Throughout my adulthood, I have often considered myself an individual with a great sense of humor. The ability to find humor in many situations has always been a quality of mine. The Big Bang Theory continues to be one of my favorite outlets. The show features Leonard and Sheldon who “are brilliant physicists—geniuses in the laboratory but socially challenged everywhere else. Enter beautiful, street-smart neighbor Penny, who aims to teach them a thing or two about life. Despite their on again, off again relationship in the past, Leonard and Penny have finally gotten married. Even Sheldon has found a female companion, entering into a “relationship agreement” with neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, and he recently took their relationship to the next level by marrying her after a long courtship. In their free time, Leonard and Sheldon enjoy fantasy role-playing games with their ever-expanding universe of friends, including fellow scientists Koothrappali, Wolowitz, and Wolowitz’s adorable microbiologist wife, Bernadette, who is adjusting to life with their two children (The Big Bang Theory 2018).” Sheldon is considered the awkward turtle of this circle. This is mentioned and confirmed throughout the show by his mother, father, and best friend, Leonard.
On the other hand, Leonard can integrate himself into today’s society as a normal individual through exhibiting social normalities. An Indian scientist, Raj, is the polar opposite personality of Leonard. Finally, Howard, who is the only scientist not considered a doctor in his field of study, rounds out the four main male characters.
Between the four scientists within this show, some other main characters are introduced as significant others to the scientists and provide comic relief throughout each episode. Sheldon has been the boyfriend of Amy, and they are almost equally awkward in personality with the difference being that Sheldon can detach himself from human emotion and Amy must have the basic needs of a woman met. Penny and Leonard have an ongoing connection throughout the most substantial part of the series and went on to marry her in a later episode of the show. She is the gorgeous next door neighbor that would be the typical out-of-his-league woman, and she is typically attracted to the bad boys. Howard got married to Bernadette who is a very similar involvement of his mother; against his knowing before they are married. Finally, Raj is not extremely involved with anyone up to current episodes but has had quite a few minor relationships throughout the show.
The superiority theory is a concept that was derived about the thought of how we, as humans, believe our laughter can express feelings of being superior to either former selves or others around us at the time of humor. This theory exists all over the place within The Big Bang Theory due to the complex given between the scientists about their levels of education. Three of them, Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj, are all doctoral scientists and Howard hold a master’s degree in engineering. The three doctoral scientists mock Howard as being a less-qualified scientist and not as able to perform his job within their institution of employment. In this instance, the doctoral scientists find humor in mocking Howard due to their superior social status within the institution.
The relief theory is commonly compared to a pressurized system’s “relief-valve.” When an individual experiences humor in their lives, they can feel a sensation of relief and relaxtion. This is due to the release of pressure in our system; whether that be a mental or physical being (Morreall). Within The Big Bang Theory exists numerous tense or stressful situations that are inevitably relieved through the use of humor. A specific instance that comes to mind occurs when Raj has sexually-oriented dreams about Bernadette. This becomes an incredibly awkward situation, and Raj, therefore, acts awkwardly in her presence. These behaviors continue until Raj can express his thoughts with another person. Raj was unable even to make eye contact, or hold a conversation until he was able to relieve the stress caused by this situation through the use of humor within the series. Raj eventually overcomes this awkward tension by singing the song that was prevalent in his dream out loud until he was confronted and forced to explain his odd behavior. It was found to be an incredibly humorous situation between the members of his social circle. By utilizing humor to relieve the awkward tension, Raj dramatically decreased the stress created by his situation.
While the Superiority Theory says that the cause of laughter is feelings of superiority, and the Relief Theory says that it is the release of nervous energy, the Incongruity Theory says that it is the perception of something incongruous—something that violates our mental patterns and expectations. This approach was taken by James Beattie, Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, and many later philosophers and psychologists. It is now the dominant theory of humor in philosophy and psychology (“Philosophy of Humor” 2016). In the series, Leonard has a very educated and well-renowned mother who is a psychologist. Sheldon loves when she visits because they are like mother and son whereas Leonard hates when she visits because she hardly pays any attention to him and usually attributes his desires to be with his mother has some childhood conflicts protruding into his adulthood. With that being said there are some instances within this show that are unlike anything anyone would have expected as the incongruity theory illustrates. For instance, Leonard’s mother went out for some drinks before relaxing that evening after a long flight. The show leads her towards Sheldon but who would ever think that they would get together; until they kiss near the end of the episode. Not only does this catch us off guard as an audience due to the social norm of boundaries but also because it is Sheldon’s best friend with his mother. Furthermore, we are brought into the same situation when Raj and Howard return from the Antarctic for quite a long experiment with full-grown beards. This is hilarious because we have a conceived image of these individuals in our mind before they are shown at home but also the reactions given by their loved-ones within the series tops the punchline.
Throughout life we must be able to embrace the sense of humor and enable ourselves to find the relief, no matter at what capacity, that is necessary for stress management. Without these theories being tested we would not be able to quantify why we find certain situations humorous and be able to create them intentionally.
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