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Of Chuck Klosterman and Curb Your Enthusiasm

Geoff Wood

Chuck Klosterman

It just so happens that a few hours after writing the post yesterday about how I don’t find Larry David to be funny that I read an essay by Chuck Klosterman(1)that mentions David’s comedy in his new book Eating the Dinosaur.

This particular essay, entitled “Ha ha,” he said. “Ha ha.”, is about laugh tracks, the structure of sitcom television, and the human response to comedy.

You could say he’s not a fan of laugh tracks:

“I can’t think of anything philosophically stupider than laugh tracks”

Among other things, Klosterman opines that by omitting laugh tracks, which are used to cue the viewing audience on when a scene is funny, in “sophisticated” comedies, they are guilty of virtually the same ploy. The lack of laugh track is used to cue the audience that their show is “smarter, hipper, and less predictable than traditional versions of the genre”.

To (continue to) quote Chuck:

“Virtually every high end, “sophisticated” comedy of the early twenty-first century – Arrested Development, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Simpsons, 30 Rock – is immune to canned laughter, and it’s difficult to imagine any of those shows supplemented with mechanical, antiseptic chuckling”.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is, of course, the show that I gave up on, yesterday, because I didn’t find it funny. I wanted to like it since it’s critically acclaimed and, as signaled by its lack of laugh track, supposedly “smarter, hipper, and less predictable” than other comedies.

But it IS predictable and that’s what drew my ire to begin with, to quote me:

“Unfortunately, what I found was that almost every episode features virtually the exact same plot:

  1. Larry does something stupid
  2. Larry tries to get out of it
  3. Larry argues with his wife and/or friend
  4. Larry seemingly diffuses the situation through lies and/or jokes
  5. Larry's stupid move from item #1 comes back to get him.”

Oh well. I know that lots of people love the show (such as my friend Matt who commented on my earlier post in Facebook “Sorry man, you are crazy. Curb is an awesome show. David is a genius.”) and that I’m in the minority. I’ll use that as a cue to move on to other topics. 

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(1)I’ve been a fan of Chuck Klosterman for a few years and will write more about Eating the Dinosaur when I finish it later this week. I refer to Klosterman as a pop culture columnist, though he seems to be the type of guy who would object to any label. The insider cover jacket blurb calls the book “amateur anthropology for the present tense” and I like that description. He’s also my inspiration for using footnotes while blogging.