The Sitcom Dictionary

The sit-com, that is the type of TV series that best embodies the concept of fun and lightness. Yet, even if apparently extremely simple, this serial genre follows precise rules and a well-defined structure. The sitcom experiments in fact particular dynamics and involves highly specialized technical jargon that writers and reviewers often employ assuming that the reader understands its meaning. Formal elements like the cold openthe running gag of the inside jokes or its many sub-genres, such as rom-coms, scifi-com e act-comindeed, they need to be explained to be truly understood. That’s why we therefore decided to draw up this practical glossary, complete with examples: a handy guide useful for revision for those who already feel like an expert as much as for those who were unaware of even the existence of these terms.

Without further ado, here’s ours Sit-Com Dictionary. Enjoy the reading!

Sit-com: stands for “situation comedy” (situation comedy) and describes a comedy series usually no longer than 25/30 minutes in which the characters find themselves involved in a series of situations.

Comedy: in general, any kind of TV series that has a predominance of the comic-humorous aspect.


So many different types of humour

Slapstick humor: kind of humor applicable to films and TV series born together with silent cinema which bases its comedy on simple and very often childish gags that make use of the body language, between strongly accented gestures and over the top attitudes. Great representatives of this genre of comedy are the series Mr. Bean, Man vs Bee and some animated series such as Tom and Jerry.

DeadPan/Dry Humor: founded on the extreme and deliberate neutrality/impassivity/seriousness which contrasts with ridiculous, absurd situations. Great exponents of the genre are for example Captain Raymond Holt of Brooklyn Nine-NineRon Swanson and April Ludgate of Parks and Recreations e Louis C.K. in Louie.

Surreal humor/ nonsensical: kind of humor that causes laughter by not respecting the common canons of cause and effect, focusing on the illogicality and absurdity of the situations created that produce evidently little sense events and behaviors. Ex. Many of the fantasies of J.D.. in Scrubs.

Dark Humor: black humor, also called black comedyblack comedy) consists in making irony about subjects usually considered as gods taboo, such as death, war, torture, genocide, sexism, violence, incest, discrimination and so on and so forth. Great exponents of this style are many animated series (South Park, I Griffin e Archer) or series like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia e What We Do in The Shadows.

disney plus
What We Do in the Shadows (640×360)

Grotesque: Genre of comedy resulting from an imbalance and which focuses on the bizarre and disproportionate to make fun of society or other similar issues. Series that well represents the grotesque is the dark comedy Scream Queens.

Blue comedy: A type of extreme humor that relies on heavy sexual, profanity, or bodily fluid jokes to shock and horrify the viewer.

Spoof/Parody: Type of humor that consists of caricatured and farcical imitation of a product or genre to elicit laughter. The British Monty Python’s Flying Circus it is the sum representing it in the serial context. Other examples are given by many episodes of Community.

High comedy: Translated as sophisticated comedy, it is characterized by a refined and intellectual humor that makes use of biting comedy and puns. Ex.Seinfeld.

Satire: Type of humor that aims to criticize society in its various aspects. Ex. The Daily Show, Dinosaurs, Veep.

Types of directing

The Office (640×360)

Multi Camera: It consists of a set-up according to which a sitcom is filmed simultaneously by several cameras which therefore offer different shots which are then artfully edited up to the final result. In many cases sitcoms using this technique are filmed live in front of an audience that laughs at the jokes

Single Camera: As you would expect, a single camera sitcom is shot with only one camera. In reality, there may be several cameras on the set, but the viewer’s impression will be that of seeing everything from a single perspective. This type of setting manages to restore greater dynamism compared to the fixity of the multicameras.

Characteristic elements of sitcoms and comedy

Laugh track: audience laughter that accompanies the most hilarious moments of a sitcom: it can be recorded live thanks to the reactions of the audience who watch the filming of the series live or added later during the editing phase.

Inside jokes: in the serial context it indicates a joke or joke that can only be understood by viewers of a TV series who have had the opportunity to get to know its characters and stories for a long time, such as the trend of Dr. A.S. Cox to give female names to JD in Scrubs or Michael’s atavistic hatred for Toby in The Office.

Cold open: Practice which consists in opening in medias res an episode of a series before the theme song or opening credits. In comedy very often the cold open are unrelated to the rest of the episode and consist of fun sketch. The cold open are typical of series such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Office e Malcolm in The Middle.

One of the best cold open in history in Brooklyn Nine-Nine (640×360)

Tag: Comedy scene after the end of the episode; can resume elements of the episode or be completely disconnected from it as often happens in Community o in Rick e Morty.

Running gag: gag that keeps repeating itself over the course of a series, progressively increasing the viewer’s enjoyment through habit. We cite as examples, Winston’s inability to New Girl in making jokes, the famous “Oh My God!” by Janice in Friends and the Molotovs by Jason in The Good Place.

Catchphrase: it is the famous “catchphrase“, a quote from a character that keeps repeating itself to great comic effect and thus becoming iconic. How not to mention the “Legendary” by Barney Stinson, the “That’s what she saidby Michael Scott and theHow you doin’?” by Joey Tribbiani?

Subgenres of comedy TV series

Dramedy: halfway between comedy and drama and generally longer than normal sitcoms: the result is a hybrid genre that mixes opposite elements offering now laughter, now tears. Typical example is Scrubstogether with Ted Lasso, Shrinking e Fleabag.

Dom-Com: contraction of Domestic Comedy, sitcom focused on the dynamics of a family. Ex. Modern Family, The Middle, All in family ecc.

Corn-com: Sub-genre of rural sitcoms. Ex. The Ranch e Bless This Mess.

Act-com: also called action comedy, is a type of TV series that combines action with comedy. Great representative of this subgenre is Chuck together with Archer.

Rom-com: The rom-com is a sit-com with a strong romantic component that focuses a lot on the love affairs of its protagonists. Impossible by the way not to mention the historians How I Met Your Mother e Friendsbut we also recommend that you also take a look at Love Sick.

How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother (640×360)

Ethni-com: Contraction for Ethnic Minority Comedy. It harks back to those comedy TV series that focus on families belonging to an ethnic minority in that American context. Ex. I Jefferson, I Robinsonthe remake of One Day at Time, Fresh of the Bott.

Workplace comedy/career-com: S+sit-com centered on the working family of the protagonist and on the amusing events that occur in the workplace. Based on the setting workplace comedy can hybridize with other genera: Scrubs with the medical, Brooklyn Nine-Nine with the crime, The Office e Parks and Recreation with the mockumentary.

Kidcom: sit-com that focuses primarily on children and teenagers. Obviously it can tack in the context of the dom-com or in a sort of junior version of the work-com set in school. If you want to get an idea about it, think of any series created by Disney Channelcome Zack e Cody al Grand Hotel, Hannah Montana e The Wizards of Weaverly the one from Nickelodeoncome I-Carlybut we also can’t help but mention the Malcolm in The Middle of the Fox.

Scifi-com: sit-com that mixes humor with a sci-fi component: clear examples of this sub-genre are Rick e Morty, Futurama, The Orville e Future Man.

Mockumentary: Practice of the fake documentary according to which a television crew (explicitly or not) follows the protagonists, who then, through interviews, tell themselves to the public. Ex. The Office, Parks & Recreation, Modern Family, Abbott Elementary e What We Do in The Shadows.

Comedy of Misunderstandings: Genre of comedy that bases its humor precisely on the misunderstanding, misunderstanding and misunderstanding of something by the characters, which often leads them to absurd situations.

Sketch comedy: Type of comedy series based on episodes structured not only around a single plot, but composed of a sequence of short gags and narrative mini-arcs, such as the Italianissima Camera Cafe.

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