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The context for this was a discussion on the American healthcare system, and how everything this particular person knew about it was based on episodes of Scrubs. The response was a pretty predictable “I’ve never seen this scrubs thing, but if it’s anything like everything else Hollywood put out it’s talking bollocks”. I’m paraphrasing here, but you can see the rough idea. He’d have put comedy dollar signs in the esses in Hollywood if it had any. (Incidentally: Stop doing that. If you’re typing “Micro$oft”, even in rants about how evil they are to free software? I don’t want you on our side. It’s the satirical equivalent of comic sans).

Anyway, I think that comedy is context, pretty much, and in order to have comedy, you need the comedic thing to work the wrong way, but – and this is the key – for the rest of the universe to be predictable. Unless you’re subverting, in which case you’re living on the edge, I salute you, and if you get it right you can have a cookie. The rest of you need teapots:

Because sitcoms generally take an accepted situation and place a surreal
teapot on it to focus the humour. The sureal teapot on a fractal
landscape of spinning vortexes and melting concepts is not inherantly
funny. The sureal teapot on an elephant has a context that it is out of.

In the case of Scrubs, the hospital, patients and outside world are the
frame of reference and thus the audience need to understand and connect
with it, it does not and should not act out of “character”. The characters
and eventual situations (mostly, in Scrubs, the characters) are the teapots.

(Mostly this is here because I’m forever losing bits of text I enjoyed writing in the depths of usenet)

  1. Or (and I’m paraphrasing badly because I can’t remember the original quote) “Humour is a sudden mental shift; when your mind gets shoved from one state to another suddenly” i.e. predicable content -> teapots.

    That, and timing of course.

  2. Sitcoms (TV and film in general really) often aren’t based on reality but on the constructed self-referential world of other shows. All lifts in films have escape hatches in the roof for example, and all computers can be hacked in minutes by the resident nerd etc.

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