Arts & Culture

Comedy Repeating Itself: The Talk Show Hoax

A live talk show is an accident waiting to happen. It operates under some basic, unwritten rules which mirror the tenants of human decency: be nice, don’t lie, don’t curse, try to keep your clothes on, etc. So, when this … Read More

By / May 13, 2010

A live talk show is an accident waiting to happen. It operates under some basic, unwritten rules which mirror the tenants of human decency: be nice, don’t lie, don’t curse, try to keep your clothes on, etc. So, when this implied social contract is breached, it can be totally hilarious, stupefyingly awkward, or both. Case in point: yo-yo "champion" K-Strass, who has successfully pulled a fast one on various local morning shows throughout the midwest over the last month, exhibiting his "skills" and making everyone uncomfortable.

Follow-up report

This is-this-a-joke-or-not type of comedy contains more than a trace of hostility – the joke is not inclusive and is certainly at someone else’s expense. This doesn’t make it any less funny – it’s just that the source of laughter is watching the hosts squirm and stammer as they unwittingly play the straight man in a bit they don’t know is happening – a formula that has made Sacha Baron Cohen an uber-super-duper star. The dynamic of the talk show hoax transforms significantly when the host himself is a competent comedian. Rather than seeming like a bizarre assault of weirdness on some poor, unsuspecting person, someone like David Letterman can channel the weirdness so it comes across as a weird bit between two people with a weird sense of humor. We all remember Joaquin Phoenix’s bearded appearance a while back:

And perhaps the grandfather of the I’m-laughing-because-I’m-uncomfortable brand of comedy, Andy Kaufman, who made a career out of daring an audience to get in on a joke:

How about his "feud" with wrestler Jerry Lawler:

Some comedians revel in the specific tension that comes from the audience not being quite sure what the hell is going on. So, a hearty congratulations to K-Strass for bringing a dose of surreality to America’s heartland, one fake yo-yo trick at a time.