Repeat After Me





I have been thinking a lot lately about repetition. 

In his morphology of the joke-tale, Berger assigns repetition the standing of one of the 45 enduring techniques of humour.  Now there is nothing so unlike humour as a rational explanation of the humorous, but this is what he says: 

"The humor of repetition comes from the tension created by some kind of series being established. We wonder whether the series will be able to maintain itself or whether some interesting variation will take place." 

"The humor of repetition comes from the tension created by some kind of series being established. We wonder whether the series will be able to maintain itself or whether some interesting variation will take place." 

Repetition is on my mind as I continue to try to make sense of the Duckett Cookie Episode. As I read Berger's An Anatomy Of Humor, it's not difficult to find room for Duckett, without the harsher name-calling, to wit: "Comedy is peopled by eccentrics, grotesques, monomaniacs of one sort or another, who persist in their behavior no matter what situation they find themselves in. Their unwillingness to 'bend' or to take changed circumstances into account strikes us as amusing," Berger says.

Cookie, right, and Duckett
Duckett: I'm still eating my cookie.

Duckett: I'm eating my cookie.

Duckett: I'm interested in eating my cookie.

Duckett: I said I'm eating my cookie.

You get the picture.


Repetition plays a lead role in Twitter's new video-sharing application, as well. Vine gives its users six seconds to compose a hard-cut style video. At first, the emphasis was the transfer of Twitter's short-message from from text to moving picture. But the more I use Vine, the more I feel its power stems from its deal with repetition.

Wikipedia reports that the BBC has called Vine "mesmerizing," and that certainly has more to do with its potential repetitive pattern than its content. 

Mesmer, left
Vine isn't hardcore mesmerism. In Speaking Into The Air, Peters, quoting a lamenting character in a Guy de Maupassant, reminds us of what the real thing feels like: "Someone possesses my soul and governs it. Someone directs all my actions, all my movements, all my thoughts. I myself am nothing but a terrified, enslaved spectator of the things I am accomplishing." 

(Hey, on second thought, that diagnosis kinda fits our technophilia!) 

Here is an early Vine post during an evening of Trivial Pursuit in which Shelagh is stumped by yet another golf question the answer to which could be Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino or Jack Nicklaus. 


Trivial Pursuit with @shelaghkub and http://vine.co/v/b6AxrEpHZae 
The sinister aspect of it is you don't have to press repeat. It repeats. You have to break out of stun to stop the repeating.

The intriguing aspect, though, is whether it repeats, at all.

Gurney
"That which is repeated has been—otherwise it could not be repeated—but the very fact that it has been makes the repetition into something new," are the words, repeated in Gurney's analysis, of Kierkegaard.

And there is a sense of that watching those six seconds recur and recur. That the second time Shelagh buries her answer-searching brow in her hand is funny, but not as funny as the third time, which, you get the pattern, is not as funny as the fourth. By the fifth time, though, it's not so funny anymore. And that suggests that in some way, repeating Gurney, "repetition is less about what remains the same but what changes (the difference) in each iteration."

I repeat: repetition is less about....
                                                                                               ********
But here is something that does bear repeating. I am very grateful to Prof. Gurney for sharing with me some of his thought-provoking insights into comedy and virality. Quite the (re)combination.






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