“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” –Douglas Adams
There are six elements of funny, according to cartoonist Scott Adams: naughty, clever, cute, bizarre, mean, and recognizable, and for a joke to land it must have at least two of these elemensts. For example, if we take a cartoon like Garfield, then we, usually, have two animals, Garfield and Ottis (cute), and one of them can talk (bizarre). If we would like to push it a tad further, then we could say that Jon represents the recognizable, a middle-aged man going through life with a troublesome cat.
Now, if we take the theory of one successful cartoonist, how can we apply it to the humor of a novelist? Douglas Adams created one of the most absurd, and delightfully witty radio shows/”trilogy in five parts” ever written.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—running at a small Volgonian watering hole near you from January 13 through the 29, is assuming they have not destroyed your planet, yet—is a savory satire on life, existence, and banality.
Arthur Dent, is a delightfully droll young man (recognizable). He is then swept across the galaxy (bizarre) into surprisingly familiar and yet tastefully odd Universe.
Actor Mark Swift put it, “I think Arthur is a tragically dragged about individual. This is what makes him so fun to play, he’s hapless and trying to gauge just how insignificant he is with every mind boggling bit of information thrown his way. Honestly, I think that the Earth’s destruction was freeing for Arthur in many ways, as he didn’t really have many prospects there.”
So this everyman from nowhere, and even when he had a somewhere its nowhere now, becomes the center of our comedic Universe and his utter lack of any heroic skills make him the perfect foil on which to hang our towel.
“Last year when I played Arthur, there was constantly a balancing act of being amazed and horrified by every event that transpired. It was really fun to play someone desperately trying to grasp the concepts being thrown at him,” said Swift.
This childish since of wonder—although, how else would one act when faced with the reality that humans are, 1) not alone in the Universe, and 2) things are vastly more complicated and yet equally trite—puts our everyman in bizarre situations.
It is this use of the commonplace and the wondrous that sets Adams apart.