Can we take your villains seriously if they’re funny?
Absolutely. It depends how, why, and when they’re funny. The 1950s Joker inserted seemingly random stand-up material into his heists and into needlessly complicated deathtraps. It wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t very often…funny. You got the idea of a failed standup comedian turned to crime who forgot to turn off the “comedian” bit.
In a world of the MCU, the works of the late, lamented Terry Pratchett, and a general sense that any main character can get off a few biting quips at any time, your Villain’s in a unique position–assuming she takes advantage of it. If you’ve got something funny to say, allow us to suggest three rubrics.
- Villains can go to social and moral spaces which are barred for others. Using the death of a dozen cute furry things as a joke? That’s not funny, that’s just gratuitous (and questionable) animal cruelty for the sake of establishing character. On the other hand, seeing people die and making a biting comment about how you’ve just sped up the normal workings of society? THAT can hit home. In short – your villain is operating from a unique place in the world, and thus able to comment on it in ways prohibited to others. Take advantage of it.
- Is it ZANY, or is it FUNNY? The distinction’s quite important. Anyone can be silly, and any circumstances can be silly; the entire genre of humorous scifi in the 1980s was based on ridiculous situations – “Oh, no, we’re trapped on the moon, and all we have to eat is cheese!” The circumstances are odd and could be risorial. But it’s not actually funny. Got an acerbic comment to drop on the situation, perhaps a commentary on what would lead a world to people a quality with dairy products? THAT is where the barb strikes home.
- Dare. Your hero can be an outcast, an outsider, someone not ruled by conventional mores. Why should she tell the same jokes as everyone else? Let her find humor in something peculiar and weird – it doesn’t have to be cruelty necessarily; you don’t have to use this to establish meanness or psychopathy. Just one simple trait: different. Your villain sees things differently; what does that do to the rare moment when they express a sense of humour?
-Dark Lord Journal
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