The Universal Language of Comedy Pt. 1

It’s currently essay season at school and I need a laugh. What? You, too?

I have a hard time believing The Office has been off the air for almost a year. I actually got into the series because my brother-in-law introduced it to my family one evening. Oddly enough, the two characters that maintained my interest in the series were not Jim and Pam or Jim and Dwight, but rather Meredith Palmer and Stanley Hudson. I was shocked by their sense of humour, but also charmed by their mundane lives. Years later, I realized that’s the entire reason why the show works: comedy enlivens something as simple as an office that sells paper.

Maybe I do live under a rock, but I had no clue The Office was adapted from a British television show by the same name until a few years ago. Admittedly, I have never watched the version with Ricky Gervais at the helm of the operation. Various friends have attempted to compare the two for me and the consensus seemed to be that the British version is heavier in terms of pathos — in other words, audiences are provoked to feel pity for the characters moreso than the characters in the American version. In my opinion, that is too devastating for American audiences still believing in the capitalist “American Dream”, so it’s likely a good thing that aspect of the show was lost in translation. The comedy, although British and American humour are different, remained in tact and that speaks to the universality of the genre.

A case example of the importance of comedy at the core of the American show is through the character development of Jim Halpert. Evidently the British character, Tim Canterbury, are complete opposites because it is more obvious that Tim is obviously discontented with his job and attempts to change it. This aspect of the Jim character is exemplified by his desire to leave Dunder Mifflin to work for Athlead in Philadelphia away from Pam and his family. In the end, Jim realizes how much he misses and loves his mundane job because of the pranks he plays on Dwight and his coworkers—as well as the perks of working with his wife. Essentially, Jim learns success is a hollow experience without comedic relief.

The British version of the show realized the importance of laughing at life’s pitiful situations and the American series took the concept and ran with it. I think The Office is the perfect way to show the importance of comedy in our daily lives and it’s the best way to wind down after a long day. In fact, I think I’ll go watch Meredith catch her hair on fire now. Stay tuned for my next blog in which I will be analyzing the universal language of comedy between an American adaptation of a British film. Until then…


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