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Okay, this is not technically a PEE review, but I find this way of reviewing things is easy enough to use, and it helps me break things down a bit
Okay, I'm going to say something firstly about HTBFANJS. HTBFANJS was not designed as a set of rules that you have to follow in order to have an article stay alive on Unicycle-paddler, but it has been taken to be used that way. Now there are times that admins and others who are extremely trigger happy to kill articles will use it this way. I'm not going to say that this is wrong, but in a way it's making things easy.
Why? Imagine that you read through 50 different articles per day and some of them were good, some of them were okay, but most of them were just unfunny. You want to get rid of the unfunny ones, but at the same time you want to do it in a way that seems that there is a good reason for you to do it. Writing "I didn't find it funny" is one option, but if you do this to the work of 30 people every day then they'll eventually come after you with a big mother-cuddling gun and blow your brains out. Or even worse, come back as a sock-puppet and start vandalising your work. (Happened to me once so far - not something I couldn't fix or I'd normally care about but all of a sudden an explicit gay porn image popped up on my monitor while my 12 year old son was in the room. He didn't see anything, but still not nice.)
Okay, so you need something to be able to justify why you're saying to people "It's not funny" a million times, and someone has just so happened to write an article that describes the most common forms of comedic writing. You know that if something doesn't fit into that then there's a strong chance that it's not funny, so you suddenly have a tool turned into a weapon.
If you've been hit on the head by a hammer you have every reason to not like hammers. But when you need to stick a nail into a piece of wood it's probably not a bad idea to have one.
So the first thing I'm going to do is break down HTBFANJS and look at what it's really saying.
There's not that much of value in this bit, but what there is is important. Uncyclopedia is like the Daily Show (or in Australia Good News week or The Chasers) - it takes something serious and looks at it in a funny light. Why this is important is without understanding this little bit, the rest of this makes no sense. I want you to wear a bracelet from now on saying "WWSCD?" If Stephen Colbert wouldn't, then don't.
Okay, I'm going to go a little into the classics of dissecting humour. This bit is boring, but hold on, as there is an extremely important lesson in here.
|Humour is about truth and pain. All jokes, at their core, are about something that is true and the audience can relate to, and something that is painful in some way.|
Okay, I can't remember where I stole that from, and it's not perfect as it is a generalisation, but it does show something significant. With something humorous you are laughing at something, and usually something that you can relate to.
I'll get you to think of one of the most embarrassing thing that happened to you while you were at school. Have you got that image in your mind. I know it's not fun but hold it tight. Now think about the people involved. Were people laughing at you, or laughing when they found out about it later? Five will get you ten that they were. Was this painful for you? Again, five will get you ten.
Now imagine the funniest thing that you saw about someone else while you were at school. Again, were they in pain, or painfully embarrassed? Not as certain, but a damned strong likelyhood.
Now if you're saying no to the last two paragraphs, that's all cool. The reason why you'd say no is because you don't want this to be right, as that would mean that you might have been wrong. That's called being proud and stubborn. Do you want to be stubborn or would you prefer to be funny. If it's the second then re-read the above sentences and think of times where you were in pain or painfully embarrassed, or you were laughing at somebody else's pain. Got it, now let's get on with it.
Okay, we've worked out the pain, and now let's look at the truth aspect. I've seen this before where people have mentioned "universal truth." That's bollocks, but it makes the point. Funny isn't funny if you don't relate to it. Try these examples:
|There are 10 types of people in this world. People who understand binary, and people who don't.|
|People often ask me why I use hexadecimal numbers all the time for my work. I tell them that it's all just 248.|
Now the first joke relies heavily on somebody understanding binary. If you looked at that and didn't know binary you would be saying "Hang on, that's ten, what are they talking about." If you did understand binary you'd know that 10 is two, which means the sentence makes sense.
The second is along the same lines, but even more obscure. 248 in hexadecimal is F8. F8 in 1337 is fate. An older definition of fate meaning of course that it has to happen. Now this requires the ability to convert decimal into hexadecimal quickly, an understanding of 1337 (or sk8r or whatever the hell else you want to use here), and an understanding of the more archaic definition of a word. I found this joke okay, but it was too much work for the pun. Most people would think it was stupid.
Seen the Simpsons episode where Bart goes to the gifted kids school? You know the part where the teacher does this really long equation and the answer is r3d, or r-d-r-r? Did you laugh at the teachers joke? No? Did Bart laugh? Yeah, but it was forced to keep the teacher happy.
If you don't understand the topic, or see the truth in it, you lose the funny.
edit So away from HTBFANJS and lets look at CONCEPT
In the concept of Pox you are relying heavily on the reader to understand "Destroy all Humans." I don't. Never played it and I doubt that I will - would prefer to spend my money of COD or Tony Hawk's.
So is it fair that I be the one to look at this and decide if it's funny or not? I read an article on Andy Richter recently and did a review on it, and I actually got a few laughs in it. Now I didn't remember who Andy Richter was before I read the article, so I got a very brief idea of who he was, and then read it. I laughed because although the article was about a topic I knew almost nothing about, I recognised the truth in there compared to what I do know.
In other words it was about a guy who was always in the shadow of someone greater and funnier than he, and never going to be able to succeed. I was laughing as I saw the truth in this guys pain.
Now with your concept, you've minimised your audience to people who have just played the game, unless you get this to be a point where the truth that makes the funny is universal. The funniest parts of this for me are the bits about the "big head." I can imagine a woman giving birth to a child with a gigantic head. I can imagine a toddler wandering around and trying to stand but constantly failing because the weight of his head is so much he can't lift it. The image of the toddler with the huge head is the best image of the lot.
The other thing I found funny is once I understood enough of the character to get the concept of him being this megalomaniac who thinks that he is better then everything, the idea of him being stuck in a desk job at an engineer's office. Bringing down the mighty is very funny, but only if you show the rising up of them.
edit Back to HTBF... Techniques
And this is where we get into the real HowToishness. Okay, 1 at a time:
- Repetition - Good, but difficult to use as a concept just by itself. I've seen it done well, and I've seen it done where it falls on it's ass.
- Misdirection - The other term that I prefer to use for this is "Surprise." I was listening to a local "Easy listening music radio" when they started playing the intro to "Just one fix" by Ministry. I laughed because going from this Andre Rieu type crap to an insane head banging classic was a surprise. This is where my wife has a banana in her ear.
- Escalation - This is what makes repetition really work. This is an example that I did that works on escalation more than anything else. (If you are a Christian I'd suggest avoiding that last article.)
- Being Self-referential - is a hard one to explain, but I'm sure that I can do it because I'm so fantastic at everything that I amaze myself sometimes.
- Understatement - which is one of my favourite tools, and makes the greatest witty put-downs.
- Reversal - I'm not sure about this. It's a bit of a sheep in wolf's clothing.
- Circularity - Just an extension on repetition.
- Serious/silly about silly/serious - Using the incorrect voice for a subject. Not an easy one to pull off in writing, but in public speaking this is brilliant. A good example is Tim Minchin does this big, arena ballad, "We are the World" type song about taking your canvas bags to the supermarket. Completely over the top voice for a completely mundane topic.
I'll leave the rest alone for now - you can read them yourself and the last few on this are not really techniques, and the consistent voice is more a "don't do" thin than a "do do" thing.
edit Away again: "That 'htbfanjs' guide is the biggest piece of bullshit."
Okay. I'm throwing your own words back ot you here but it helps to make the point, because in part I agree with you.
We're going back to the point that I started with when I said "HTBFANJS was not designed as a set of rules..." and "If you've been hit on the head by a hammer you have every reason to not like hammers. But when you need to stick a nail into a piece of wood it's probably not a bad idea to have one."
This is a set of tools that you can use in order to get funny out of something, but it is not the only tools that you can use and not always the right tools for the job. You don't have to stick to this in order to make things funny, but it helps you get the funniest out of what you have. Vitiligo (older version) does not follow any of the rules above.
You could twist the definition of the rules so it fits in there, but the plain truth is that this is a visual joke. The text means absolutely nothing - in fact it is a direct cut and paste from Wikipedia with the exception of one line that I have added to help people relate to the truth of the article. It's the written equivalent of a pie in the face.
Exactly the same could be said of an Unicycle-paddler classic, Binary. The test in here, once you decode it, is crap. Don't bother decoding in order to see it. There's an older decoded version on the talk page if you have to. But the joke is not in the text but in the appearance.
(Having said that once upon a time an IP address who shall remain nameless went in there and dropped a few "2"s in a few places. It completely messed up the decoding and pissed a few people off, but I - I mean the nameless IP address - liked the visual joke of it. And the messing about with authority.)
Obviously you spend a bit of time working on the things that you enjoy, and the things that mean a lot to you. Why wouldn't you spend time working on the stuff that you do here.
I'm unusual as a writer. I will write something and it will take me an hour or so, and I'll like it and I'll throw it out there to be published. (In case you're wondering, so far what I've written here has taken about one and a half hours of fairly solid writing.) I will then let anybody and everybody read it and pick the absolute garbage out of it.
Does this mean I don't care about what I'm writing? I mentioned that I spent about 1.5 hours so far typing this - I've been reading a few old books I have on writing comedy and wit, and thinking abut this before I go to bed and whenever I have a spare moment, for about three days. I even did a review on an article with a similar "issue" in concept so I could get my mind about that a little better. (And I'm happy to say that the concept on this has had a major overhaul.)
Even having said that I'm an unusual writer, this review will be edit #993. I have so far done 15 new or major re-write articles, and 7 reviews (not counting this one and one other unofficial one). Now ignoring the stuff that I've done on forums and stuff, that means that I have done an avergae of 45 edits for every piece of writing that I have done here. I also have done a lot of "stop typing and preview" while I've been doing this as well.
The more time you spend on something the better it will be. That doesn't always mean making it longer - I cut half of an article out before I finished writing it as it didn't hold the joke well and it ended up becoming bland and washed out. I've also read articles that I've enjoyed in part but gotten sick of the excessive silliness involved.
Research, write, review, cut, polish, research, write, review, cut, polish. Repeat this ten times and you have a good article growing there.
And on research, there are people I know and admire as writers who do no research, and I have told them in the past that I think that they are charming people.
I researched Thomas the Tank Engine for something that I wrote once, and that got me thinking about the whole Anglican reverend writer and ex-hippy ex-beatle actor who voices Thomas. I did a little more research into the time that it was written and the Anglican Church, and I did a little research into a high Anglican/Catholic tradition as well. I also did a little looking into the English Royal family and into the work of CS Lewis, Mel Gibson, and JRR Tolkein. The upshot of all this is only after I had read through all this stuff did I come up with a fully fleshed out idea for Isaac The Tank Engine.
Now if you've read this you might see all of these elements in here with the exception of JRR Tolkein. The reason why that got left out was because even though the link could have been used for something funny, there wasn't enough there to build upon.
Another thing that I was doing was looking for an image of Ronald McDonald for something. (Might have been related to Michael Jackson, but I think it was related to Thinking outside the box.) Either way I came across this image for Ronald MacDonald looking very gay, which made me go and read the article. Now I really didn't enjoy reading this - it honestly made me feel ill - but that, along with what I did for this was enough there for me to create UnNews:McDonalds Should Be Boycotted.
edit Now onto the HTBFANJS don't dos
I'm not going to add much to this at all - I think these are too heavily represented in HTBF already really as this should be about a toolkit to make things better, but briefly.
- Be consistent in style - 'nuff said.
- Don't overdo the crassness - You may notice that I avoid swearing as much as possible when I write. Don't get me wrong, I swear like nothing else when I talk normally - but there are people who are offended by a little coarse language, and then there are people who get offended by a lot. Personally I don't get offended, but unless it's part of the joke, then I won't use it.
- The big exception is of course the McDonald's article. (If you haven't read it yet, have enough of a look to know what I'm talking about and then come back here.
- So how can I drop the C-bomb and then talk about not being too crass - simple - the joke in that article relies in finding the profanity (and hatred) in the holier than though attitude. But I refuse to use the joke about "Isaac the Wank Engine" as I don't think it's funny. It's an easy pun - I could say "Kermit the Bog" or "GreenGay" but they aren't funny. The only time these are funny (usually) is in silly/serious, or in misdirection.
- Have you read through HTBFANJS? Okay, there is a running joke in one section about repetition. Personally, I don't think it works. The problem is that because of where it is and the type of joke it is, it actually makes me want to stop reading this article, and as I've said before there's a lot of good stuff in here if it's used as a tool and not as a weapon.
edit But what does this mean for Pox?
Okay, I'd rather not go through this. I can if you want me to, but I think this is better if you do. Pretend for a minute that you're reading Pox - actually don't pretend that. Instead I want you to pretend that you are Paris Hilton, but not stupid, and I then want you to really read Pox. Why? Because at the moment if SWJS or ThomasFan66 read this then they are not reading anything new, and they are reading something about a topic they know well. If someone who doesn't know this topic and is reading it for the first time reads it, what will they think.
This is called "Know your audience."
Okay, there are a few techniques for reading your own work and trying to be a member of your audience that you can use, and I know a bunch of them. I'm not going to go through them here. But you want to ask yourself a few questions along the way.
- Does this represent the do dos from HTBF...?
- Does this rely on my concept of "truth", or will somebody else who has a different type of knowledge be able to see this "truth"?
- Does this hit the funny button in regards to being able to laugh at something?
- Am I using any or all of the HTBF... techniques?
- Am I falling into the trap of the don't dos from ...NJS?
- Will this joke appeal to more than me and the people who have had a similar experience?
That's 7 questions to ask. Make them a checklist. Check them off for every paragraph.
edit So what can I do to save Pox?
A couple of options.
a) Two voices technique - Throw in quotes from Pox and from other characters in the game, but make them substantial quotes that reveal something about the character. Make the bulk of the article third person aspect from the straight man. And think of the whole thing as a documentary.
- Pox has often asked for people to understand him as a person better and to not allow their prejudices against aliens to affect their judgement of him.
- "I'm just a gentle creature at heart. I like long walks on beaches as the sun sets, and I like to pat soft kittens. All the kittens. Every kitten in the universe. EVERY BEACH ON EVERY CONNTINENT ON EVERY WORLD. THEY ARE MINE I TELL YOU, MINE! YOU WILL BOW BEFORE MY DOMINION, OR I WILL DESTROY YOU ALL! And I like people with a sense of humour as well"
- It has been the opinion of many psychologists and sociologists that Pox's quest for universal domination truly comes from a systematic fear of rejection. This appears to stem from his birth, as his mother unfortunately died in childbirth due to the enormous size of Pox's head.
- Pox has often asked for people to understand him as a person better and to not allow their prejudices against aliens to affect their judgement of him.
2) Meta-universe - Pox is not a character in a game, but is the first known example of a cross contaminating computer-human virus. Players who have been playing the game excessively have been known to have sudden, violent dramatic mood swings, their heads start to swell, and they take on characteristics of Pox from the game. Later stage of the pandemic this has started to spread to people who are not gamers, so a school teacher in Newark suddenly grows large luminescent eyes and started shooting his local shopping mall.
Both of these concepts are an extension of the initial concept, so that this will go beyond the original scope and become more accessible to people like me. They can be done as an article similar to what you already have, or they can be done as a number of UnNews articles (The disease first appears, the spread, the pandemic.)
Research for these would either be looking at documentaries or autobiographies - especially those of despots or psychotics - or looking at the spread of plagues and diseases like the Black plague, Avian flu or bird flu.
edit Prose, layout, style, spelling, blah blah blah
Not about to touch it. Seriously. You'll have enough to get on with with re-write to worry about this shit. What I will say is spell check, proofread, spell check, proofread. Try and ape the layout of what you are taking from.
There is a bunch of sub-headings in HTBFANJS that I haven't touched upon earlier - all of these pretty much relate to this area, except for the stuff about images. (There is a HTBFANJS about images as well)
At least one quality image per view. A view is each time you hit page down. You should not be able to have a view on a 1000*700 monitor resolution without seeing the majority of one image. Remember this is Unicycle-piddler, the images grab their attention, and the words make them laugh.
Okay, the images that you've done are pretty bad - I have to be honest with you.
The cubes idea could work - but you'd have to come up with your own images - use the backdrops that they have, create unique cubes of the characters. I wouldn't talk about the "accident that changed their heads into cubes" because that just seems... well, silly.
Option 1 with this is to ignore that they look like cubes, and have them like this throughout the entire article. (Don't steal images from anywhere else unless they all match - photo realism to bad phtotchop to cartoon... Ergh!)
Option 2 is to play on the fact that these are computer generated characters and put it down to "While not appearing in their professional capacity in "Destroy all Hamsters"' Pox, like most celebrities, doesn't take a huge amount of effort with his appearance and prefers to remain low resolution"
Another idea with this is to use exactly the same line, but cut and paste characters and scenes from classic arcade games like "double dragon" and "pac-man" and have them as 2-D blocky characters.
Third idea - get someone who is good at photo-imagery to do something up for you. You can't take credit for the images, but the concept will then be yours. ("I want an image of this character (take pictures from game or other sources) and put them into this setting (take pictures of an office, etc) wearing these clothes (blah).")
Fourth idea - Do some photochopping but spend a lot of time doing it well. read up on techniques on how to photochop well. Find a book on it at a library. (Every image I have photochopped and put on here has been done using MS paint and MS office picture editor - exceptions are ones that I have taken from Wikipedia, Flickr, or other Creative Commons sources. There are techniques that you can use that will mean you end up with a professional looking image with very little effort. It's not my strength, but I work with what I've got to get what I need.)
But your images again should be there to lure the reader into reading. You can have a joke as your image, but don't let your images be a joke.
edit Miscellaneous, Final comments and score
I've given a fair bit of detail here and I don't think there's anything else that I can go over without being redundant. I know that this is a heavy damned thing to go through, and to be honest this is not a true PEEReview, so a score here will either do one of two things. I'll score too high so you'll think "Oh, I only have to do this" or I'll score too low so you'll say "Oh, I must be crap then."
Ignore the score. (I know, I'm messing with your gamer instincts.)
The main thing is have you written a good, funny piece (or number of pieces) that will take your initial concept from a rough, quick piece of work that gets deleted with hardly any support to the contrary, or have I done something that I could say "Hey, I did that" to a prospective employer or lover and know that it will be a selling point for you.
Hope that helps. Pup 03:51, 11 July 2009 (UTC) edit #996