Leon Hunt
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From ‘cringe’ to ‘dark’ comedy
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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.

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Cult British TV comedy

From Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville


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