Kings of comedy: the flourishing art of interactive humour

Chris Schilling at

Few games are designed to make you laugh. And among those that do, laughter is often a happy accident, the inadvertent by-product of a combination of systems that provoke moments of unintentional comedy.

“People laugh at videogames constantly,” says former Irrational Games alumnus Jordan Thomas, who recently worked as creative consultant on South Park: The Stick of Truth. “But largely it’s because they’re laughing at the clumsy and often absurd intersection between the designer’s intent and their own.” Thomas insists there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but the distinction is clear: we’re laughing at games, not with them.

For comedy writer and director Graham Linehan, it’s pretty low on his list of priorities when playing a game. “For me it’s like comedy in porn,” he says. “It’s kind of beside the point.” Valve writer Erik Wolpaw, who co-scripted Portal and its sequel, admits that he once likened the idea of comedy in games to “the guy who talks between dancers at a strip club. Nobody cares what that guy says and anybody who does is probably kinda maladjusted.”

Jazzpunk review

Phil Savage at

Easter eggs are a fine tradition in game development. From quickfire references to full hidden levels, these comedy vignettes provide surreal non-sequiturs that reward the most thorough with an unexpected laugh. Jazzpunk is what happens when a game's every interaction leads to some form of easter egg.

It's a first-person comedy adventure about espionage and technology, although to describe it as such is to misjudge the balance of comedy to adventure. Instead, picture the word comedy in block capitals, surrounded by flashing lights. Also, imagine the letter M has been formed from the outline of a pair of bum cheeks, and that they're mooning the word adventure. I didn't say its humour was always sophisticated.

Jazzpunk trailer is even more Jazzpunk than the last Jazzpunk trailer

Phil Savage at

Jazzpunk, eh? What's that all about? That was the question I was struggling to answer the last time we were treated to a Jazzpunk trailer. Since then I've not only learned what the game is, but also played a section of its IGF build - the very one that secured the game a Seumas McNally Grand Prize nomination. Given that, you'd think I'd be prepared to at least understand this new Jazzpunk trailer. And yet...

Jazzpunk release date announced, oddball espionage comedy launches in early February

Phil Savage at

JAZZPUNK! It's a punchy and satisfying word to shout in bars, at interviews, and in the middle of conversations. That's what I've been doing ever since I played the IGF preview build last month. Little surprise then that the comedy espionage adventure was nominated for the competition's Seumas McNally Grand Prize. Today, creator Luis Hernandez announced both the mysterious appearance of the game's Steam page, and JAZZPUNK! a release date of February 7th.

Jazzpunk trailer promotes comedy adventure through the medium of Thunderbirds

Phil Savage at

Hello, I have just watched the trailer for Jazzpunk. Normally at this point, I'd use the knowledge osmosed from said trailer to explain to you what Jazzpunk is. Er, okay... um... well. Ah, yes, there was a fish, and gibs, and a Thunderbirds pastiche. Also spies, maybe? A sheep exploded, but I can't be sure of its significance. You know what? Maybe you should watch the trailer too, then we can try to suss things out together.