The Power of Three

Three blind mice sat in three bears’ chairs and found the third one just right.  Or have you heard of the one about the physicist, the engineer and the economist?  Or how about the three musketeers who found that three’s already a crowd so didn’t bother including the fourth in the title?  Three is the mainstay of writing.  Perhaps even storytelling.  As Wikipedia notes in reference to the “rule of three”, “things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.”  Which would explain why Dumas didn’t feel the need to include poor d’Artagnan, his protagonist no less, in the number of his title.  In comedy in particular, it would seem that three is the number where it “bends” rather than “breaks”.  But this doesn’t explain The Simpsons, and after 23 seasons something should.  The Simpsons regularly break the rule of three in favour of the “overly long gag”.  In fact, the creators may have invented this particular form of comedy in the “Cape Feare” episode where Sideshow Bob endlessly (well, nine times) steps on rakes so that, or so I am told, stepping on a rake becomes funny again rather than just annoying.  Personally I don’t find it surprising that this was added because the episode ran short.  Give me the three little pigs behind door number three instead any day.

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