Not too long ago, cringe comedy was not nearly as popular as it is now. It was the invention of the internet that gave cringe comedy it’s biggest medium. It allows people to laugh at extremely awkward social interactions without actually having to participate in it. Cringe comedy gives the audience a perspective of superiority. Take away that perspective, and it’s just cringe. It’s why in prank videos people who are oblivious to the situation they’re in is actually a prank don’t laugh. It’s not until the situation is revealed as a prank that they begin to laugh. They feel superior to their past self, who was too stupid to recognize that it was a prank. The viewers are already “in” on it.
I’m not saying that cringe comedy wouldn’t exist without the internet. Cringe comedy doesn’t need the internet. What cringe needs is some separation from the actual happening for it to be funny. That separation can be simply time. Take an awkward situation, like touching hands with someone at a supermarket , and give it time (such as 3 seconds) and a distance away from that person (preferably out of sight), and you may start laughing. Also, movies and other entertainment used cringe comedy. I’m saying that things like youtube makes it easy to compile many cringe interactions.
Although I’m not a fan of youtube prankers, I’ve attached a video of a youtuber who is quite possibly the best at keeping a straight face while in interactions that would make a sane person cringe.