Leon Hunt
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Community and intimacy
From laugh track to commentary track
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This chapter examines the role of two types of affectivity mediated through sound that can be seen as helping to position the comedy fan as part of a particular kind of audience formation. Recorded laughter has played a long and important role in broadcast comedy, simulating ‘liveness’, providing cues for the viewer’s laughter and locating them within an electronic ‘community’. Recorded laughter, however, was until recently largely seen to be in decline, its absence a marker of quality, its presence seemingly a deliberate and significant choice as opposed to a default mode. The DVD commentary, on the other hand, offers what Thomas Doherty calls an ‘imaginary friendship’ between viewer and artist, not community but ‘a new order of intimacy’. This mediated intimacy takes on particular force in comedy – as a League of Gentlemen fan comments, ‘it’s like listening to a great private conversation between best friends’. The commentary might constitute a comic performance in its own right, one that rivals the ‘main feature’ as a source of entertainment. Even when the commentary works against this – The Mighty Boosh’s are more like hearing a joke from which one has been excluded – the listener may still long for this affective inclusion. This chapter, then, examines these two technologically mediated structures of feeling – community and intimacy.

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Cult British TV comedy

From Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville

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