Saturday, 5 March 2011

We Have Ways of Making You Laugh

Horrible torture isn't the most obvious of topics when it comes to comedy, yet in so many comic fantasy/other comedy things the hero either finds themselves captured or needs some information from a passing minion. How do you get the most from the scene without raising the rating considerably and/or completely disgusting people? Here are a few options:

  1. Trickery. Everyone loves a suitably thick henchman and/or muscular hero type, so getting them to admit something through their own stupidity is always a fun choice. As in "You can't fool me. I'll never tell you that the treasure is under the big statue."
  2. Threats. Actually doing horrible things to characters isn't funny or suitable for the genre. Threatening them with horrible things is perfectly acceptable, particularly if they are suitably blase or cowardly afterwards. Throwing them into a big pit of spikes doesn't work. Showing them on the edge, asking questions about how they managed to get all the points quite so pointy does.
  3. Embarrassment. Given the genre, you will be embarrassing the characters on a fairly regular basis anyway, but as Tom Holt shows in Overtime, a hat full of cold custard can do the job perfectly well when it makes a henchman look a bit daft in front of his workmates.
  4. The lion's day off. Pick a terrible fate. Now make something go wrong with it. The lion they are to be thrown to is on holiday. The scorpions were all taken by a passing experimental chef to be honey roasted. Prachett does this to great effect in Sourcery, where Rincewind is thrown into a snake pit with a rather non-violent snake, and gets to meet Nigel the Barbarian.
  5. Kidnapping. It is legitimate for villains to kidnap assorted wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, elderly uncles and hamsters. It is practically in the job description, in fact. This falls under threats. See above.
  6. The Vogon option. Terrible poetry, singing etc. is fine. As is showing pictures of your holidays until someone's brain melts (see Pratchett's Eric). This can get very surreal. In one episode of the wacky races (at least I think it was) Dick Dasterdly famously brainwashed his competition by showing an endless loop of the other cartoon he was in- Stop the Pigeon.
  7. Various forms of mind control. Particularly the truth spell/drug that then makes the characters reveal irrelevant but embarrassing facts.

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