Pyramids Discussion *Spoilers*

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Postby Penfold » Sat Jan 09, 2010 11:15 pm

Tonyblack wrote:It seems that a lot of the humour in Pyramids relies on the reader being 'in' on the joke. As Penfold pointed out - if you haven't read Tom Brown's Schooldays then several of the 'jokes' are meaningless. The same with the Ephebians - quite a bit of classical knowledge is required to 'spot the reference'. It becomes less of a story and more a game. This was especially true in Moving Pictures and Soul Music.

Pyramids is much more a pastiche than a satire. Most of Terry's earlier books are pastiche. My personal feeling is that Terry's satires are much better than his pastiches.

I think most of Terry's early works (Pyramids being his 6th Discworld book, I think) relies too heavily on his audience being 'in' on the joke. If someone has no knowledge of Shakespeare's plays, H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series, Robert E. Howards Conan stories, to name but a few references, then it is little wonder that they picked up the book, 'didn't get it', and never tried his later works.

I find the evolution of Terry's style quite interesting; his progression from a sketch show style of story telling to what is today, a somewhat profound and satirical treatise. I think we can see the beginnings of this in Pyramids (and hints of this in earlier works) from the issues already under discussion - religion, conservatism and the fear of change, need for control, etc. Also, I believe he may have got the idea for Small Gods from the writing of this book;
"He found Ptraci sitting on the grass under a poplar tree, feeding the tortoise. He gave it a suspicious look, in case it was a god trying it on. It did not look like a god. If it was a god, it was putting on an incredibly good act.
She was feeding it a lettuce leaf" (p.205)


Of course, much of what I've just written could be just so much camel dung and it could just be a book that Terry enjoyed writing!
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sat Jan 09, 2010 11:27 pm

OMG - I get a techno blackout for 7 godsawful sodding days and you're on page 6 already?!!!!!!!!! :roll:

Too late tonight - see you in here tomorrow though 8)
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Postby swreader » Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:20 am

Oh dear-- I'm afraid Pooh that your "Theory of Humor" is just pooh. The whole thing is based more or less in terms of visual humor which is hardly the way to analyze a novel. Additionally, you reveal a lack of awareness of the breadth and complexity of American humor. We are not known particularly for our "Level 1" humor-- the pratfall. Though using your terms, I suppose that the Three Stooges and the Keystone Kops match that. But you ignore the type of humor or satire illustrated by Chaplain, Will Rogers, Mark Twain, Joseph Heller and Sinclair Lewis, to mention only a few.

If we restate your definition as that of Merriam-Webster definition of humor

" (a) that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous (b) the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous (c ): something that is or is designed to be comical or amusing"

one can say that Pyramids is a humorous novel. And certainly Pratchet's early works rely heavily on humor. As Tony noted, and Penfold expanded on brilliantly, that is pretty much all the early novels are. Once you’ve read them once (and tried to find the allusions or punny names) there’s not much more there. That is the reason I find COM, LF, and Pyramids almost unreadable--even after 3 more tries at Pyramids.

But Pratchett is so much more than a humorous or comic novelist. What he is known and recognized for, as illustrated in the detailed discussion of the various form of satire in Wiki is as one of the great satiric novelists of the 20th century and beyond.

"In the United Kingdom, the literary genre of satire also began to grow at the height of World War II and the years of the Cold War. George Orwell's Animal Farm marked the beginning of a political satire, with talking animals who plot to rule the world. Upon defeating Farmer Jones, they break out into an era of totalitarianism. One of the most popular satirists in the history of British literature is the recently knighted Sir Terry Pratchett, whose internationally best-selling Discworld series has sold more than 55,000,000 copies."

In his ability to explore war, religion, slavery and other social phenomena through his use of the satiric novel, Pratchett joins the great satirists--Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain.
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Postby poohcarrot » Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:53 am

swreader wrote:Oh dear-- I'm afraid Pooh that your "Theory of Humor" is just pooh. The whole thing is based more or less in terms of visual humor which is hardly the way to analyze a novel. Additionally, you reveal a lack of awareness of the breadth and complexity of American humor. We are not known particularly for our "Level 1" humor-- the pratfall. Though using your terms, I suppose that the Three Stooges and the Keystone Kops match that. But you ignore the type of humor or satire illustrated by Chaplain, Will Rogers, Mark Twain, Joseph Heller and Sinclair Lewis, to mention only a few.

If we restate your definition as that of Merriam-Webster definition of humor

" (a) that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous (b) the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous (c ): something that is or is designed to be comical or amusing"

one can say that Pyramids is a humorous novel. And certainly Pratchet's early works rely heavily on humor. As Tony noted, and Penfold expanded on brilliantly, that is pretty much all the early novels are. Once you’ve read them once (and tried to find the allusions or punny names) there’s not much more there. That is the reason I find COM, LF, and Pyramids almost unreadable--even after 3 more tries at Pyramids.

But Pratchett is so much more than a humorous or comic novelist. What he is known and recognized for, as illustrated in the detailed discussion of the various form of satire in Wiki is as one of the great satiric novelists of the 20th century and beyond.

"In the United Kingdom, the literary genre of satire also began to grow at the height of World War II and the years of the Cold War. George Orwell's Animal Farm marked the beginning of a political satire, with talking animals who plot to rule the world. Upon defeating Farmer Jones, they break out into an era of totalitarianism. One of the most popular satirists in the history of British literature is the recently knighted Sir Terry Pratchett, whose internationally best-selling Discworld series has sold more than 55,000,000 copies."

In his ability to explore war, religion, slavery and other social phenomena through his use of the satiric novel, Pratchett joins the great satirists--Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain.


SWreader

You simply can't understand my theory because you believe Monty Python to be purely "visual slapstick" humour. You couldn't be any further from the truth. If you don't get Monty Python, you won't get Pyramids.

Here's a clip to help you understand what Monty Python really is all about.
You don't need to watch, just listen. Most of Monty Python humour is in the words. Although if you do watch, you'll be able to follow the dialogue (which I'm sure you might need to), in order to understand exactly what is said, because there are some pretty long and difficult words in it. :D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xd_zkME ... r_embedded

"In his ability to explore war, religion, slavery and other social phenomena through his use of the satiric novel, Pratchett joins the great satirists--Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain AND MONTY PYTHON"

Feel free to give me examples of American humour that comes anywhere close to this level of satire. :P
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Postby poohcarrot » Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:23 am

TESTING THE THEORY
(The following is purely subjective)

I'll look at the TV show "Friends" and apply my theory.
I enjoyed Friends, it was harmless fluff, but I wouldn't say in any way insightful or satirical. I would rate it as a good Level 1 series.
However, of the characters, I'd rate Monica, Joey and Rachel as level 1. Chandler and Phoebe sometimes achieved level 2 status, but not very often. Ros doesn't even deserve a level because he was so wet and drippy and pathetic. :lol:

I will now choose 6 Forum members even make 3 bold predictions which it will be interesting to know if I'm correct or not.

Sjoerd likes Monty Python (Blackadder etc.) therefore he likes Pyramids.
SWreader doesn't like Monty Python therefore she doesn't like Pyramids.
Jeffinboston likes Monty Python, but doesn't like Pyramids. He is obviously the exception that proves the rule. :lol:
Tony doesn't like Pyramids.
Who's Wee Dug often quotes Monty Python.
Dotsie says Pyramids made her laugh.

Therefore my theory states that;
Tony probably doesn't love Monty Python.
Who's Wee Dug likes Pyramids.
Dotsie likes Monty Python
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Postby Tonyblack » Sun Jan 10, 2010 8:24 am

What a pile of tosh! :lol:

The written word and TV/movies are different media and I don't see that you can completely draw a comparison. I've watched Monty Python throughout my life and liked some of it and thought some of it fell completely flat. Some of the sketches on the original TV series totally didn't work at all - most of the time it was surreal humour rather than satire.

The video you included - Holy Grail - was made after the TV series had finished and Cleese had left the show due to the fact that he thought the stuff they were making was unoriginal (with a few exceptions). 'Holy Grail' was hardly typical Python. 'Meaning of Life' was more in keeping with that.

Your so-called rule states that "Tony doesn't like Pyramids". Well bang goes your theory, because I do 'like' Pyramids. I like all of Terry's books to different degrees. I certainly think it's more consistently funny than Monty Python. Actually, Spike Milligan was doing far funnier shows before Python. Ironically, Python really took off after it was shown in the US.

So - to sum up. You're talking rubbish Pooh. :P Literature and TV are not the same thing. You don't have to 'love' Monty Python to 'like' Pyramids. Comparing 'Friends' to 'Monty Python' is like comparing chalk to cheese. They were never trying to emulate each other and probably appeal to different audiences in different decades.

Friends was certainly popular in the UK, as was Python in the US and they were both on TV. That's about all they have in common. :lol:
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Postby poohcarrot » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:31 am

Tonyblack wrote:What a pile of tosh! :lol:


:shock: Of course it's a pile of tosh! :lol: All my theories are piles of tosh. :P

You seem to be implying that UK humour and US humor are the same.
Do you really think so?
If not, what are the differences?
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Postby Tonyblack » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:45 am

poohcarrot wrote:
Tonyblack wrote:What a pile of tosh! :lol:


:shock: Of course it's a pile of tosh! :lol: All my theories are piles of tosh. :P

You seem to be implying that UK humour and US humor are the same.
Do you really think so?
If not, what are the differences?
I'm not implying anything of the sort, but: I grew up on American comedy shows. American TV shows were just about the main thing on TV when I was growing up. Likewise, there are tons on British TV shows that are hugely popular in the US - not just comedy.

I've said before that Monty Python is currently being rerun on PBS (Public Broadcast Service) on US TV and any day of the week over there you can watch British TV shows.

All of which seems to have very little to do with Pyramids. :P
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Postby poohcarrot » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:48 am

But you twisted MY words by saying I was equating Friends to Monty Python. So I twisted your words. :lol:

In fact I'll throw that question open to everyone and would like to hear your opinions.

Is UK humour and US humor the same?

If not, what are the differences?


We may get three different views here;
The Brits, the Americans and the people who are neither.
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Postby Doughnut Jimmy » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:58 am

I think how funny you find Pratchett's jokes (this may apply to all humour) depends on how deeply ingrained ideas or experiences are in you - I find the bit about Xeno's paradox funny every time I read it because it explores the gulf between the logic of the theory and the real world and echoes a very lengthy argument my maths class had with our teacher when he introduced us to it. (With hindsight he'd probably recently read Pyramids.)

If you have to look up what the joke is all about it never resonates with you in the same way even after you have the relevant crumb of knowledge.

I find the difficulty with rereading any humour is that it is rarely as funny the second time round because you already know what's coming, you need to wait until you've forgotten enough that the lead up to the joke is unfamilliar.
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Postby swreader » Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:32 pm

Pooh, your knowledge of satire is Nil-- and TV COMEDY AND SATIRIC NOVELS OR COMIC NOVELS CANNOT BE EQUATED! It's the old case of Apples and Oranges.

I dutifully watched your Monty Python episode, and found it neither funny nor satiric. On the other hand, I've enjoyed some of Gilbert & Sullivan's satires (H.M.S. Pinafore). And I think that David Frost's comic humor and shows like "That Was the Week that Was" which depended on topical humor and in some cases satire were enjoyable.

You obviously don't understand the difference between comedy and satire. As many of us have said, and I will say one more time, Pyramids is a pastiche. It has a number of humorous references, eg. You Bastard as great mathematician, and punning allusions to other pieces of literature, and a pun in the name of the country - something you've never commented on--but it is not satire, any more than Monty Python is satire. Pyramids , if you know enough about Tom Brown's School Days, Greek writers, etc. is mildly amusing on first reading and three more readings gave me clearer ideas about some of the satires developed in Pratchett's later works. But this is definitely a case where you and I, Pooh will have to disagree--because you are trying to wind up people with a lot of tosh, directed particularly at Americans. And I'm not biting.
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Postby Dotsie » Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:42 pm

Monty Python - Life of Brian was brilliant, Meaning of life was genius, Holy Grail had maybe two jokes in it at best.

British comedy films are drier than American ones, but I would say they don't make as much money over here as there is a bigger audience for slapstick. This is not to say that Americans prefer slapstick, but that successful films in both countries tend to be less sophisticated (Ben Stiller making nob gags is always popular). And it is all about making money after all. Sitcoms from both countries are pretty unsophisticated.

Is "carcrash" comedy, the sort that makes you uncomfortable to watch it, actually funny? I prefer the American version of the Office to the British one for this reason. I just couldn't bear to watch David Brent (and I can't stand Ricky "integrity" Gervais)
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Postby poohcarrot » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:26 pm

So what's the difference between a CD of Life of Brian and a CD of a TP audiobook? :?
(I've never listened to an audiobook but I assume it's one person reading the book and doing different voices.)
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Postby Trish » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:10 am

Penfold wrote:I think most of Terry's early works rel[y] too heavily on his audience being 'in' on the joke. If someone has no knowledge of Shakespeare's plays, H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series, Robert E. Howards Conan stories, to name a few, then it is little wonder that they picked up the book, 'didn't get it,' and never tried his later works.



Yes, well, Pratchett depends upon an educated and enlightened audience.

Howard?
No, I think Cohen stems more from the movie, but then, I've never read anything of Robert Howard's.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:12 am

Dotsie wrote:British comedy films are drier than American ones, but I would say they don't make as much money over here as there is a bigger audience for slapstick. This is not to say that Americans prefer slapstick, but that successful films in both countries tend to be less sophisticated (Ben Stiller making nob gags is always popular). And it is all about making money after all. Sitcoms from both countries are pretty unsophisticated.

Is "carcrash" comedy, the sort that makes you uncomfortable to watch it, actually funny? I prefer the American version of the Office to the British one for this reason. I just couldn't bear to watch David Brent (and I can't stand Ricky "integrity" Gervais)

OK this is my screen satirical comedy post to get it out of the way as I've predictably got far more to say on the religious/literary satire front. :roll: I adore Monty Python BUT... it's completely outdated and of it's time these days. What Python is famed for is that it was in the vanguard in the time when, largely in the UK, 'traditional' humourous TV entertainment was beginning to be battered down. As Sharlene points out, MP really only carried on from where TW3 left off and went 'cerebral/academic' to some extent with the Oxbridge 'Footlights' effect starting to kick in during the height of the Python era.

Spike Milligan and the Goons, Peter Sellers and even Michael Bentine were all there doing something new, original and considered with comedy in the same way that Morecambe and Wise were still at the top of their game and made me laugh just as much with their trad comedy (with had really clever twists too) - comedy is mostly about comfort levels and yes that does take into account intelligence and social niches. It's easiest to laugh at things you're familiar especially when it sends them up... :P

Is Mel Brooks as creative as John Cleese? - yes he is but maybe both of them appeal more to their native audiences because they know them and their material and how they pitch it best. So I also agree with pooh that UK and US and French and Australian and Japanese etc etc comedy is different. It's interesting in one of Sharlene's posts that she mentioned Chaplin as a great comic satirist amongst other US greats - I'm sure she knows he was raised in the UK and never gained US citizenship. He also based most of his early work on his family's music hall act which are hugely 'slapstick' but he was possibly the greatest 'physical' comedian ever and he did that superbly - but it's still only at level 1 in pooh's scale for his early work because it was pitched at a naive and largely uneducated audience, both on the London theatre and in the early cinemas... :wink:

Taking The Office as one of the few Brit comedies that translated well for US audiences (and vice versa - the Golden Girls Brit makeover was utterly dire :roll: ) I didn't watch either version and the reason for that was because the British version was too sodding real and therefore too painful for me to watch as I've worked with too many d*ckheads like David Brent and so I had no interest in finding out how an American worked - I'd probably have liked it in fact, but I just couldn't. Turn it the other way and I lapped up Yes Minister and Prime Minister even though I've also worked with lots of Sir Humphreys but with that it was so well scripted and interpreted you couldn't help but love it - even Thatcher loved it for gods sake - how hard was that to achieve! :lol:

As for Friends - :roll: I never got into it as I just found it really twee and too calculatingly 'goofy but cool'. :x The 2 great US sitcoms that stand out for me are Cheers and Frasier and though they're connected (and I think had some of the same writers?) the humour's different and somehow very appropriate and well-observed about 2 very different social and cultural settings.

Which sort of leads into what I'm going to say about Pyramids and religion and power. But it's late and I'm still brain-burned with all the catching up I have to do so that's it from me for now except to sum up that this isn't UK v US comedy and satire, it's about good writing and fitting the set pieces and jokes to the storys environment and whether or not Pyramids floats your boat. Terry's as usual done a good job, but that's still subject to your own personal comfort zone and what you like to laugh at :lol: It's all just a matter of taste in the end :twisted:
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