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Background Music in Film and Television pt.2

Last time I spoke about Background Music and how it can be used in Drama. For this blog post I will be discussing another use for background music; how it can be used in comedic scenes.

I mostly watch movies for the drama, but I do notice when music works and doesn’t work well for comedies. Sometimes the comedy works because of the music, sometimes the comedy doesn’t.

If the comedy is mainly based on situation (physical humor) then music helps. Seeing a man burn his hand? Horrifying. Seeing a man burn his hand while the Weird Al Yankovich plays in the background at high speed? Hilarious. The reason is because physical humor needs to be outlandish and exaggerated because it just wouldn’t be funny if it were realistic. Realistic troubles aren’t funny, they’re just sad or difficult to watch. Outlandish conflict is funny. Lack of music leaves us with some guy who is having a bad day. The only exception I’ve seen is Mr.Bean, where the humor is mainly physical but without any music to accompany it.

If the humor is based on things that the characters are saying then background music is distracting. Situation Comedies mainly rely on this sort of comedy as opposed to physical comedy (Ironic, I know) so they hardly ever use background music. Also, the lack of music allows sitcoms to shift between different story points. Two characters can be talking about something funny (complete with laugh track) for a while, then another character can come “on set” and steer the conversation somewhere more serious seamlessly. Fresh Prince of Bel air, The Cosby Show, and so on, these sit-coms use music only for transition shots, or special situations (like when there is actual music being played in the scene).

This is all I know about background music being used for comedy. I haven’t watch many comedy movies to know how the film world would deal with music, so I must end it at that. So long, and thanks for all the…blog…reading

(cue laugh track)

(cue Fresh Prince end music)

(pan out to see the audiences)

(cue end credits)

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