Make ‘Em Laugh: A New Sitcom Humor for Millenials
Originally published November 27, 2012 on PopMatters, a online pop culture review.
My dad and I sat next to each other on the couch watching The Office (US version), his first taste of the series. I was home from college, and the first season had just come out on DVD. The year before, my roommates and I had crowded around our small dorm TV to watch each episode as it aired. After the show, we would mimic the lines we loved back to each other for a week—until the next episode gave us something new to laugh about.
“Dad, you’ll love this,” I had told him. “You work in an office. I bet it will crack you up!”
He agreed to give it a try, since he and I normally share a sense of humor.
We made it to episode 2, diversity day at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Who doesn’t remember the episode fondly? Mr. Brown (Larry Wilmore), an H.R. rep from Corporate, comes to the Scranton office to give “diversity training” because one of manager Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) co-workers reported Michael for offensive comments. Mr. Brown asks a volunteer to reenact the inciting event, a Chris Rock stand-up routine, to help the event come to a more positive end. But guess who volunteers? Yup, Michael—who then offends his co-workers again through the same act told in the same offensive way.
The rest of the episode continues like that, with Michael thwarting Mr. Brown’s efforts. Finally, the show ends with Mr. Brown forcing Michael to sign a legal document stating that Michael is sorry for his offensive statements and will not repeat them. But Michael, giggling, confides to the camera crew that he signed the document as “Daffy Duck.”
My dad sat quietly through the episode, hardly even chuckling, and as the credits rolled, I turned to him and asked, “So? What’d you think?”
He sighed, “Lizzy, I’m sorry, I just can’t watch it anymore.”
“Really? Why?” I said.
“It’s just too true. It seems ridiculous, but it’s too much like real life. I get this on a daily basis when I go into work. People are actually like that boss!” he said. I laughed.
“I wish I were joking,” he said. “I just don’t want to relive it when I get home. It’s not my idea of fun.”
That caught my attention. What was it that made my dad cringe? He said it was too real, too true—which was exactly the reason I found myself rolling.