“I’ll be there for you!” On participation-based sitcom humour

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The paramount objective of this article is to tease out the workings of participation-based humour in film discourse. The departure point is an extension of the dyadic model of communication in the context of fictional media discourse. Differentiation is thus made between hearer types at the inter-character level, which subscribes to a participation framework typical of everyday interactions. Secondly, the film viewer, the hearer at the second communicative level, is conceptualised as a distinct hearer type, namely the recipient. Most importantly, it is shown that sitcom humour, devised by the collective sender (the film crew) to be appreciated by the recipient, tends to be based on participation phenomena, which are frequently non-humorous from the perspective of (some or all) fictional participants. Therefore, a few humorous mechanisms specific to film discourse of sitcoms are elucidated. The paper is illustrated with examples from the famous TV comedy series entitled “Friends”.


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