The Resurgence of Reality-Based Comedy

Rob King suggests that shows like The Office are part of a ‘surfeit of “comedy verité”’, which sees television shows mimic ‘docusoaps’ by creating ‘… reality-based pleasures [that] have themselves been subject to a continued process of comedification that would appropriate them to reproducible formulas’ [1]. These kinds of shows recall the style of ‘What Happened’ films from early cinema, which involved the camera capturing a ‘chance comic moment to which the viewer becomes privy’ [2].

The Office (US 2005-2013)

‘Liza Koshy annoying A-list celebrities for 2 minutes straight (Ariana Grande, Cardi B, Kylie Jenner)’ [3] is part of a viral trend that takes the editing style of these television ‘docusoaps’ and manipulates it to fit a new platform; YouTube. The Koshy clip is funny primarily because of the juxtaposition between the dialogue spoken by the people onscreen and the text that the filmmaker has inserted as they speak. The footage is ‘reality-based’ in that it is taken from real interviews, interactions and pre-existing YouTube videos, but it is comedified by the editing.

Like other videos of this style, the editing involves cutting the clips into short bursts, inserting and removing background music, adding sudden zooms and tight-frames, incorporating sound effects from popular memes, and placing funny text onscreen in-synchronisation with dialogue in the video. The inserted text creates an ‘in-joke’ between the filmmaker and the audience because they are able to see what the celebrities ‘really’ think.

Screenshot from Koshy Video

This video highlights King’s idea that there is a cyclical transposition of comedy that ‘…insists on cinema as a medium of reproduction for extrapolating pre-established genres and traditions of comedy’ [4] because it appropriates stylistic conventions from television ‘docusoaps’ and early cinema ‘What Happened’ films.

 

Sources

[1] Rob King, ‘Laughter in an Ungoverned Sphere; Actuality Humor in Early Cinema and Web 2.0’ in New Silent Cinema, edited by Katherine Groo & Paul Flaig (New York: Routledge, 2015), 304.

[2] Ibid, 302.

[3] https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Dhp6_KPSWlE

[4] Rob King, ‘Laughter in an Ungoverned Sphere; Actuality Humor in Early Cinema and Web 2.0’ in New Silent Cinema, edited by Katherine Groo & Paul Flaig (New York: Routledge, 2015), 301.

One comment

  1. I really liked how you tied together scenes and experiences from “The Office” and related them to your original clip. The explanation of editing techniques was also eloquently done and made me examine the footage in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise.

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