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Old 07-17-2019, 03:59 PM
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Comedies that laugh at themselves


Whether itís a three camera sitcom with a laugh track or a one camera comedy presumably the characters are supposed to be saying funny things. But most of the time no one within the show reacts with laughter. To the characters they look like they are in the middle of a serious drama.

Are there any comedies where the characters react to jokes or funny situations with laughter?
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:54 PM
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As I recall, occasionally Elaine would react (sometimes sarcastically) when Jerry said something funny.

Example
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:00 PM
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I don't think this is what you mean exactly, but the cast of the Carol Burnett Show sure enjoyed each other's jokes very openly, but that's more breaking the fourth wall than characters in character acknowledging jokes I think?

Last edited by Helmut Doork; 07-17-2019 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
Whether itís a three camera sitcom with a laugh track or a one camera comedy presumably the characters are supposed to be saying funny things. But most of the time no one within the show reacts with laughter.
Exception: The Everybody Laughs Ending
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:11 PM
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One of the keys to humor is that the characters aren't supposed to know they're being funny. See every Monty Python sketch ever. Also, the Three Stooges never thought they were anything more than hard-working guys looking to make an honest day's pay.

George Burns broke character to comment on how absurd the plots were on the old George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. And the Marx Brothers, particularly Groucho, were sui generis. And sometimes you'll see a reaction shot of a character laughing at something one of the other characters is doing.Here's a particularly good one from Big Bang Theory.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:52 PM
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One of the keys to humor is that the characters aren't supposed to know they're being funny. See every Monty Python sketch ever. Also, the Three Stooges never thought they were anything more than hard-working guys looking to make an honest day's pay.
Yes I realize this. Iíve been a human most of my life. I was interested in examples that go against the grain.

Elaine in Seinfeld is a good example.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:54 PM
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One of the keys to humor is that the characters aren't supposed to know they're being funny.
Except in a lot of sitcoms, there's usually a designated "funny" character, which all the other characters acknowledge is the "funny" one. Like Chandler in Friends.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:01 PM
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IIRC, wasnít this pretty much a go-to move on The Dick Van Dyke Show? As in, one of the castmembers would say something funny, and someone else would often enough react by laughing, because, hey, that was the point, right? Folks in the real world talk like that to get a laugh, and ó well, it works on these characters likewise.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:16 PM
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I don't think this is what you mean exactly, but the cast of the Carol Burnett Show sure enjoyed each other's jokes very openly, but that's more breaking the fourth wall than characters in character acknowledging jokes I think?
This reminded me of an interview I saw or read with Mark Linn-Baker from Perfect Strangers. He met Harvey Korman and told him what a fan of the Carol Burnett Show he was. In fact, when one of the characters cracked up on the show, he'd want to leave it in.

Korman said that no, they shouldn't do that. The two shows are completely different and what works live does not work on a standard sitcom.

I was never a big fan of the show but I do remember Bronson Pinchot doing one of his routines with Linn-Baker fighting to stifle a laugh. Not sure if the show was still on after this meeting or if it changed the show to not show real reactions.

This might not quite fit what the OP is talking about. When I get a chance, I'll see if I can find that interview.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by The Other Waldo Pepper View Post
IIRC, wasn’t this pretty much a go-to move on The Dick Van Dyke Show? As in, one of the castmembers would say something funny, and someone else would often enough react by laughing, because, hey, that was the point, right? Folks in the real world talk like that to get a laugh, and — well, it works on these characters likewise.
Buddy and Sally got laughs because they were comedy writers. It was their job in the show to make the other characters laugh.

Rob was a comedy writer too, but he could never have gotten away with making a lot of wisecracks because he was also an authority figure. We may have laughed at the things he did because they were so silly, but the other characters normally wouldn't. It would have undermined his persona as an island of relative sanity surrounded by non-stop hilarity.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:40 PM
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It's interesting to compare the early Inspector Clouseau movies with the ones that came later. In A Shot in the Dark, Elke Sommer does an admirable job stifling her laughter when she's in Clouseau's office. In Return of the Pink Panther, Catherine Schell doesn't even try not to laugh when he shows up at her front door "to inspect the feune."

The effect was completely different, and the second was nowhere near as funny as the first. When someone's a bumbling idiot, you're either appalled or (more likely) you're embarrassed and try to pretend you didn't see anything. You don't laugh openly at them.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:51 PM
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I love how The Simpsons parodied that trope in "Last Exit to Springfield":

The Simpson family is gathered around the dentist's chair as Lisa has finally gotten her braces now that the union has won back their dental plan.

Lisa: "And that's the tooth."
Everyone laughs uproariously, way more than expected for such a lame pun.
Orthodontist: "Oops, I left the gas on."
Everyone continues laughing.
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Old 07-17-2019, 07:04 PM
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I love how The Simpsons parodied that trope in "Last Exit to Springfield":

The Simpson family is gathered around the dentist's chair as Lisa has finally gotten her braces now that the union has won back their dental plan.

Lisa: "And that's the tooth."
Everyone laughs uproariously, way more than expected for such a lame pun.
Orthodontist: "Oops, I left the gas on."
Everyone continues laughing.
Another good example from Family Guy:

https://youtu.be/ddq9XfV-moc?t=92
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Old 07-17-2019, 07:22 PM
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I love how The Simpsons parodied that trope in "Last Exit to Springfield":
That's actually the first example I thought of, and the one that helped me find the entry on TVTropes.
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Old 07-17-2019, 07:31 PM
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MASH. Hawkeye often laughs at the absurdity of the situation, in a "laugh so I don't cry" sort of way or laughs at Frank's humiliation. The characters laugh at each other's pranks and wisecracks in at least some episodes. Sometimes a Hawkeye or BJ will drop a witticism, and the other will do a "I see what you did there" expression. I haven't seen the show in a long time but I think they did stuff like this pretty often
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Old 07-17-2019, 07:43 PM
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Red Skelton would crack up at his own jokes and make it work. He'd also laugh at other people's flubs and joke about people straying from the script.

Jack Benny would do the same thing.

Not quite the same, but at the end of Bananas, Howard Cowell is interviewing Felding Melish. As Woody Allen speaks, you can see Cosell hiding his face with his arms to keep from losing it.
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Old 07-17-2019, 07:46 PM
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MASH. Hawkeye often laughs at the absurdity of the situation, in a "laugh so I don't cry" sort of way or laughs at Frank's humiliation. The characters laugh at each other's pranks and wisecracks in at least some episodes. Sometimes a Hawkeye or BJ will drop a witticism, and the other will do a "I see what you did there" expression. I haven't seen the show in a long time but I think they did stuff like this pretty often
I guess MASH is one show where for the most part, characters are aware jokes are being made since most of the time, the characters are making jokes about the situation they are in.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:02 PM
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On The Honeymooners, Norton always laughs at his own jokes. Alice never laughs at hers (except maybe a bitter sneer). Ralph never thinks either of them are funny (because the jokes are usually at his expense).
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Old 07-18-2019, 05:11 AM
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A particularly fine example is from I'm Alan Partridge - the ones where he's living in the Travel Tavern (motel). One of Alan's regular interactions is with the staff member Sophie, played by Sally Phillips. Invariably he says something inadvertently funny at his expense, and she would begin laughing uncontrollably and have to leave the desk.

In the DVD commentary, which has Coogan playing Partridge in character, he maintains we are watching a dramatic reconstruction of his actual experience. He criticises Sophie as being a bad actor for continually corpsing (in case that's not a familiar term, it refers to an actor trying to not laugh when they have to be straight-faced - or dead, hence the term).
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Old 07-18-2019, 06:58 AM
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When watching The Big Bang Theory I notice that Kaley Cuoco often has trouble keeping a straight face. She's the Harvey Korman to Jim Parson's Tim Conway, so to speak.

In-show, they do seem to laugh at each other's jokes quite a bit.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:38 AM
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In-show, they do seem to laugh at each other's jokes quite a bit.
That's all I'm asking for in a TV show or movie: people acting like real people.

It's bothered me since... well, since I Love Lucy or Andy Griffith, I guess. In real life, if someone makes a funny comeback, everyone laughs. Apparently in The Television Dimension, the studio audience/laugh track people know when something's funny, but the characters have NO idea.

On almost every sitcom, you get the Set Up Line, followed by the Hilarious Zinger, and maybe a character reacts with a facial expression, but it's not at all like what happens with real people.

With every real person I know, it's Set Up Line, followed by the Hilarious Zinger, then everyone in the room cracks up. New person walks in, and everyone's talking at once: "You just missed it!" "Did you hear what Robbie said?" "Okay, so Chris walks in and Robbie says..." "You should've seen his face!" Then it gets recreated later, and built upon.

Trying not to laugh ("Corpsing" right?) at someone being funny is the opposite of how real people act. Real people are laughing with the joke-teller, and reacting to what they do/say. That's what I want on TV.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:40 AM
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Canadian comedians are best=)
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Old 07-18-2019, 09:20 AM
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That's all I'm asking for in a TV show or movie: people acting like real people.

It's bothered me since... well, since I Love Lucy or Andy Griffith, I guess. In real life, if someone makes a funny comeback, everyone laughs. Apparently in The Television Dimension, the studio audience/laugh track people know when something's funny, but the characters have NO idea.

On almost every sitcom, you get the Set Up Line, followed by the Hilarious Zinger, and maybe a character reacts with a facial expression, but it's not at all like what happens with real people.

With every real person I know, it's Set Up Line, followed by the Hilarious Zinger, then everyone in the room cracks up. New person walks in, and everyone's talking at once: "You just missed it!" "Did you hear what Robbie said?" "Okay, so Chris walks in and Robbie says..." "You should've seen his face!" Then it gets recreated later, and built upon.

Trying not to laugh ("Corpsing" right?) at someone being funny is the opposite of how real people act. Real people are laughing with the joke-teller, and reacting to what they do/say. That's what I want on TV.
This is a prime example of why realism is overrated.

People laugh harder at staged presentation when the characters are not laughing. Buster Keaton discovered this over a century ago: he was funnier when he didn't laugh. Laughing at other characters' jokes doesn't make the joke funnier; and it's disastrous if the audience doesn't think it's laugh-out-loud funny.

Yes, it would be more accurate. But it wouldn't make for good comedy. The purpose of a comedy is to be as funny as possible, not as accurate as possible.
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Old 07-18-2019, 11:54 AM
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This is a prime example of why realism is overrated.
Yes. "Having the characters act like real people" is relatively far down on a sitcom producer's list of prioritiesóbelow "being funny," "being entertaining," and "making the best possible use of the 22 minutes they have available to tell their story."
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Old 07-18-2019, 12:02 PM
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Modern sitcoms all sound to me like smart ass people trying to be funny at each other, and knowing what they are saying is a joke.
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Old 07-18-2019, 12:31 PM
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People laugh harder at staged presentation when the characters are not laughing.
As for why this is true: maybe it's because, since the character's lines and the other characters' responses to them are both scripted (presumably by the same people), this comes across as "laughing at your own jokes."
Quote:
This is generally considered a terrible trait for someone to have - there are plenty of phrases along the lines of "Nothing's worse than someone who laughs at their own jokes".
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Old 07-18-2019, 10:07 PM
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It's bothered me since... well, since I Love Lucy or Andy Griffith, I guess.
Disagree about those two examples. A lot of the exchanges between Lucy and Ricky seemed totally spontaneous and quite real for a husband and wife (ditto for Rob and Laura Petrie.) Of course, don't forget that Lucille Ball ordered the writers that no one was to make fun of Ricky but Lucy.

And how could anyone laugh at poor Barney Fife? Sure, he was pompous and incompetent. But he also tried so hard, and was a loyal friend to Andy and almost an uncle to Opie. You didn't laugh at Barney, you felt sorry for him.

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