July 1, 2018
How the Coen Brothers Use Repetition to Create Comedy
We know that the Coen Brothers’ films are funny, but why?
Directors Joel and Ethan Coen have a unique brand of comedy. It’s witty, anecdotal, farcical, and at times, even silly, but it’s also dark and morbid, employing conventions of gallows humor and black comedy. Clearly, many different things are at work to make films like Fargo, A Serious Man, and Burn After Reading top-notch comedies, but one technique that the directing duo uses consistently throughout their filmography is repetition. In hopes of understanding the role repetition plays in their films, Julian Palmer of The Discarded Image explores this intriguing aspect of the Coen Brothers’ comedic sensibility in the video essay below.
This video essay is—well, it’s somethin’ else. It’s essentially a microcosm of the Coen universe in video essay form. Real meta stuff. I like it. But it’s also incredibly thorough in its explanation of how the directors use repetition to get laughs. Here are the techniques mentioned in the video, some of which might’ve been listed as a joke, but guess what, I’m including them anyway.