Friday, January 27, 2012

Is your straight man too straight?

A common problem is comedies is a boring protagonist. Often we see a show full of quirky, absurd characters through the lens of "normal" person or "straight man" who communicates the audience's point of view - but that person is just boring compared to the fun weirdos.

One thing I love about 30 ROCK is that Liz Lemon is kinda sorta supposed to be the straight one...except that in this world, the straight one is off-kilter and weird too. Thus, I give you Sh*t Liz Lemon Says:

30 ROCK airs Thursdays @ 8/7c on NBC.


Sam said...

In my opinion, the best straight man on TV right now is Ben on Parks and Rec. It took me a long time to figure out why he's so effective, but I think what it comes down to is that he never seems to be sure he's the straight man.

In The Office, for example, Dwight will do something ridiculous, and Jim will shoot a knowing glance to the camera. He knows Dwight's being ridiculous, we know Dwight's being ridiculous, and we're allied in our disbelief.

But in Parks and Rec, Ben's glances to the camera seem to pose a question -- "This is ridiculous, right?" and the "cameraman" never seems to give him the reassurance that he's the sane one. By being the one seemingly sane person in a town full of weirdos, is he actually the weirdest one of all?

(I think this was also a pretty crucial part of why Adam Scott was so good on Party Down.)

Ian said...

I agree. There is nothing worse than a bland straight man that's supposed to be some kind of realized Platonic ideal on normalcy. I think it's a good time in our culture where successful shows can be made without the boring everyman.