As we grow towards May and I, to the online course on comedy with Steve Martin, I’m thinking about what makes comedy effective. The Story Toolkit was speaking to Blind Obsession and used It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as a perfect example of how to create great comedic characters.
What is a character’s “blind obsession”? Many people consider creating character flaws. Imagine a character’s blind obsession as a deep flaw with purpose. One of Frasier‘s blind obsession is that he believes himself to be “well-bred”. A blind obsession of Sam Malone from the show Cheers, might be that he still believes he’s a top athlete that everyone loves. Johnny Fever from WKRP in Cincinnati has a blind obsession. He believes the government’s out to get him. Dennis from “It’s Always Sunny” believes that he is a god to women, when he’s truly a serial rapist. When characters are incapable of seeing the truth about their fundamental flaws, that creates a comic setting.
The more blind obsessions a character has, the more opportunities for comedy in a series. When characters lack blind obsessions there are less opportunities to explore those flaws. However, too many blind obsessions can strain the credulity of the audience. This is why so many shows must add new characters to explore more comedic approaches. Similarly cartoon characters can have multiple blind obsessions and become exaggerated beyond reasonable ability to suspend disbelief.
Hence, good comedy has a shelf life. There’s a reason why many shows end before they lose their edge. Try to have no more than three to five blind obsessions for your characters in your comedy, and no less than two. Blind obsessions can give new sight to your characters!