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Cult British TV comedyFrom Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville$
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Leon Hunt

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719083778

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719083778.001.0001

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Are you sitting uncomfortably? From ‘cringe’ to ‘dark’ comedy

Are you sitting uncomfortably? From ‘cringe’ to ‘dark’ comedy

(p.165) 7 Are you sitting uncomfortably? From ‘cringe’ to ‘dark’ comedy
Cult British TV comedy

Leon Hunt

Manchester University Press

In 2002, Radio Times wondered whether comedy was ‘the new drama’ as it considered a range of shows that were ‘frequently bleak and often despairing, filled with unsympathetic characters’ setting them up in contrast with ‘cheery time-passers’. Two labels circulated in relation to these uncomfortable comedies. The ‘Comedy of Cringe’ pushed embarrassment (often prompted by inappropriate behaviour) to an almost unbearable level, while ‘Dark comedy’ also also pushed material in a more disturbing direction. This chapter locates these programmes within longer traditions of ‘black comedy’ and the tragi-comic, including Pinter’s ‘comedy of menace’ and Joe Orton’s wilful bad taste. It also applies theories of the grotesque to disturbing or horror-themed comedy. It examines a range of programmes and artists, including The Office, Peep Show, The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville, and the work of Julia Davis.

Keywords:   Dark comedy, Cringe comedy, ‘comedy of menace’, Bad taste, ‘Black comedy’, The grotesque

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