I'm reading Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson, and I just finished a chapter in which she explains what she calls "The Fallacy of the Fried Mermaid."
At an improv show, the performers will sometimes ask the audience for a suggestion: "Give us a _______ in a ________" in which to build a scene (e.g. "a chicken in a bowling alley"). Without fail, the audience will try to think of something wacky or weird. There is the perception that this is more creative and will lead to a better scene.
That is the "Fallacy of the Fried Mermaid." A fried mermaid is already a joke. There's no punchline left. As Madson says, "It's a closed loop...Doing an actual scene about a fried mermaid isn't likely to result in a very appealing story, if you think about it."
Weird for weird's sake, is what I usually call it. When discussing a comedy spot with directors, I almost always say "I don't think this should telegraph funny," or "The casting shouldn't look funny." Humor is based on surprise, and making something look funny is the equivalent of starting off a joke with "Oh, I have this hilarious joke to tell you."
Don't fall for the idea that something needs to be "way out" or whimsical to be creative. Getting a laugh is easy--trivial, actually. Anything unexpected seems funny. This kind of humor is like a sugar hit. It gives temporary lift, but it is like a poor diet and won't nourish artistically. If you give up making jokes and concentrate on making sense, the result is often genuinely mirthful. Besides, making sense is a lot more satisfying in the long run. Give the obvious a try.Incredibly applicable to what we do.
As a counter examples to this, I could use one of my favorite spots:
That said, I think the weirdness of the casting, etc., is about establishing the world in which the spot takes place and is integral to the idea. Weird is not the idea in itself.