My mum used to like to tell a story about a mishap she and her younger sister had during the war (WWII). They decided to go to the pictures one evening and because it was the blackout and there were no street lights they tumbled into a hole left by some workmen who had not covered it when they finished work. Neither of them were hurt and once they got out of the hole both seemed to regard it as a funny incident. Certainly the story was retold many times over the next forty years. Life really is a sitcom at times. My grandmother had her share of mishaps which mum always found funny. Falling off an embankment and getting stuck in a door in her nightie are two I recall being told about. When her father told her off for laughing she’d point out that if you saw someone do the same thing in a film you would laugh at it. These were the days of Laurel and Hardy and similar films with a lot of slapstick of course.
I can understand this. I think I must have inherited bad coordination from my grandmother. When I fall over or have some klutzy episode Naomi always laughs herself silly just as I laughed when she once slipped on a banana skin when we were out. It is not that we are laughing at another’s misfortune or that we don’t care if they are hurt. It just looks funny or the situation is funny.
Everyone’s sense of humour is different. David used to like “Hogan’s Heroes”, Naomi and I like “Dad’s Army” but our mum didn’t like either of them; maybe it was too soon after the war for her to find them funny or maybe the situations just didn’t tickle her funny bone. Many TV sitcoms received the thumbs down from her because they were “Just plain stupid”.
In the eighties and nineties two popular sitcoms in Australia were “Acropolis Now” and “Allo Allo” . The first, an Australian show, was a Greek Australian sitcom, the second another WWII based sitcom set in France . Our European born workmates loved both of them as much as the Aussies did and were not offended by the stereotypes at all. Mum would have said both shows were just plain stupid.
Sometimes we laugh at things because we, or people we know, have been in similar situations. The popular Australian sitcom Rosehaven is full of such awkward humour. Frankly I watch the show because it was filmed in Tasmanian towns and I like location spotting but the lead character Daniel, played by Luke McGregor, is so awkward that I often have to look away in embarrassment. I don’t really find it funny. I keep hoping he’ll get over being such a doofus because I am sympathetic towards the character.
One last comment; if the producers feel the need to include canned laughter in a TV show it probably isn’t that funny. I don’t need to be told when to laugh.