How to watch awkward comedy

This week’s readings have gotten me thinking about why awkward comedy is funny. Shows like The Office and Nathan For You thrive on awkward moments and are clearly quite popular but what about these shows actually makes us laugh. A lot of the laughs in these shows come from extremely awkward situations with no real punchline.

So what are we laughing at? I think that the humor comes either from the theory of relief or superiority. Looking at awkward comedy through the lens of relief means that the viewer is sympathizing with the character and feels the same awkwardness that they are feeling. Because these shows create extremely uncomfortable situations the viewer feels stressed about the situation and must release this stress through laughter. Looking at this through the lens of superiority theory is a bit different. If you are laughing because of the superiority theory this means that you are not sympathizing with the character but rather you are observing the character and looking down on them and making fun of the awkward situation that they are in. From the same source of humor there exists two vastly different ways of laughing at it. One involves empathizing with the character and the other involves belittling the character and laughing at their predicament.

Do you enjoy awkward humor, and if so why do you find it funny?


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