Comedy Lies in the Contrast

How do you create comedy? One of the most important lessons I learned about creating funny moments is that comedy is in the contrast. And such a simple concept applies to so many different examples.

For instance, think about those characters that have certain traits or behaviors and are placed in a situation that doesn’t fit them. In this realm, the classic Monthy Python’s “Life of Brian” comes to mind, where the Roman Consul pronunciation doesn’t fit his role.

Roman Soldier holding back laugh as Roman Consul say the name of his good friend Biggus Dickus.
“Life of Brian” (1979) – Biggus Dickus Scene

The rule of contrasts applies to physical comedy as well. For example, gags like a bull in a china shop, where the contrast is between the bodies of the characters and the environment surrounding them.

Example of comedy from physical contrast, with a bull in a china shop. Taken from the 21th Century Fox oscar nominated animated movie Ferdinand.
“Ferdinand” (2017) – China Shop Scene

Other scenarios where we can observe this concept in action are when the foreground element of the scene is in clear contrast with the situation happening in the background. I find the birth of an alien scene from the first “Man in Black” a great example of how this works.

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in the baby alien delivery scene of the first Man in Black. An example of comedy coming from visual contrast between foreground and background actions.
“Men in Black” (1997) – It’s a Squid!

And the last application that comes to mind is when the visuals on the screen are contradicting the dialogue.

So, how do you create comedy? By keeping in mind the concept of contrast when trying to find comedy in a scene or a sequence. It will open up a world of possibilities on how to play out a true comedic moment.