I used to love Seinfeld when it was still running. Of course, that hasn’t been the case for a while, but you won’t have any trouble finding it on DVD (in fact, Jerry now has a new deal with Netflix worth a cool $100 million). But, when I watched an episode or three again recently, it was no longer at all funny to me. Instead of witty conversation and eccentric characters, it just seemed like a show about broken people being mean to one another while contending with life in the big city.
The Blue Collar team, by contrast, just seems to get funnier and funnier each time. Why this should be – it’s certainly not me who has gotten smarter or funnier over the years – made me think of the difference between the two comedic approaches.
Relatable Life Stories
We all experience moments from time to time where we think: “That’s funny”. Of course, being normal people and easily distracted, that’s usually how far it goes for us.
Part of the appeal of the Blue Collar troupe lies in talking about the exact same thing, but managing to express it in a way that somehow shines a new light on the situation and makes us laugh. Like Seinfeld, the focus is on everyday life, including situations we’re all familiar with – trying to raise children as human beings instead of wolves, drinking a little too much, and generally not being at our smartest.
There’s no attempt to analyze the bejeezus out of anything or construct some unlikely situation. Instead, their kind of comedy relies on just inserting the right thought at exactly the right time. Quite a lot of Blue Collar’s humor is self-deprecating, too, but it continues to work exactly because we can see ourselves, our friends and our family acting in much the same way.
These kinds of stories are funny whether you’re from Alabama or Australia, and I’ll bet they would get at least a subdued chuckle in Outer Mongolia too.
Skirting the Edge of Polite Conversation Without Giving Offense
You know you’re a redneck…when you can call a shovel a spade, and it’s funny without needing to call it a f***** spade.
One of the ways ventriloquists explain how they do their acts is that, in all of us, there’s a kind of filter that stops us from saying the first thing that pops into our heads, making us choose something a little less edgy instead. A ventriloquist ad-libbing will simply let their dummy say the first thing and get a laugh nine times out of ten. Blue Collar humor often follows the same pattern, just minus the dummy.
We don’t normally speak about how we’ve all peed in the pool, whether one piece toilets look better than two piece toilets, and how the hell you’re actually supposed to use a bidet. We’re certainly thinking about it, though, and just having someone else break that mental barrier is already dead funny.
Still, some subjects seem to be off-limits due to them not being all that hilarious when you start thinking about them. I can’t think, offhand, of a single Blue Collar joke about contentious politics, actual obscenity, or racism (aside from making fun of the kind of redneck you’re very unlikely to actually meet).
Pushing the Envelope Without Going Overboard
Breakfast is supposed to be wholesome; comedy really isn’t. True humor often lives somewhere between the banal and the depraved. Too far in one direction, and it’s as funny as a weather report, too much of the other sort and the audience’s laughter will be embarrassed rather than amused.
The Blue Collar troupe has managed to stay within this happy medium with remarkable consistency, and I certainly hope to see more material from all of them in the years to come.