation in Tartarus" was definitely a therapy story incorporating all those things and more. I suppose all writing is therapy when you get right down to it.
EM: Do you view comedy as a leavening agent ... i.e. lightens the drama, enhances dialogue, adds character dimension and how so?
Advocate: Absolutely. It does all those things, plus something very important for your characters. It makes them real and likeable. It gives them balance. Just like in real life. Even in the strangest of situations, I'm hoping you can relate to the characters and/or their plight.
ROCFanKat: [I agree] I have trouble trusting real people or fictional characters who don't have a sense of humor.
AJ: In my opinion, even a more serious story needs its lighter moments. Whether this is accomplished by having an unusual situation come up that the character's personality causes them to respond to in a humorous way, or by having a quirky character who provides comic relief, there needs to be some break in the tension of a story.
A story's dialog should do more than just move the story along. It should reveal something about the characters. I haven't met anyone yet who was completely devoid of a sense of humor...well, except for maybe my ex-husband when I told him that I'm gay.
Trish: I think comedy definitely is a great tool for lightening drama and giving the reader a much needed break from what can at times be very heavy material. Who doesn't need a little comic relief? It's a great defense mechanism to deal with stress, puts everyone at ease and generally lifts the mood. It allows the reader and the writer to breathe, if only for a moment.
A character that lacks in some sense of humor ends up seeming too distant and/or one-dimensional. It's part of what makes us human and not to address that when shaping the characters is missing out. It's great to fantasize about strong heroes that never blunder or miss a beat but ultimately, how long can you spend time with someone that is humorless and perfect? How boring is that? And what evil villain would not be complete without some twisted wit? Or if they are completely humorless, then let's pick on them!
And then there's Xena. I love her to death but she really has it too easy. It started off fairly respectful of her but soon I had the incredible urge to have fun at her expense. I find that when I read a Xena or an uber that is too serious it starts to get a little stiff and she starts to get even stiffer. Even the show allows mental breaks from the drama and the odd exasperated sigh from its heroine.
Vivian: Even when I write darker or more serious stuff, such as Mel/Janice stories... the humor is essential in providing some sort of balance to the piece. Whether or not I'm successful is debatable; my sense of drama is sometimes as extravagant as my sense of humor. (Just ask Nancy Amazon!) But I try. I think that to present a believable and realistic story, with fully fleshed-out characters, you must blend comedy and drama. Because life is really like that. To trot out a much-used quote, "Life is comic to those who think and tragic to those who feel"(Horace Walpole). Most people do both. And most people like to laugh.
Kam: I always try to create a new mix in each of my stories, or else, what is the point in writing them? I also try to have comedy in the drama for all the reasons above, but also I think it is essential to have some drama or depth to the comedy. There are many reasons for that.
If there are no real life issues, why should the reader be involved in the story? The best comedy, not that I am capable of writing that, but I can dream[smiles]; always moves the reader.
Like the old vaudeville shows, no comic wants to follow a comic. Or like a meal in a restaurant. You need to give the audience a chance to cleanse their palate before beginning the next course.
Finally, comedy can distance people from things. I prefer to think of it as creating perspective, but it can mean the reader simply glides through the story and doesn't really care what happens. I want my humour to come out of the characters as often as possible, and that is easier when the reader cares about them.
Inyx: As long as it doesn't contain sodium aluminum sulfate then yes! [grins] Humor is the glue that sticks the hard parts of life together and makes it bearable.
Sure there are serious things that need to be addressed, but I have a hard time believing that things are so serious in a persons' life there's nothing funny to come along the way. I also think it depends on the characters in the story. Kelly is very serious, but it's through her cynical nature that we (and she) see the humor and it allows all of us to smile about it and go ëduh, I can so relate', even if we've never been through something like that before, there is the commonness of it all that brings it together.
EM: Do find comedy more difficult or more rewarding than writing serious drama?
Vivian: I find writing comedy really easy... sometimes too easy. It's always tempting to go for the easy joke or the predictable gag. I try not to do that... at least not too much. It's important to keep my own approach fresh, to surprise myself, because otherwise it does the writing (and the reader) a disservice. I'm not sure what the experiences of other bards are in this respect, and I'm curious to find out.
It is more difficult for me to write serious drama. While I enjoy the challenge of drama, at the same time it involves drudging up and maintaining an intense kind of focus, and requires a deeper engagement of your sensibilities... I'm not looking for just a laugh or an absurdity, but something more elusive. And sometimes I don't even know what it is at first. (I want to compare it to hunting a lion or a panther or a tiger, but since the only thing I really hunt are leftovers in the fridge, it feels a tad bogus.) Nonetheless, because of the level of effort, and the uncertainty, it is more rewarding for me to complete a dramatic piece.
Advocate: Comedy is generally easier for me to write. But I don't say to myself, okay, this needs to be funny. I start with the premise I want to get across and then allow myself to see the humor inherent in the situation or the characters themselves.
I can't say that I necessarily find it more rewarding to write comedy. My personal favorite, of the stories I've written, isn't a comedy at all, "Cobb Island". Though it does have a humorous subplot. I needed an outlet. Sue me. Deep in my innermost soul, I want to write angst and rip people's hearts right out of their chests. Unfortunately, when I try to get all dark and moody, it turns out more sucky than gripping. Maybe I haven't suffered enough to be truly effective in that arena, which I'm thinking is probably a good thing.
Trish: Good question. I think writing comedy that works for everyone is a tough challenge. So I think you have to write the kind of comedy you would appreciate. I think that goes for anything you write. It's just not going to ring true otherwise. If someone ends up enjoying it then that's bonus. I like serious moments but I need the comic relief to truly enjoy the experience. Or perhaps to offset the more emotionally draining serious scenes. So that's what works for me.
As far as rewarding... I'm not sure it's more rewarding than drama... just a different form of expression. But truthfully, I had a blast writing all the Xenas...it was so much fun it felt illegal. And I would have to admit, though I loved to write it all, writing a funny scene was pure fun. Because you had to put yourself in the scene, imagine what they would say, what they would do, feel the energy of it, the comedic scenes naturally were more uplifting and less of an emotional hit on the psyche. And you got to laugh along with them, oftentimes at their expense.
ROCFanKat: I can't write drama. Comedy, or whatever this stuff is, comes naturally, so that's what I write.
Inyx: Hmmmm.... Comedy is just plain fun to write, but I would have to say rewarding. Sure there's work involved, no story worth it's weight is a cakewalk through the park because there has to be substance to it. But for me a comedy is like telling about someone's day to day life. When you write those experiences, though some can be made up, the majority have to come from what you know or what you've heard. And if you can get the rhythm of your characters down it flows... that is the most rewarding thing to see it fit together.
Kam: Several of my friends have written some excellent comedies and I have been lucky to read them in the rough. Lariel, Temora, Claire Withercross, Blindzon Elyzon, Advocate, Lawlsfan, all have told me about ëlaughing as they typed.' It's a wonderful feeling, giggling over your own work. Sure, I like getting letters from fans that tell me my story moved them, that they were angered or deeply touched. But comedy is much more fun to actually write.
AJ: I think that depends on the author. I've seen enough of life's little ironies in my time that writing comedy is fairly easy for me. Even the story that I'm working on now, "Rightful Claims", has its humorous moments. I can't seem to help myself, and it takes real self-control not to turn this story into another comedy.
One of the easiest things I ever wrote was Dr. Poopsie Gerbilhiney for Advocate's And XWPFanatic's "Castaway". Once I pictured the lascivious anthropologist in my mind, her commentaries fairly jumped off the keyboard.
EM: Do you think that X&G or uber characters are adaptable to comedy?
Vivian: Obviously, yeah... regardless of whether the actual show's "comedies" influence the writer or not. There have been many excellent comedy stories written, both X&G and uber pieces, so many so that I couldn't list 'em all here if I wanted to.
AJ: Absolutely. Just as adaptable as the TV Xena and Gabrielle are. One of the best things about fan fiction, whether X&G or uber, is taking the characters or elements of their personalities or relationship and putting them in other scenarios. What if Xena and Gabrielle had been born in the American old west? What if Xena had been a medical professional? Or a survivalist with a knife called ëTiffany' ["Castaway"]?
The author's challenge is to be true to the premise of their story without falling back on clichéd ideas or phrases. Unless, of course, they're making fun of them as I did in "Road Kill Café" by having multiple sets of Xena and Gabrielle uber lookalikes or Sally Budd's "Passion's Playthings" all out satire of XWP fan fiction clichés.
ROCFanKat: Most of my favorite X:WP episodes are comedy scenes. Go figure.
Kam: I love these characters, and anything is possible if you know them in that way. I hear them talking as I go to sleep, when I go for walks. It's an odd thing.
I'm a single parent, male, middle aged, so I should probably not be writing this stuff. But I am a puddle of mush when it comes to the idea of a soulmate. I'd like to think that my love for X&G and this dream is apparent in each story, dramatic, or comedic.
It's strange that my readers may know me better than many of my family because each piece reveals a part of myself or my life in them. I don't know about Uber. As I said above, the menace of Xena can be made very amusing, and perhaps I should think about trying to make that work in another incarnation. Hmmmm, that gives me an idea....
Advocate: I've only written one X&G, with them as adults, and the rest have been uber/original fiction. So, I'm forced to say the ubers are slightly more adaptable. But only because you put them in more varied situations and there are no boundaries already drawn for the characters. Then again, messing with the boundaries can be fun too.
For my next project I'm considering a comedy, which would be a caveman uber. Sort of a prequel to X&G. No talking. Only grunting. We'll see what happens. I'll just have to hope that somebody really funny like Vivian here doesn't beat me to it. [chuckles]
EM: I can't wait to see what animals pop up in that one [Advocate glares at EM].
Inyx: Well, I saw ëA Day in the Life' and that icky one where our dynamic duo had like foot fungus and a plethora of skin and hair ailments. That episode made me sick, but it was still funny, so I think X&G do quite well in comedy regardless of who writes it.
And I see the same thing in uber characters as well. I will admit that I've read a great deal more of uber fan fiction than original X&G, and it's rare to see it center a great share of it's story on comedy. But what there is of it is excellent and I hope to read more of it!
Trish: When I read a story that portrays Xena as too dark or Gabs as too victimized it just grates on me. So when I wrote I wanted to keep the characters as true to themselves as they could be. If I couldn't buy into Xena or Gabrielle speaking or acting in a certain way then I couldn't write it. Except, my one self-serving drunken Xena scene [chuckles].
I think if you stick to the true characters of the show; they are prime candidates for comedy but are at their best when mixed with drama. I think Xena can be a quirky, sarcastic, eye-rolling devil at times and Gabrielle has a great sense of humor despite most times ending up on the wrong end of the comedic stick.
EM: This has been a really interesting discussion. I've really enjoyed your comments and I encourage the readers to indulge in these and other comedic stories. In addition, as always, I ask everyone to take the time and drop an email to these wonderful authors and at least say 'thanks'.
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