Comedies and Geekhood – Genshiken/The Big Bang Theory? All.

Genshiken animeWell, this is not a post just about the geekier comedies which I love, such as Genshiken (which may not exactly be a comedy, but a slice-of-life series) and The Big Bang Theory, but it’s true for all comedies, and many stand-up shows as well, certainly all those who deal with current events and politics.

I think intertextuality is what geeks thrive upon, and geeks who are into “geeky things” seem to respond and be proud of it, but having watched some comedies that deal with sports, I think it’s true for all geeks – all those who are nearly obsessed with a field respond well to shows that “reward” them for their knowledge, and which separates them from those who do not “get it”. Geeks do tend to take it one step further.

Think of Genshiken, with all of the anime and mangas referenced, and which those of us who watched with subtitles usually had helpful notes explaining what is being referred to. And then you have the self-proclaimed “Big Geeks”, who scoff at those who do not recognize all such references immediately, or TV-Shows such as Stargate where things from the first couple of seasons will show up in season 8 (and then think of conventions where there are minutiae quizes, to prove you’re the biggest fan).

This is the reward, in and of itself. The reward is the gratification, the reward is the self-gratification. It is not others patting you on the back that is important, it’s you patting yourself on the back for your own knowledge of trivia. And when you comment on how good others are to catch these references, you are also congratulating yourself, who had also recognized them, or turn this recognition into an ideal to be mimicked.

This also happens in sports comedies, where if you don’t know why something can’t happen you may not laugh at the jokes (aside from the universal ones). A year or so ago I’ve watched a comedy show that had references from the mid-90s, USA politics. Now, aside from the big issues, I don’t know these things too closely, certainly not enough to remember them, as such, not only did the series date itself, but it wasn’t funny – the jokes had an expiration date, and it had passed.

There are also shows that are “timeless”, or at least, as long as we all live within the current culture, they are. Seinfeld, for instance, or even more timeless humour such as the Charlie Chaplin films (but are they truly funny?).
Overall, comedies, most if not all, rely on specialized knowledge, or at least the thought that this knowledge is both specialized, private, and marks those who possess it with some value. We like these series because they affirm our view of ourselves as those “in the know”, they mark us as members of the subculture which we so wish to be a part of, they give us our identity (or at least keep re-affirming it, which amounts to the same thing).

And of course, it helps if it’s funny, but it wouldn’t have been (as) funny without the specialized knowledge, now, would it?

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18 comments on “Comedies and Geekhood – Genshiken/The Big Bang Theory? All.

  1. Leonia says:

    Great article ^^ I discovered Genshiken recently, and I really like for his approach of the otaku culture (with many stereotypes). With this anime, I discovered the world of the Comiket lol, with the long wait(in spite of the rain, or the heat).

    • Guy says:

      Well, we’ve had wait for Star Wars Episode 1 and such too ;)

      Genshiken is lovely, yes. “Otaku-Hating Ogiue”, think if it were called “Otaku-eating”? Sometimes it was hard to remember these weren’t high school kids though, behaviour wise ;) Then again, the way some HS students are portrayed in some anime feels more like freshmen JHS…

  2. Rob Donoghue says:

    Kathy Sierra talks about this sometime as an element of learning. People love *getting* things, and there’s a little buzz of pleasure our brain fires off when we get a reference or recognize something in the background. It’s a great reward mechanism for having learned, and yeah, geeks totally thrive on it, but it’s broadly applicable too.

    -Rob D.

    • Guy says:

      I think it’s broadly applicable, yes. Heck, I think all of comedies, and the monologues in the beginning of late night shows (so stand up comedy?) applies. And well, I think the pleasure that races through our brain is the geekery, or comes through that.

      Of course, I use a broader application of geek here, such as “Loves football”, but I guess it’s hard to put into it “Knows the current political happening”, which is where we derive some pleasure from getting say, a political cartoon in the newspaper. Maybe it’s sort of like doing a crossword puzzle, where you get satisfaction from something you accomplished.

      The geekery is more about the “Secret handshake” aspect.

  3. Reltair says:

    Reminds me of Seitokai no Ichizon, where I see the parodies and “get” them. Makes me feel pro. =D

    • Guy says:

      I get all of them as well! Now that I watch the show. But I didn’t really care for the show that much, alas :(

  4. lovelyduckie says:

    Yup it’s true, I admit it. Although I try not to be the type that puts themselves (and others) on certain levels of fandom. That gets really annoying fast.

    • Guy says:

      Hm. What if you do it inside your head? I’m not sure how conscious it is. Even if you don’t go “I am better/ look how awesome I am!” then there’s some pride going on inside, like Reltair mentions above.

      Or is there?
      Also, it is annoying, “I’m more authentic than you, bow down before me!” like some bloggers recently do ;) Well, some bloggers or people always do that.

  5. Yi says:

    Baka Raptor also wrote on a similar topic about reference dropping. I think Lucky Star is another good example of this type of comedy.

    I remember I got really excited a few days ago too when I saw Touhou cameo in Umineko. The audience really do thrive on specialized knowledge.

    • Guy says:

      Yup, Lucky Star banks on it, just like Genshiken, or the “Easter Eggs” in Kannagi, but the whole concept of Easter Eggs is interesting, and how much it excites people.

  6. Ninjovee says:

    This post reminds me of the time when I was watching Lucky Star, there were some references I know of but a lot of them I have no idea about. I actually felt bad when I didn’t recognize the Initial D reference there because I have yet to read/watch anything Initial D and I actually got into the Haruhi fandom because I was curious about all the Haruhi references. LOL.

    Haven’t seen Genshiken yet… looks like something I can add to my download list XD

    • Guy says:

      Genshiken is good. It’s actually a good series, not banking on just references or animation style. Heck, you could consider the constant references a parody, especially as they use them to parody other franchises. But still, it’s not a show that only passes or fails based on its references, which is what kills the second-rate comedies, BTW. Watch a comedy from the 90s from the USA, fail to understand most of the references, and the story is not enough to keep you in it otherwise.

      I guess that’s why “Gag comedies” are sometimes so popular, there are no references to go dated.

  7. […] “Dating sim romance”, etc. And part of what I’ve spoken about before regarding comedies, and how we’re all about the “insider jokes” to show and prove (even if only to […]

  8. Tamsin says:

    I THOUGHT that Genshiken and The Big Bang Theory were similar in a way (or, at least, Saki Kasukabe reminds me so much of Penny)!

    • Guy says:

      Well, series often like having the same roles, like “Straight man”, or “Glamorous but ditzy female amongst geeky and dreary nerds.”

      I guess this is why watching comedies is often so “comforting”, even if they change their faces, it’s the same archetypes you’re used to, and are familiar with.

  9. […] 10. Pursuant to #9 – those things you “must be in the know to understand”? That’s not a good thing, that’s pandering to people wanting to feel “included” when they recognize an “inside joke” or “reference”. (See blog post.) […]

  10. I liked the early seasons of The Big Bang Theory better because it was more… nerdy. I do like the female characters in the later seasons, but I didn’t like it when it was so romance oriented. I much prefer Genshiken and The IT Crowd.

  11. […] and memes serve as “non-humor humor,” or specifically “humor by reference,” which is often used in “Geeky Comedies,” which I use to mean “Any comedy focusing on one particular topic,” which could […]

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