everyone thinks they are funny but it’s not actually always true. humor is about seeing and pointing out connections nobody else sees. it’s definitely a skill which only some people have. but has it also ever occurred to you that the type of comedy popular in different cultures can vary?
i think that it’s an interesting observation that when i first came to america, i didn’t understand american comedy at all. i saw shows like archer, south park and family guy and didn’t laugh.
after the end of my second year here and after watching many different comedy shows here, i think i’m finally starting to appreciate, understand it and maybe even laugh along.
i’ll explain slightly the humor i’m used to from my upbringing in hong kong:
hong kong humor is silly. it’s like japanese game show humor. people doing very silly and stupid things. but this type of humor is never offensive and usually self-deprecating. think jackie chan style comedy.
(not very related, but i also realize my jokes are very much the same style, self-deprecating or making fun of other people, but always innocuous. i’m slowly getting used to american-style humor and adding it to my arsenal.)
i think there’s a larger range for american comedy but in general, you can separate it into comedies which are parodying something and those that aren’t.
i think shows like the bill cosby show, fresh prince of bel air, how i met your mother, friends and big bang fall into the later group.
these shows usually have a little story each episode, but the funny part isn’t necessarily the plot itself, but the behavior of the characters and the dynamics between them.
i guess it’s also not surprising that the relatively low barrier to understanding the humor allows these shows to be popular even in places outside of america. many of my brother’s friends really enjoy how i met your mother and big bang theory.
then there’s parodying ones, the politically, racially, sexually, offensive shows.
these types of comedies usually put the characters into some very ridiculous situations.
a good example of this is in sunny where a Israeli business man who owns the property next door also claims that he owns a part of frank’s bar. the other four characters decide to make a jihad video and also light the property next door on fire (by mistake) and the cops find the jihad video which charlie somehow left by mistake while running away from the fire.
at first i thought they were pretty ridiculous and could not understand at all why south park was funny. but slowly i understood that the humor was probably not so much the ridiculous situation as it is the parodying itself. it’s funny because people in real life who do these type of things is akin to these characters doing such ridiculous things.
in each episode, these characters get themselves into incredibly shitty situations, usually by accident, suffer a lot of harm before somehow making it in one piece.
i guess i should also include some of these talk shows and mockumentaries that are very popular these days.
examples: daily show with john steward, the colbert report, curb your enthusiasm.
this is just a very crude classification.
there’s no good way to cleanly categorize comedy shows. without situation, there is no personality to be demonstrated. every show is a combination of both. what you like really just depends on which direction the scales tip.