Gary Cassidy
Search for other papers by Gary Cassidy in
Current site
Google Scholar
Performing laughter in Friends
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

This chapter examines the relationship between issues concerning substance and style in relation to acting, specifically, the performance of laughing. It considers the significance of an act that is widely considered to be involuntary, spontaneous and authentic – thus, substantive – but that, in the context of performance, is marked by planning and technical execution – thus becoming a matter of style. The chapter begins by outlining the critical terrain, setting up the argument that the substantive event of laughter depends, in the context of screen fiction, on the stylistic act. It then moves on to its main case study, namely the sitcom Friends. Specifically, it explores the scene in Series 5, Episode 2 in which Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) laughs after confessing to a recently married Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) that she still loves him. Through in-depth close analysis of Aniston’s and Schwimmer’s performance choices, the chapter unpicks the different layers (both character and actor) that frame the laughter. It demonstrates that Aniston’s is unconvincing laughter that appears self-conscious and not properly embodied, which is contrasted with Schwimmer’s performance choices. As the chapter argues, this is not a failure of performance by Aniston, but actually a deliberate acting choice, as she is using this unconvincing laughter as a tool for her character to manage the awkward moment and to convey her character’s embarrassment and emotional vulnerability. With a successful performance by the actor of an unsuccessful performance by the character, Aniston also adds a reflexive quality to the scene, which aids the characterisation.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

All of MUP's digital content including Open Access books and journals is now available on manchesterhive.


Substance / style

Moments in television


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 139 92 17
Full Text Views 6 1 0
PDF Downloads 12 2 0