Here the company rehearses Troilus and Cressida (reduced). By all accounts Paul Taylor's Troilus and Cressida is a stark contrast to the one William Shakespeare wrote. Where Shakespeare's characters are flung into a romance full of tragic circumstances, Mr. Taylor's elicits several guffaws from the audience. Personally I've watched this dance so many times I've lost count and although I know when the jokes are coming I still invariably burst out in a chuckle or at the very least grin from start to finish. By the end I wonder, "How does he do that? Make me laugh over and over?" Surely we can't give ALL the credit to Paul. The dancers give it the freshness and character it always needs. But even without the mugging and the silly facial reactions from the dancers this dance still manages to pack a good punch line every time.
So what makes it or any art funny? I think first of all as Paul always reminds us trying to be funny is never funny. It's the conviction of the character's purpose that makes the joke. As a creator I'm sure Paul wasn't thinking, "Now I have to make this funny." Rather I would venture to say that he set boundaries for himself such as character, setting, motivation and result. Add some brilliant dancers and you've got ingredients for a great dance. I still can't answer my own question though. What makes art funny? I recently watched a talk by the great photographer Elliot Erwitt where he goes through some of his personal best work. I laughed my head off for the better part of twenty minutes. Again I was delighted by this feeling that a piece of art had the capability to make me laugh in a most peculiar way. A way that made me stop and think for a second and hung around in my thoughts more permanently.