Shedding Light on Dark Comedy: Humour and Aesthetics in British Dark Comedy Television

Collings, Rebecca (2015) Shedding Light on Dark Comedy: Humour and Aesthetics in British Dark Comedy Television. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of 2015CollingsRLPhDredacted.pdf]
Download (1MB) | Preview


The term ‘dark comedy’ is used by audiences, producers and academics with reference to an array of disparate texts, yet attempts to actually define it perpetuate a sense of confusion and contradiction. This suggests that although there is a kind of comedy that is common enough to be widely noted, and different enough from other types to require separation, how and why this difference can be perceived could be better understood. Accordingly, I investigate what is enabling the recognition and distinction in respect of British dark comedy programmes, and use this as a basis for considering how this type of comedy works.
I argue that the programmes may be distinguished primarily by aesthetic features, placing their rise on British television in a broader context of aesthetic trends towards a display of visual detail, spectacle, and excess that puts the private and the taboo on greater show. Using the theories of Freud, Bakhtin, and Bergson about taboo, the uncanny, the grotesque, and the appearance of mechanical actions in humans, I examine in detail examples of British comedy television programmes that are typically referred to as ‘dark’, demonstrating their consistent depiction of subjects that are often repressed or avoided, particularly those around which taboo restrictions and prohibitions have evolved (such as violence and death, illness, and transgressive sexuality). These areas are strongly linked with the body and physicality, and are also ones which occasion negative feelings of unease and denial that are connected to concerns about mental and corporeal fragility and fallibility.
I conclude therefore that dark comedies provide a space where viewers may confront and ultimately minimise fears surrounding the human condition, enabling a ‘safe’ exploration of them that can be enjoyed as humorous.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Users 7376 not found.
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2016 09:30
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2016 08:22


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item