Magazine June 14, 2021, Issue


Donald Trump rides an escalator inside Trump Tower on the way to announce his campaign for president, New York City, June 16, 2015. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The film genre Screwball Comedy does not, in fact, exist. There were a hundred efforts to capitalize on the works of Lubitsch and Preston Sturges, but most coasted on the form, stole the plots, flagged the places where the gags should have been, and had the actors falling down or spilling soup on one another.

The few great 1930s comedies had a simple plot, following the wisdom of Sun Tzu: Let your plans be simple, so that your opponent can follow them. The great comedies moved the plot along by great gags.

What is a gag? It is a joke requiring, as

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Books, Arts & Manners



A gag is a joke requiring a setup, a development, and a surprising punchline. It must unfold over time.



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