@Robert -- Fiona was speculating on why the bar is higher for funny stories, in her own mind, over dramatic ones. I offered my opinion on why I think that is. Funny on it's own is easy, whereas a story you walk away from saying "that was a funny book" is harder -- it takes work to create a novel that leaves that impression without devolving into slapstick. Funny, on it's own, is as simple as a burger, that's why kids like cartoons. However, "Dr. Strangelove" is a filet mignon, and it's a dark comedy. But how many of us can write a story like that?
I agree that there is "fast food" drama as well. Soap operas are a great example, but so are "soap operatic" series like Dawson and Twilight. I didn't say there was no such thing as bad drama. There's probably more dramatic movies that are garbage than there are comedies -- but me personally, I can still find things to laugh at in a bad comedy. Bad drama just makes me feel like I wasted my time. Bad dramas are totally junk food -- and they don't have the creative effort of 5 star movies and television shows. And they do make money -- for the same reason people go to McDonalds. It's accessible, easy, and fits an emotional need of some sort.
Your point about the best humor and drama inter-relating is what I was saying when I wrote "That being said, not all stories need to be deadly serious. Good writers are aware of all facets of life, from the saddest to the happiest, and work different scenes into a story. If something is dry as dust, it's not going to reach as many people. Well-rounded is better than one theme -- that's why Shakespeare fits comedic scenes into his bloodiest tragedies." -- the best stories have both. That's why a PRIMARILY "funny story" is hard to pull off, because it runs the risk of becoming unrealistic because life has both comedy and tragedy. It also runs the risk of losing conflict, which is the gasoline in the engine of a good plot. Fiona was saying that it's harder to think of giving 5 stars to a funny story, and I was sharing my opinion on why. If the story is primarily funny, it's one-sided. Good stories are well-rounded. I'm not trying to create an illusory division between the two -- I think all emotions are necessary in life, and should be reflected in literature.
I'm not saying a five star funny story is impossible -- it's harder and riskier. It requires the scaffolding you talked about -- building layer upon layer so you have a structure. I already said I admire craftsmanship and structure. I think most comedy doesn't put in that kind of effort -- I laugh at "Anchorman" and "Billy Madison," but I don't think they took the effort that "The Godfather" did to make. But they are smarter and funnier (to me anyway) than "Dude, Where's my Car?" Intelligent comedy exists, but it needs a realistic framework and realistic characters. And I don't mean "realistic" in the sense of it should happen in the real world -- the Lord of the Rings is dramatic (with moments of humour) but it's not the real world. I mean "realistic characters" in the sense that I can believe in them in their world. Nothing is shaking me out of the story and going "oh, that's not plausible, I can't imagine that." I can't rate "Anchorman" at 5 stars even though it's hilarious because it's farcical, there's nothing realistic about it. It's fun, but it's not artistically amazing.
I don't think a dramatic story has the same risk of being unrealistic -- good dramatic stories centre on conflict and draw readers into the story-world without as much risk of implausible unbelievabilty. If it's well-written, it's going to have an easier time getting a 5 star rating. That doesn't mean well-written comedy is impossible. Just has a higher bar because it's harder to create prolonged, extended humour that is also a great story. The longer you extend humour, the more it runs the risk of becoming farce.
I'm not creating a division between humor and drama, I already said both are necessary in the best works. Again, look at Shakespeare, who can go from killing the King of Scotland and then have a drunken porter stumble about. I think a PRIMARILY funny story isn't as successful to me as dramatic ones, in literature, because I can't think of any that don't devolve into slapstick. The best books I've ever read made me laugh out loud, and they also made me cry. Serious drama alone doesn't make a story great.
But funny is easier to do at it's most basic level -- just watch my kids laugh at a branch slapping a dinosaur on the head in A Land Before Time. They know instinctively that it's funny. Scaffolded, extended comedy with intelligence is brilliant -- and takes effort. But funny on it's own is very quick and doesn't require a ton of build-up, if a two year old can laugh at it in its simplest form. However, my five year old hasn't figured out that the girl dies in the Bridge to Terabithia movie, or that she should be worried beyond the fact that the boy cries. She doesn't feel the emotional build-up of the drama. She recognizes funny instinctively, and she recognizes sadness in the boy's reaction to drama -- he's crying. But that's instinct. She has no clue of the dramatic story arc that leads to the crying. It takes only a second to make my kids laugh -- making them realize something is dramatically serious isn't as easy.
Anyone can see that dinosaur get slapped by that branch, and know that it's supposed to be funny. It might not be hilarious to me at 30 compared to my three year old son, but I know it's a visual joke. But it takes reading all of Bridge to Terabithia, to see the relationship between the main characters in all it's humour and friendship and fun, before the drama of the girl's death can hit home. The story uses both humour and drama to maximum effect, but you don't walk away saying "that was a five-star funny book," you walk away going "that's a Newberry award winning tragedy." It was funny at times, but the drama is the important part of the story. But no one would have cared if it was a one-liner "Oh there was a girl and she died." That's not drama or good writing. But comedians can make you laugh with a good one-liner. Funny is easier, at a basic level. At the top levels, I think it's harder -- but nowhere did I say one or the other, comedy or drama, was better. Just it's easier for me to envison a five star story that isn't primarily funny -- I've read those. I haven't yet read a five star funny novel.
Maybe Catch-22, but that was in high school and I'd have to re-read it again.