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Comedy 4: Culture

Phase 4: Culture: “This Is How We Do Things Around Here”

• 4A: Awkward social comedy based on expectations and misunderstandings: This is a loftier form of comedy, in which actors portray socially-awkward individuals who don’t comprehend their surroundings and fail to pick up on nonverbal cues. The resulting misunderstandings lead to unpredictable outcomes, often convoluting the plans of other characters. This form relies on subtleties of language, cultural norms being adhered to, and the breach of expected behavior. The character that misunderstands is not necessarily shoehorned into the position of hero nor villain, either. Moreover, each character portrayed may be rich in both antagonistic and protagonistic traits. This form requires the viewer to understand expected norms. Example: the film “Oscar”; the television shows, “Modern Family” and “Community”.

4B:  Unexpected social premise / Unexpected social consequence: This form is usually expressed as an after-the-fact, first-person retelling of an event in which someone (usually the storyteller) tells how he or she survived a unique circumstance. This is a didactic, lofty form that turns the teller into a teacher and leader, who usually positions himself as the protagonist with whom the audience identifies: this self-identification leads to unexpected consequences, because the audience empathizes with the protagonist comedian, but has a hard time rationalizing the consequences in their own life. From the security of the viewing position, this cognitive threat is averted from the viewer, so they laugh.  This form is used to entertain and instruct. Example: Eddie Izzard’s stand-up.