We all have a favorite sitcom and the reason why it’s our favorite is because we find it relateable to our own lives. My personal favorite sitcom is “Friends.” Not only does it tickle my funny bone, but it has a diverse character set up and includes episodes about real life situations and how these characters go about dealing with them. In my own opinion, I believe that what makes a great sitcom is a killer script, great characters that have different personalities, and real life instances/problems as well as both good and bad ways of solving them. In “Friends” there are multiple occasions where Ross (played by David Schwimmer) and Rachel (played by Jennifer Aniston) get together and break up because something that the other did and we, the audience, are constantly yelling at them as to why they messed up. The website Parent.co has a fantastic article that shows some of the best life lessons Friends has to offer, as well as providing some examples from episodes of the show. Not to mention their intro theme song is all about how they’ll be there for their friends because they know their friend will be there for them too.
One episode of “Friends” that I will touch on is called “The Last One: Part 1,” which is the first part of the season 10 finale and was one of the last episodes to air. This episode (along with Part 2) has the comedy of Chandler (played by Matthew Perry) freaking out as the woman who he and Monica (played by Courteney Cox) are adopting a baby from goes into labor early. It has the stress of Ross trying to stop Rachel from going to Paris because he doesn’t want to give up their love, but ends up going to the wrong airport with Pheobe (played by Lisa Kudrow.) Then of course Joey (played by Matt LeBlanc) does one of his “Joey” antics by giving Monica and Chandler a baby duck and chick as a going away present since the two are moving out of their memorable apartment into a house to raise their family. This memorable group of friends go through the struggle of life through out all ten seasons and then it all comes to a close with in the last two episodes. It shows the love that all these friends share with one another, the sadness of watching your best friend moving away so they can live their life, the satisfaction of the on and off again couple finally realizing that they’re meant to be, and so much more. This show brought together a community of people who watched and loved every single episode. So any catch phrases and funny jokes came from this show, such as when Monica asks Pheobe if she has a plan and Pheobe responds with “I don’t even have a ‘Pl.'”
Relate ability, comedy, heart warming scenes, and a chicken and a duck, all brilliant material for a great sitcom. Well, maybe a chicken and a duck aren’t necessary, but they’re still cute. Friend’s brings to life all of these in such a magical way. This show has made millions of people laugh, cry, sit on the edge of their seat, and yell at their T.V. So what in turn makes a Sitcom crash and burn? A great website called Popmatters explains as to why some shows get cancelled, using a show called “dads” as an example. They ask questions such as why if a show is animated and has racist or sexist jokes, they are ok, but considered wrong in shows with real people. While I personally believe that using any kind of easy joke to get a quick laugh doesn’t belong in a sitcom with real actors, I do think that if people are going to over look them in animated ones then they shouldn’t be complaining about them when it comes to shows with real actors. In the end though, having sexist and racist jokes will turn away a good amount of viewers in the long run because a lot of people find them to be rude and not funny, it also prevents a younger audience from watching because their parents don’t like the show’s content.
So we have an amazing example of a successful sitcom that uses all the right materials, as well as an example of a sitcom that didn’t do well and why. Even if a sitcom is successful though, people don’t always laugh at everything that goes on. You’ve probably been watching something where a joke would be told or something happened and the studio audience pretty much busts a gut laughing, but all you do is smile and maybe let out a soft chuckle. So why do we laugh at somethings and not at others? Why/what makes us laugh?
As to why we laugh at some things, and not others, well that’s another question that can’t really be answered 100% and is more or less answered with speculations. We all have different personalities, different out looks on life, so my own assumption would be that these differences are what takes a part in what our brain finds funny. For instance, if you’re a caring person who’s always making sure people are ok, you probably don’t find videos of people getting injured funny, but, if you’re someone who has been injured before, perhaps even broke a bone before, you may find this being relateable and there fore being funny. Professor Sophia Scott gives an example, in The Times from London, England, that “You laugh much more when you’re with other people (…) and you’ll laugh even more when you’re with people you like — or whom you would like to like you.” So if you’re talking to your partner or someone you hope to be your partner one day, if they say something you know is a joke but isn’t funny you’ll most likely still laugh. Laughter has also proven to be a way to release stress or save ourselves from an awkward situation. I’m sure we’ve all been with a person who makes a rather inappropriate joke that just isn’t funny and makes the situation awkward, so we let out a little chuckle or fake laugh to ease the tension. Also, when we’re laughing we just simply feel good. Professor Scott says that laughter is “the body’s natural, feel-good chemicals.” For instance, if you’re feeling down in the dumps and your friend tells you an inside joke to make you laugh, you almost instantly feel better. So perhaps laughter is just a way of keeping people from being sad all the time. Perhaps it’s an evolution we took over to keep us out of awkward situations and to keep us from building up stress and not having a way to release it except through violence. The exact reason why our brain has developed this thing called “laughter” can’t really be answered, but it can most definitely be enjoyed.
As for what laughter is, well that goes back to our ancestors in the ape community. When we tickle them or do something they find “funny,” rather than laugh they make a sort of panting sound, as said by Robert Provine on NBCnews.com. He talks about how the brain just simply tells us when we want to laugh, how when we’re tickled, asked some kind of question, or simply see something, it triggers out brain to say “that’s funny, now laugh.” He also goes to explain that “We ( ) know that laughter is a message we send to other people.” We don’t really laugh when we’re on our own, if we find something funny we tend to just breath air out of our nose a little faster than usual, this is because when we’re alone we don’t have anyone to communicate with. I don’t know about all of you, but personally I have around four to six different laughs. I always wondered why I laugh differently towards certain things and people, and after reading Provine’s article I’ve come to make my own speculation off his ideas. Laughter is a way of communication. Infants only communicate with two sounds, laughing and crying, three if you count random screaming. When they laugh we know that we are making them happy and they are having a good time. As to why we have different laughs, well each laugh conveys a different message. The full hearted, and usually loud, laughter is how we say “that’s really funny and I enjoy what you just said/did.” The light chuckle can either say “that’s very cute and funny in an adorable way” or “what you just said makes me uncomfortable but I don’t want to upset you for fear of what you might say next.” The chipmunk type laughter, which is usually a fake laugh, tends to say “wow that was a really bad joke but I think you’re super cute so I’m going to laugh.” The laugh where you can only making squeaking noises as you try to catch your breath tends to say “Omg you’re/that was so funny, I really enjoyed that and I will probably try to retell that joke to my other friends.” Finally, the silent laugh where all you can do it clap your hands like a seal and try to catch your breath says “I am literally dying right now, busting a gut at what you just said, and I don’t know if it’s because I like you, it was really funny, or I’m just super tired.”
People who write sitcoms have to keep all of this in mind while also trying to find something that people will genuinely enjoy. More or less though, people want to laugh, we as humans love to laugh because it makes us feel good. Smiling and laughing can help us get through tough times, and it can even help when we’re doing work. We generally work better when we have a happy mind set and feel relaxed.
Overall I am very ecstatic with how my project came about. I’ve kept a bit of my original idea of sitcoms and why we enjoy watching them, but I took a turn more towards what laughter is and why we have it which I really enjoyed considering and talking about. I wouldn’t change the direction I went in if I had a time turner and could go back to the beginning of this project, I’ve learned so much from it and have realized so much about myself as to why I laugh a lot at some things and not others. I found success in learning about laughter and the many ideas as to why the body adapted it and what it’s used for.
“Friends,” the sitcom, was my original inspiration. It’s a show I grew up watching and continue to watch today, along with other sitcoms that help me grow as a person and in talent. Robert Provine’s article on NBC news was what turned my project around and made it into what I’ve come to love now. A couple of sources and articles have strengthened the idea that laughter (even just a smile) can help improve a person’s mood. Social experiments proved that getting with groups of people who go through similar experiments or are in similar states of mind and getting them to do happy exercises and laugh and smile helps to improve their mood and depressed states. Some even go to question if laughter is a type of communication as well since humans have different types of laughter and even animas have some form of laughter. Hopefully the combination of resources and my own speculations and thoughts can help someone else one day write about what they think the purpose of laughter is and why humans have adapted this bodily function.
I would say the moment I read that laughter is possibly a type of communication is where my project officially took off. That was the point I started looking up what causes laughter, what laughter is, the effects laughter has on the body, etc. I found more sources that explained why people found some things funny but not others, being the relatability factor for the most part when it comes to sitcoms, but can depend on the person if it’s a joke or funny story. I was curious as to what laughter was and if it was silent communication between people and animals. It was intriguing to me that people could possibly be communicating through our laughter and not even know about it. I started paying attention to how I laugh with certain people and towards certain things and it’s truly made me believe that when we laugh we are communicating in a way that even we don’t quite grasp or understand right away. There’s also the factor about how laughing can help people with depression and even a smile can change someone’s sad mood to a happy one. The fact that smiling and laughing emits something in the brain that making us feel happier is surprising in so many ways. It seems impossible that just the simple act of laughing and smiling can change how a person feels, that it can stimulate the brain in a way that makes it feel happy. Also, the fact that the body has adapted this strange action of smiling and laughing is quite interesting.
There is probably a way to end my topic in a smooth way but I simply don’t have enough knowledge or just don’t have the right vocabulary to do so myself. There are so many speculations I have and so many questions I want to try to answer and so many more aspects about laughter I want to talk about. I am happy with the knowledge I have found and gained. I am content with not having a true ending to this because in the end, there is never a true ending to anything in my opinion. There’s always room to expand, to learn more, to make it better. There is always more and I am happy knowing I will never know everything.
1. Provine, Robert. “A Big Mystery: why do we Laugh?” NBCNews. Msnbc. 14/12/03. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3077386/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/big-mystery-why-do-we-laugh/ 11/04/17.
2. Sanes, Ken. “Situation Comedies And the Liberating Power of Sadism.” Transparencynow. Ken Sanes. http://www.transparencynow.com/sitcom.htm 11/04/17.
3. Scott, Sophie. “Are you having a laugh? Well this is why…” Business Insights: Essential. The Times. 4/07/12. http://bi.galegroup.com.colum.idm.oclc.org/essentials/article/GALE%7CA295215528?u=uiuc_columbia 11/4/17.
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