In-Yer-Face: A Study of Unsettling British TV Comedy, Critical Discomfort and Public Offence
Abstract: In this essay I explore contemporary British TV comedy that unsettles and offends its audience by pushing humour to its very outer limits. Attempts to breach decorum and provoke the reader/audience is not a new phenomenon, and by looking at the Modernist rejection of bourgeois values I try to contextualise this fascination with transgression and provocation. The British writer and director Chris Morris (The Day Today, Brass Eye, Jam, Four Lions) has continously pushed the limits of humour in his many TV-shows, and has consequently caused extreme outrage and offence in Britain. To understand where this offence comes from, and why a humorous mode of expression is unacceptable when discussing serious and sensitive subject matters, I trace back the historical dismissal of comedy in Western academia. The rediscovery of Mikhail Bakthin’s theories of Medieval carnivals will be discussed so as to re-evaluate comedy and view it in new and challenging ways.
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