Tag Archives: Parks & Rec

The Man. The Myth. The Meme. Ron Swanson.

Holly and I had this video recommended on YouTube, and we were not disappointed (warning: 32 excellent minutes).

While Ron Swanson might be an exaggerated character, he’s one of a type you don’t see often in media: a consistent libertarian. It’s just not a caricature that gets portrayed often, or well. Ron Swanson was so successful because he succeeded at just that.

A ton of his lines (and excellent camera-stare facial expressions) have been turned into memes, as well as a lot of memes of course superimposed over him. Those are of varying quality. The thing is, you don’t really need to add a lot to Ron Swanson: they’ve really already done the work for us.

What are your favorite Ron Swanson moments? And have they been turned into memes? Let us know!

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Competence in Comedy

As I mentioned yesterday, we’ve been watching Parks & Rec again, and it’s reminded me of something I observed the first time we were watching it. And it’s that you can still be funny while being competent.

I mean, I feel like this is something that we used to see a lot in comedies. Thinking of the 80s comedies we grew up with and love. Take a movie like Ghostbusters, made by a Saturday Night Live troupe, and if you had to pick a genre they were working in (which is hard with that movie), it’s comedy. But a competent one – they are right about the ghosts in the face of others disbelieving them. They successfully build the things they need to stop them. And yes, throughout, there are things we get to laugh at them about.

And it’s cool. Last year’s Ghostbusters was also a comedy, but it was a comedy that’s come after all these years in between…

Because I think for quite a while, incompetent was the thing in comedy. I’m thinking the 90s and beyond, with leads like Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. Or in ongoing series like the Scary Movie films and other (bad) parodies like that. I tended not to like these comedies (having not even seen several that are deemed the “best”), but it’s only in hindsight looking at them like this that it makes sense, that they make sense as a group.

Laughing at incompetence, at failure and things not going the right way, can be funny. But only for so long, only so much of it. It becomes the repeat gags, and that worked for, say, the Three Stooges or Abbott and Costello. They created or worked within the world of slapstick gags and the tropes of the genre. But I would also say that they did this so much better than these more recent comedies.

Finding funny situations in the middle of things going well, or people trying to have them go well – I feel like there’s so much more room there.

Let’s look at something that’s full of both – Looney Tunes. Many of the tropes of the comedies that came before made there way in. However, the joy of Bugs Bunny is how completely competent he is, and it plays beautifully off of characters like Daffy Duck (nearly as competent), or Elmer Fudd (nowhere near as competent). Some of the best moments are when Bugs ends up outplayed or outclassed – because it upset our expectation that Bugs always had the upper hand.

These moments or episodes are funny because they upset our expectations. The reverse, when it comes to incompetence comedy, is basically the idiot savant – a common enough character.

Bringing us first back around to the new Ghostbusters. The movie had an idiot (Chris Hemsworth), but he wasn’t a savant! Our savant sort of character was Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann, with her quirks and crazy inventions. We had scientists who, like in the original, were right about the ghosts despite society not believing them. And Leslie Jones, whose character in the trailers just seemed like a caricature, was actually good at her job and very knowledgeable about New York – which was what they needed.

But the movie also had a more modern feel to it, as a movie coming after this modern run of incompetent comedies. They made the two main male characters (Hemsworth, and the main villain) the main incompetents, which played into an entirely different narrative and isn’t my point here… And even the main villain pulls off most of his plan, despite generally being considered a bad villain.

Anyway, let’s round back to Parks & Rec. The show is funny but the characters are also all good at their jobs, like what they are doing, and live in a place that seems just utterly ridiculous. Nonetheless, their descriptions of Pawnee are generally much worse than the Pawnee we actually see in the episodes. It’s a group of normal-ish people with a slightly askew absurd bent. And it’s great.

Sure, the show also has a couple of incompetent characters – one close to the idiot savant trope, although mostly just idiot, in Andy Dwyer; the other being Gary/Jerry/Larry, who we find out just plays along and is clumsy perhaps, but is really just there for the paycheck and benefits, a commitment to public service, and to have time with his picturesque family. And with the 4th-wall breaking stares into the camera, or the overblown reactions to these characters, we just get to laugh along.

Do you like competence in comedy? Incompetence? What are your favorite examples of either? Let me know in the comments below!

That Feeling When… All You Want To Do Is Curl Up With Something You Know

I’ve been feeling a lot lately like what I want to do is curl up with something I know, something I’m familiar with. And when you have that feeling, well, it helps drive your decision making, right? Like, we’ve been re-watching Parks & Rec – a show we finished watching not that long ago.

We traveled with a number of games we love and know, as well. We got Diablo 3 in and I remembered that’s a ton of fun on the console, with a shared screen. We played some Borderlands 2 and now I’d really like to try a new playthrough with our powerful characters.

I wanted to play a Final Fantasy game and so I picked back up Final Fantasy VII on the PSP over the choice of something like Crisis Core or Tactics, both of which I haven’t played much. And I picked up XCom for a new playthrough, and oh man, I had forgotten how much fun this game is.

It’s my base!

And there’s a new Final Fantasy game and a new XCom game I could be playing instead. And could be reviewing here on the site.

Which means, there’s maybe the real problem: there’s media-related things I should be doing, we should be doing, to find new things. To review new things. To write about. And I’m sure we will, and we do. I mean, we played 7 Wonders Duel yesterday for the first time, and that was a blast!

And we’ve delved into new shows and things, and we’re looking ahead at a new movie season, and all that. But you know? Sometimes you just want to curl up with something you know and bask in some nostalgia and things that you know are good.

How about you, readers? What do you do when you feel like this? Do you give in to the nostalgia? Do you push yourself towards new experiences? I’d love to hear your strategies and opinions in the comments below!