Quote: JohnMc @ August 13 2013, 2:40 PM BST
I work for an organisation that the Arts Council funds to promote creative & cultural learning experiences for children and young people......I just saw a really good Guardian piece from a few years ago.....so I'm going to focus more on the under-acknowledged educational value of comedy - the benefits that it potentially offers to a young person's (or anybody's, come to it!). Does anybody have any particular views on this that they'd be happy to share....?
You've picked a good topic but it is very broad. What comedy? What age? What education? That's just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone has different ideas. In many ways that's a good thing. Too top heavy and it might just as well be a science or even biblical. My thoughts start with forum comments that intrigue me.
I read one along the lines that writers, performers and audiences know how comedy works now and that wasn't the case x number of years ago. Well, that might be a little true. You do, though, need to consider why the older stuff wins in league tables and the new is often the subject of complaints. I did expect many generational differences in that regard. They appear now to be overstated. Another person - young - cites a 1970s sitcom as the first thing that made him aware of humour at all. Frankly, that is just too awesome a comment for one individual to comment on but you are Arts Council. It is an ideal starting point for thinking.
When one looks at the pictures of newer comedy programmes on this website, many involved could be the bright young things in a boardroom or a gym. Some at least try to pull funny faces. Others can't be arsed. Very few look like the average person in the street, let alone naturally comical. By contrast, there really aren't many in the photos of the programmes made in the 1960s-1980s who would look comfortable in those power pumped areas. They were more normal. People are naturally funny - and they like identification with characters. Clones, by definition, are very narrow. So, perhaps particularly in this age of Gove, we need to free up comedy from academic rigour. It needs to emphasise spontaneity and often be less aspirational.
That takes us neatly onto education specifically. If knowledge and ability are overstressed, so too is age-related development. Yes, there is much to be said for the Simpsons. It is also not a bad thing to think about the nature of suitable content for adolescents. But that largely indicates a new obsessive sense in society that such things are never got right. Crucially what it misses is the concept of a childlike joy that should begin in life much earlier and be carried through every adulthood to the grave. It's good grounding.
For what can be absolutely guaranteed is this. Those who reach adulthood very early and without the prior building blocks of sunshine will be old at 40 and 50. Really old - and with consequential problems for society. Kids at 10 and 12 might think they know what they want but what they don't comprehend is that it means losing their individuality prematurely to the system, not that many begin with huge amounts anyway. We played marbles in the street and conkers and all sorts. I know that it sounds as if it was at the time of the ark. The important thing was that the rules were ours. The games were ours. Even the health and safety aspects were ours. The only essential guidance from adults was a sense of fun. That's the best schooling.
Finally, in terms of education at any age, I have noted various comments about the significance of conflict and even anger in comedy. When I consider the tensions in classic sitcoms and slapstick, it seems to me that many mostly revolve around light anxiety. Hancock, Fawlty Towers, Only Fools, Bilko. Given the state of the modern age, I would certainly start to consider the application of comedy there as a cognitive tool.
Hope this is helpful.