I've also been majorly productive by watching 30 Rock. I've watched some of the recent episodes on Hulu, but thanks to the beauty of Netflix, I can start back at the beginning. I've watched the first four or five episodes, and they are hil-aaaar-i-ous. And honestly, I swear I'm not making this up just to justify my waste of my life by watching TV, I have been learning a lot about comedy from 30 Rock.
Ms. Fey, if you have a minute, I have an idea for a film that I think you would loooove. Mr. Baldwin, if you have a minute, I'd just like to bask in your presence.
For instance, in 1x02, The Aftermath, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) starts off with one problem. In her attempt to fix her one small problem, she causes a big problem. In her attempt to fix her big problem, she causes an even bigger problem. One, that's an incredibly smart model to use for rising conflict in general, and two, it's wonderfully funny, especially when Lemon's gone through this whole song and dance and you think she's finally smoothed things over - only to find out she's just got herself into a worse mess than before.
And then in 1x04, Jack the Writer, there is a small but brilliant moment. Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) comes into the writer's room to monitor their efficiency. And of course he says to act like he's not there, and of course we expect him to be anything but inconspicuous. However, I was expecting him to be difficult and demanding, when actually all his interruptions stemmed from him getting too excited and involved in the creative process. (Ok, clearly I was not paying enough attention to the title of the episode here.) A great example of expectation reversal. I was expecting the story to go one way, and instead it took the opposite route.
You may not have realized comedy is so contrived. It's actually "easy" to study, analyze, and deconstruct the structure of a joke and learn how to build your own. Thank goodness it is, for those of us who need to be book funny.