When I read the Lopate reading, the author gave a list of 5 aspects of the “essay-film”. Here are a couple funny videos which I would like to try to work this magic out on (note: I haven’t done this in advance, so you’ll see how the thoughts progress and may even contradict themselves.).

So the five aspects of the essay film are (essentially): the work must have words, the work must have a single voice, there must be an attempt to work out a reasoned line of discourse on a problem, the work must impart more than information and has a point of view, and the work’s language should be well written and eloquent.

So here we go:

(Dane Cook Video first) This video about cheating that Dane Cook (DC) performs for the audience does contain words – there are a lot of them, and he also mixes in body language as part of the words he gives to the audience, so I would say yes on the first part. In regards to the second point, the work does have a single “voice” – excluding the audience – his voice. In regards to the third point, I would think there is a reasoned line of discourse on this topic: DC wants the audience to not cheat on each other while dating. He gives many examples to support his thesis (e.g. literally being cheated on, the guilt, etc.), all of which his audience (and I would think ourselves as well) would think is a reasoned line of wisdom. Granted, the wisdom is distilled through humor, but I think there is some sort of discourse here. I would then say check to number three. On the fourth aspect, there is a point of view represented here: it’s DC’s life experiences. He mentions he has cheated before, and utilizes that as a large portion of his argument, along with utilizing the shared experience and notions of what cheating are (thinking a check goes here as well). On the fifth point, I take his language to be eloquent, as not only is it coming from “the horse’s mouth”, but it is also in the colloquial language, so that it can be believed and then utilized in a humorous fashion by the audience. At this expense, I believe the fifth check to be true.

BAM: DC, the essay-film-comedian. Another title to his resume.

(Seinfeld video) This is a cult classic moment of the series: George is invited to the dinner after a wake, and this is what ensues when he is having snacks at the table. I would like to see if this moment would fall into the essay-film category.

So let’s see if this video falls into the essay-film category. Does it have words? I believe so, as they are the component which makes us laugh. Is there a single voice represented here? Well, since this is an episode of a TV series, there was a writing team behind this message, but if you consider this question in just the realm of what one sees on the screen, then I guess in either dimension there isn’t exactly one voice (unless one considers the conversation of all of these voices as one voice, then I think Lopate would find this as epic). Is there a reasoned line of discourse represented here? Granted, this discourse is so outlandish that it makes us laugh, there is an ultimate message – putting one’s chip in the dip twice can spread germs, which is ultimately a bad thing. So is there an attempt to impart more than just information? I guess if we consider the fact that we are the vicarious camera, then the point of view we would get out of this is that doing this at parties is not proper decorum. If we were to consider the point of the view of any of the characters here, we would probably get different points of view, not to mention the point of view of the writers. So I guess a yes on this part. Lastly, is the text’s language well-written and eloquent? Like with DC, I believe the language to be eloquent, as it is used as a mechanism to be able to make us laugh about a serious/trivial situation all at the same time.

So it looks like a no on Seinfeld. We couldn’t get a double dip of yeses here. I guess that’s ok.

So Why Do This?

I wanted to get a chance to work through this theory as a chance to see if there was any validity to it (in my eyes). When I first read it for class, I just read it. Now after having worked through it, I have gotten to see that this checklist has some value in it, and is a means to help people see if there is any worth behind what we end up laughing at. It just so happens that I picked two videos of a comedic nature which also impact our culture on different levels (“double dipping” is mentioned at parties, along with being used as a lifeline on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?; cheating in relationships is a hardship that brings police to homes and many happy relationships to a smashing conclusion. Even though I haven’t had one of these, I have sort of tapped into the “shared understanding” of what one of these are through the world around me in an attempt to see if everything around us is exuding an argument or not. Now I think that may deep, but who knows? That, I think, at least for myself, was worth this meta-exercise.)

Please have fun with the videos.