Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Don Martin - department store 2, The Genius of "Ignorant Humor"

Every so often I read someone’s decree that cartoons have to be “believable” and I think to myself, “Wow, this person really just doesn’t get what cartoons are”. You get a lot of theories like that from executives who would never be caught dead even watching cartoons on their own if their jobs didn’t force them to.

My own idea of what cartoons do is to make the unbelievable believable, which requires great talent and skill. Not all cartoonists are equally gifted in this area.
My pal Eddie has a term he uses when he likes something funny. He calls it “Ignorant Humor”. I think that’s a funny term too, but hope he never uses it in front of a layman or cartoon executive, because it might give the impression that cartoons are stupid and easy to do.
I hope I am not misinterpreting your term, Eddie. Feel free to add your complete definition in the comments! I’d love to make an elaborate post of it.
I think by “ignorant” he means “low-brow” - the category that includes Tex Avery, Mad Magazine, The 3 Stooges but for some reason often excludes Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Bros. and Laurel and Hardy and Frank Miller.
Many critics thumb their snooty noses at pure comedy or “ignorant humor”. Why is that? Because the pure comics don’t contaminate the ice cream with pathos, heavy seriousness or important issues?
The top ignorant comics like the 3 Stooges, Jerry Lewis and Don Martin are actually extremely intelligent.

It takes a lot of not only talent and skill, but intelligent sophisticated planning to pull the audience along a trail of completely preposterous events and logic.

These top humorists are among humanity’s greatest heroes, because they take us away from all the ugly things in life for a few minutes and let us cleanse away worldly poisons with laughter.
The sophistication in what Eddie calls “Ignorant comedy” and could also be called “generous comedy” lies not merely in the content itself but in the execution of it. The staging, he structure, the momentum, the acting, the sincerity, the performances, the creative invention, the pure joy of craziness.

If “Ignorant Humor” were truly ignorant, then everybody could make Tex Avery cartoons, Don Martin comics and 3 Stooges shorts. On the other hand just about anybody can criticize them. That doesn't take much intelligence. Luckily, most people just enjoy the fruits of their genius.

more of Don Martin's Department Store to come.