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Q: Where do most of the police gallows humor and funny moments come from? Is that your experience with the
Homicide squad or is it Ed or Jay or what? [Jim King]
A: We're funny guys. But mostly, human beings - regardless of what they do, what they confront or where they
are headed - have a capacity for humor that is endless and heroic.
Cops have their own interior wit and it is savagely funny on their side of the police tape. Corner boys have their
inside jokes and they are bitterly clever on the other side of that tape. Politicians have their own comic voice,
as do longshoremen, as do reporters and teachers and, well, film crews.
Everyone knows the small twists and hypocritical absurdities of their workplace, of their neighborhoods, or their families
and lovers and children. The trick is listening long enough to catch glimpses of such wit at play.
Because without the humor and the camaraderie that humor brings in squadrooms, on drug corners, on the docks or at city
hall, the story itself would be too tragic for anyone to bear.
A fan once asked Alfred Hitchcock if he might one day direct a comedy. He looked at the woman, surprised, and said,
"My dear, all my movies are comedies."
There are moments where I like to flatter myself by claiming that The Wire is the funniest show on television.
It may be more accurate to say it's the funniest show about the decline of the American empire on television.
Q: My favorite Wire moment is the desk move in one of the teases in season 2. Do you have a favorite
moment? [Jim King]
A: "I can't wait to go to jail." ...or... "Okay, maybe I ain't all that humble."
I wrote the first line as an on-set add as I watched the camera move that occurred as Landsman & Greggs walked past the
crowded witness dump. George Pelecanos wrote the second exchange and when I first read the line in the script, I
laughed so hard I hurt, then laughed until I cried when I saw Wendell's delivery in the dailies.
For a speech-like moment, I am very proud of the paper-bag soliloquy from Colvin in season three. That was Richard
Price, but he was channeling Ed Burns directly from The Corner. It was Ed who first made the analogy between
the drug war and the practical application of the open-container law and it stands for me as the smartest thing ever said
about why drug prohibition can never work and why it has destroyed so much, so uselessly. Ed is a smart fella.
But on the whole, I confess that I'm a sucker for the throwaway bits of humor. I expect the dramatic moments to
work. We plan those with care in the writing room. But comedy always seems improbable to me, even when we
plan for it. Comedy is ineffable.
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