By “agony” here I’m talking about mental anguish than can often manifest itself physically. I experience two chief ones when watching comedies. And by comedies I mean sitcoms.
Type One: Gervaisian
It began in The Office and it went through to Extras and then (or before?) it became the basis for the U.S. Office. Maybe there’s a more general term for this. Maybe it predates Gervais/Merchant. But you know what I’m talking about, those moments when David Brent’s/Michael Scott’s idiocies, ignorance, or delusions of grandeur are exposed to public scrutiny (other characters’ and ours). So like the time when David begins telling his “black man’s cock” joke and then a black man walks up. Or Scott’s Tots finally learning the truth. When I laugh at these moments, it’s always to alleviate intense discomfort. N has this great “Oh God!” he yells to indicate the degree of agony we’re both experiencing. It goes far beyond mild embarrassment. It’s a big part of what makes these shows so attractive, that we can be forced so fully to this weird pain. And that we can revel in it and laugh.
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