What makes a sound funny?


Title says all...

Si Leary

Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863

Reputation: 51



I think it's a really interesting question.

The sound is almost always a key element in making a horror movie scary and a thriller intense. But in comedies sound is quite often a bit of a neglected art.

I often think of a quote from Randy Thom saying something like this: "There's an infinite amount of sounds that can portray the negative feelings in the human condition. But there's only one positive sound: Birds singing." A quite thought-provoking statement (which, of course, is tongue-in-cheek but very thought-provoking anyway).

For me, Jacques Tati did some of the funniest comedies and his humour was totally sound-based. Check out Playtime, which is a masterpiece of foley, in my opinion. Tati never recorded sound on set as he wanted to be able to control every element of the soundtrack.

There's also lots of humour in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Treg Brown was a master of his craft and extremely inventive.

What's the funniest soundtrack you guys have experienced?

Peter Albrechtsen

Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863

Reputation: 151

@Peter, excellent insights -- and love the references. Not familiar with Tati, must check him out. – Jay Jennings – 2010-09-29T19:02:36.710

Very well put! +1 on Tati. He was one of the first directors to really use sound effects to play a lead role in the story telling and, in most cases, enhance the comic effect. 'Les Vacances de M. Hulot' is a classic! – Colin Hunter – 2010-09-29T19:45:39.130

One up for Tati. La vacance de M. Hulot is a classic in sound design. I( find that some of Jim Carry's films like the Mask have the OTT formula which makes it hilarious. Cartoons definitely because of the sounds musicality. – oinkaudio – 2010-09-30T09:24:42.587


Context, context, context.

Jay Jennings

Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863

Reputation: 15 432

1The phone-off-the-hook sound gag in Inceptions' 2nd dream level was my favorite sound moment of the film, I Smiled widely :)

Bee beep beep beep 'If you'd like to make a call please hang up and try again. If you need help, please hang up and dial the operator" – Stavrosound – 2011-08-09T07:46:51.967


Contradiction and exaggeration.


Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863



context, timing, character, juxtaposition, tradition, history....

humour, like beauty, is in the eye/ear of the beholder


Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863



Repetition -> Expectation --> Surprise!

Interesting question. You could probably study stand up comedy to learn a bit about comedic tension, release. Returning to a previous punchline. Playing with "taboos".


Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863

Reputation: 1 083

totally agree...something like the classic simpsons ''runaway, get in the car and drive off at full speed'' sound, which is featured in almost every episode. – GMatijas – 2010-06-05T01:36:34.897


If anyone's delved into animation, one of the techniques you encounter is "Anticipation". It plays to our expectations of how an action will play out by establishing a strong pose or, like what MtL said, repetition. Anticipation's often used to create visual gags (Wiley Coyote is poised to go zooming off screen, when instead an anvil crushes him), and I believe that the mechanics behind what works in one medium can be translated into another. I guess a quick example would be a strong, serious Timpani roll, climaxing in... a kazoo ensemble.

Miles B.

Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863

Reputation: 729

I love when Wiley finally lands at the bottom of the canyon and it's a tiny little "poof". – Utopia – 2010-09-29T19:11:28.193


timing is almost everything.


Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863

Reputation: 10 706


When I do sounds for a comedy in foley, I always search the kinds frequencies that will tickle the audience. Like a slap- slightly more attack and higher pitched. A body fall- less low end more mid and larger. And as Iain McGregor said- contradiction and exaggeration. Play against thye image is also fun- something unexpected.


Posted 2010-03-29T17:01:09.863

Reputation: 2 113