In a manner similar to Keating, and in line with the incongruity
theory, Conroy uses punchlines to disrupt the status quo and teach his
students. While his students expect nothing more than teachers who
underestimate them, Conroy goes on to surprise them and to break their
expectations. He delivers his first punchline when Mrs. Scott barges
into the classroom and claims that the night before, one of the students
urinated in their chair. Mrs. Scott demands that the student stand up in
class, admit they have a weak bladder, acknowledge their wrongdoing,
and apologize. Any other teacher would have idly stood by and let the
situation play out, but Conroy, surprised at Mrs. Scott’s intention to
purposely embarrass a student, stands up and attests that “I have a weak
bladder and I am sorry.” The students laugh in an uproar as their
expectations of their teacher have dissipated into nothing.
As an unconventional teacher, Conroy continues to break their
expectations. To teach the concept and history of gravity, he sits on top
of a tree and drops apples to his students as they repeat the names of
“Johannes Kepler” and “Isaac Newtown.” For personal health, they
stand around the faucet together laughing as he teaches them to brush
their teeth. When Conroy wants to teach them about pop-culture, he
sings popular songs in a frog voice while playing the guitar or tickles
them when they listen to “Flight of the Bumblebee.” When he teaches
them what yoga is, Conroy purposefully flips over and rolls down the
hill in a self-deprecating fashion. In nearly all of his approaches, Conroy
uses comedy as a medium to break the expectations of his students.
In their own respective manners, both Keating and Conroy
teach through the incongruity theory of comedy. They combine the
“set-up” and the “punchline” to drive their students to laughter and
learning. This approach to comedy has been around since the Ancient
Greeks and Romans and proves itself still vital and effective in these
films. The punchline allows these teachers to convey lessons with their
students that truly resonate.
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