Situational comedies focus on characters who contend with a series of humorous situations. In television, these situations change from episode to episode. The first examples of sitcoms were radio programs popular in the mid-1900s. Sometimes, sitcoms are recorded in front of a live studio audience in film and television. On other occasions, a laugh track is superimposed over the episodes, ensuring that the shows remain lighthearted and entertaining.
Explore Situational Comedy
Situational Comedy Definition
This type of comedy is most commonly used in television shows. Despite this, there are a few examples of novels that utilize situational comedy as well. These can be explored below.
Other types of comedy that can be found in film, television, and literature include:
- Satire: something is criticized, parodied, or made fun of with the purpose of changing it. This might be in regard to a societal norm, law, or an individual’s actions.
- Dark Comedy: also known as gallows humor or black comedy. These stories use something that’s usually scary, like war, to make the audience laugh. This is usually done by making fun of that topic or depicting it in an amusing light.
- Dramatic Irony: with dramatic irony, the humor comes from the fact that the audience knows something that the characters in a televisions show, film or play don’t know. This means that jokes made at one character’s expense are extra amusing. The adenine feels “in on the joke” when other people in the story aren’t.
- Farce: a comic piece that uses dramatic and improbable situations to create amusing scenarios.
Any or all of these types of comedy could also be found in situational comedies.
Examples of Situational Comedy in Literature
Below, readers can explore a few examples of novels that exhibit the characteristics of situational comedies. While these books may not be marketed explicitly as sitcoms, they utilize many of the same elements.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
The Wedding Date is a novel that fuses comedy with romance—two of the primary features of situational comedies. It begins as most romantic comedies do, with a chance meeting between two people. Here is a quote:
Just because their standards are low does not mean that we should lower ours.” Maddie backed into the parking spot on a side street that they’d found after ten minutes of circling. “And why do you care about your cleavage? What happened to ‘If you’ve got them, flaunt them’?
The main character Alexis Monroe agrees to go to a wedding with a guy who she’s only briefly met in an elevator. The two have more fun than expected and can’t stop thinking about one another. The unusual situation in which these two characters meet and the various events that bring them back together again are evocative of the elements of situational comedies.
Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang
Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang is another humorous novel. It focuses on a Chinese immigrant family who lost their money and embarked on a road trip. Despite the characters’ flaws, they are impossible to dislike. Here is a quote:
So, the thing is, my dad, the immigrant, is really, really disappointed that I have an allergy. A peanut allergy. Because immigrants do not believe in allergies. I swear to God, ask any brown person with an accent that you see and they’ll tell you that allergies are some New World shit.
As they navigate their new poverty, the Wangs come together as a family in a way they hadn’t thought possible before.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles You was published in 2010 and focuses on Charles Yu, a time travel technician. The book includes features of several genres, including sitcoms and science-fiction. Charles spends most of the novel trying to figure out where his father (the inventor of time travel) disappeared to. Here is a quote:
Sometimes when I’m brushing my teeth, I’ll look at the mirror and I swear my reflection seems kind of disappointed. I realized a couple of years ago that not only am I not super-skilled at anything, I’m not even particularly good at being myself.
This book has been described as “razor-sharp, hilarious, and touching.”
Situational comedies, or sitcoms, include a successive series of outrageous events that are meant to make readers or viewers laugh. Often, the characters in sitcoms are forced to deal with a strange situation that challenges their relationships and even their understanding of the world. Through all of this, the writer or producer maintains a lighthearted tone.
Situational comedies are funny because the characters become trapped in difficult situations that should strike the reader as unusual and interesting. Their unique personalities will likely collide with one another in a way that brings their best and worst qualities to the surface.
Some of the best situational comedies on television include Friends, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Community, Black Books, Arrested Development, and The IT Crowd. Each of these shows includes the same characters from episode to episode.
The earliest situational comedies were radio programs. But, the first television sitcom is generally considered to be Mary Kay and Johnny, which ran from 1946 to 1947 in the UK.
Related Literary Terms
- Comedy: a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
- Bildungsroman: a literary genre that focuses on coming of age stories, following a character’s progression towards adulthood.
- Chick Lit: a genre of literature that focuses on female protagonists. These stories are usually targeted at younger women and are described as “popular fiction.”
- Chronicle: an account of events that occurs in the order that they happened in. The term is usually associated with historical events.
- Drama: a mode of storytelling that uses dialogue and performance. It’s one of several important literary genres that authors engage with.
- Lampoon: a type of satire in which a person or thing is attacked unjustly. They can be found in prose and verse.
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- Watch: Top 20 Greatest Sitcoms of All Time