Reviewed Elsewhere: Mark Evans and Philip Hayward, eds. Sounding Funny: Sound and Comedy Cinema.

Lars Fischer Discussion

Mark Evans and Philip Hayward, eds. Sounding Funny: Sound and Comedy Cinema. Sheffield: Equinox, 2016. vi + 259 pp. $100.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-78179-099-1; $29.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-78179-276-6.

Though music and sound are essential to the success of comedy on film, the methods employed by composers and directors to this end are difficult to pin down. Producing a compact definition of comedy itself is a slippery task, something Liz Guiffre and Mark Evans emphasize in the introduction to Sounding Funny: Sound and Comedy Cinema. Though often invoked as a generic label, comedy is better understood as a mode of expression that uses a diverse collection of techniques that vary according to context. To get around this, the essays in this book focus not on comedic theory but on texts: films and sequences in which the use of sound in the service of humor has been particularly successful. Topics addressed in this approach include influential franchises, prominent composers, and famous scene formulas and comic routines. The book has an international scope, engaging not only the dominant practices of Hollywood but also comedies coming out of Britain, Finland, Spain, Japan, and India. It reaches across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, from the Three Stooges beginning in 1934, to Yuji Nakae's Nabi no koi (Nabbie's Love) in 1999 and Philip Claydon's Lesbian Vampire Killers in 2009. Sound Funny excels at drawing out and analyzing an impressive variety of comedic and musical moments in film.

In privileging text over theory, the book's authors nevertheless illuminate many comedic tools and techniques. Essays touch on parody, intertextual reference, and the interplay of aural and physical gestures. They also highlight the oft-employed tension between high and low culture, emphasized through the juxtaposition of musical styles. ...

Whether by design or chance, composer Elmer Bernstein dominates the book. ...

Through analyses of franchises, films, and sequences, Sounding Funny successfully identifies numerous ways in which music and sound have been used to create on-screen humor across genres, cultures, and markets. Its coverage of these sonic moves is by nature diffuse, but the book nevertheless recognizes several primary methods for enhancing filmic comedy through sound, including playful incongruity, intertextual reference, and meaningful contrast between musical styles. The value of this book lies in its breadth, and its authors' many observations and detailed studies provide fertile ground for future research into the connections between music, sound, and humor.

Jessica GetmanNotes 74, 4 (2018), 661–663.