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Comity for Comedy

March 26, 2010

According to the so-called Cost of Laughing Index (itself a mockery of other economic indicies), the price of levity has gone up 3.4 percent over the last year. The Index apparently surveys 16 factors, ranging from dancing chicken telegrams to the costs of a one-half hour teleplay, and concludes that costs have increased on both the demand side (i.e., consumption of comedy; e.g., tickets to comedy clubs, Mad magazine subscriptions) as well as on the supply side (i.e., the input materials to generate comedy; e.g., novelty glasses, rubber chickens [although not whoopie cushions–apparently farts are cheap]).

The jump in Mad magazine’s cover price might be seen as especially troubling to fans, as it relates to the publication’s decision to go from a monthly to a quarterly.

The laughter index notes the rise in sitcom production costs, with writer fees increasing $464 for a half-hour show.

Now, if I were to go against all common sense and take this index seriously, I would argue that its definition of the relevant “market basket” is in serious need of an update (much like its official website, circa 2004). After all, the power of instantaneous communication and social organization gives us more hours of comedy than we could ever pore through at ever-increasing rates, and all for free. This is correspondingly the reason that the old media form of comedy has started increasing its own prices: constrained supply in the marketplace as cheaper substitutes emerge, raising prices on those remaining competitors. As much as I want to see professional writers living the good life, market forces simply dictate that the supply is far too large to support writing jokes as a career unless you can do more than just generate comedy. A writer has to produce something that has some tangible, real world value (e.g., T-shirt revenues, live performances, and other non-digitizable products are all a good start).

Moreover, the market knows that one does not really need a writer of jokes, even if the professionally written jokes are often are worth paying for. Indeed, so much of real life can be hilarious in the right context–if your brain works in the right way–that one simply needs proper curation (as this blog strives for) to reach it. Take this YouTube clip, for example:

If you don’t already believe that you just need pointers to enjoy more free comedy online than you could ever consume in your entire life (literally), you probably need to start working your way through http://youshouldhaveseenthis.com/ and start enjoying your online life anew.

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