Theories of laughter and the production of television comedy
In order to examine the context of entertainment (through studying the particular form of television situation comedy) it was felt necessary to review the literature referring to humour in general. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 look at contributions from the fields of psychology, philosophy, and sociology. Psychology has little to offer if an understanding of the mass media is sought; philosophy places man in society but concentrates on the individual perception of humour; ‘sociology’ confirms the useful concept of comedy as dealing with values and conventions. The audience may be asked to laugh at what is determined to be unacceptable behaviour in society, just as it may applaud correct ways of acting. Chapter 5 contains a discussion of approaches to the mass media and concludes that studies of production may be more relevant than studies of effects. Chapter 6 offers a perspective of the development of situation comedies, from music hail sketches through radio to television. The views of producers and writers of comedy are reported in Chapter 7; the major conclusion is that they are not free agents but work to provide entertainment as demanded by the television companies. Chapter 8 gives two approaches to the audience. An analysis of information about programmes suggests that major themes may be identified. An examination of the 'studio audience' brings the thesis back to its main drift - that laughter is social communication of an order above mere response to joking and comedy.