My mom and I were talking yesterday about what makes certain television shows so funny. Why some shows have us laughing until it’s a little bit hard to breathe, while others don’t inspire so much as quirk of the lips.
There have been a lot of new sitcoms in the past few years. Some that I really enjoyed didn’t last past a handful of episodes (I’m looking at you, Bent). And there have been others that seem to have built up solid followings, which I just can’t get into.
What is funny is going to vary from person to person, I’m sure. But for me, the thing that makes me roll is when a character says something very funny, but does not say it as a joke. For the character, in that moment, this is a serious topic and it makes complete sense that this conversation is being had. Even if it’s completely and utterly ridiculous.
I can’t stop laughing when Troy says, “I wouldn’t even think about it.” Because he means it. And rather than laughing about the absurdity of such a notion, Abed responds with the same level of seriousness.
The fact that they do it all in Batman voices is just the icing on the cake.
I’ve seen this scene from New Girl a few times. It continues to kill me when Jess says she doesn’t use toilet paper. She’s stuck in moment of self awkwardness and she’s not trying to break the tension with a joke, that’s just the only thing she can think to say. Despite it being ridiculous and not at all true.
And there’s a reason I start laughing the moment Phil Dunphy comes on screen.
He’s just so damn sincere. He’s corny and does ridiculous things that will, of course, embarrass his family. But, he’s just So. Damn. Sincere. How do you not love him?
So, what really gets me a-gigglin’ are characters who take their lives and their thoughts seriously. A series of one-liners said with a smirk just isn’t as compelling to me as two people having a conversation that they are both totally invested in. Even if that conversation is just about clothes.
How about you? What makes comedy funny?