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Cringe comedy is a specific genre of comedy that derives humor from social awkwardness. The Cringe Channel describes it as a genre in which the intent is "to make the viewer uncomfortable rather than laugh". Often a cringe comedy will have an air of mockumentary and revolve around a serious setting, such as a workplace, to lend the comedy a sense of reality. The protagonists are typically egoists who overstep the boundaries of political correctness and break social norms. Then the comedy will attack the protagonist by not letting them become aware of their self-centered view, or by making them oblivious to the ego-deflation that the comedy deals them. Sometimes however an unlikeable protagonist may not suffer any consequences, which violates our moral expectations, and also make the audience cringe.
"Imagine the cutlery laid out for a formal dinner. Suppose that the salad fork is in the wrong place. If you are the sort of person who is disturbed by such deviations from the norm, you will not be capable of finding this amusing. On the other hand if you are more easy-going about such matters and also aware of the incongruity, it may elicit a chuckle. That is, you may find the error amusing or not. But if you find it genuinely amusing you cannot find it annoying."
This mutual exclusivity with annoyance can explain the divisiveness of cringe comedy.
Popular examples of television programmes that employ this genre of comedy include The Office, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Alan Partridge, House, Nathan For You, Peep Show, Louie, Freaks and Geeks, Flight of the Conchords and Mr Bean.
- "Definition". The Cringe Channel. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Susman, Gary. "Discomfort Zone: 10 Great Cringe Comedies". Time.
- McFarlane, Brian (2009). "A curmudgeon's canon: random thoughts on 'Summer Heights High', 'The Office' and other nasty pleasures". Metro Magazine (160): 134–138.
- Carroll, Noël (2014). Humour: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-19-955222-1.
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