Brett Martin writes on 24 Feb 99,:
> Hi --
> I am a writer in New York and am working on a pair of articles for GQ
> magazine's upcoming issue devoted to Comedy. They are to be brief
> appreciations of/histories of the double take and the rubber chicken. I am
> wondering if anybody out there has thoughts on either.
> Is the use of the double take (which I personally consider the single
> funniest thing people can do) at all traceable? Who are some of the best
> practioners? Has work been done on why exactly we find the double take
> universally funny?
Unlike the superficially similar spit take, the double take must be
accompanied by something else that is funny. A spit take can be funny
even if a person is reading out of the phone book. It breaks some
taboos about social relations and it expresses an extreme emotional
reaction on the part of the person who does it. The double take is a
delayed reaction and therefore, falls into what I have called the audience
knowledge type of humor (in drama, they call this dramatic irony).
Generally, the double take allows the audience to see what is coming
before the person doing the double take which gives us the impression
of being more perceptive than the person we are watching. The delay
is also an exaggeration of an emotional reaction. I also agree with
Arthur Asa Berger's idea that timing is paramount but I don't know the
specifics. I have done some research in the importance of timing to
humor and I may in the future look at double takes as a very concise
example of humor. It has a great advantage over jokes in that it is
content-free and the set up will not be greatly variable in length.
However, the double take may be a reaction to a funny stimulus itself,
and the greater perceived humor may be due to our inability to separate
the two things.
> Similarly, has anybody been able to nail down the origin of the rubber
> chicken? And why is it considered funny? (I sent a similar question to
> the list about a year ago and thank everybody who responded.)
Maybe the question is not so much why a rubber chicken but why just a
chicken. Where are all the other rubber poultry or mammals? And just
how does one present the rubber chicken for maximum humorous effect?
> Any thoughts or leads on the above would be greatly appreciated. The
> articles can go pretty far afield so everything would help.
I think (or hope) my contribution fits the description of "any thoughts".
Dr. Rick Froman
John Brown University
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
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"The plural of anecdote is not data."
- Roger Brinner, Economist, Data Resources International