Doing being spontaneous : The role of laughter in TV documentaries



Year of publication 2017
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The classic TV documentary is a genre of non-fictional broadcasting that tends to have a strong informative function. However, many documentary formats include segments of dialogic interaction between the presenter and other individuals, which gives rise to many interactional phenomena that overcome the scripted nature of the programme. In this presentation, I focus on the ways laughter is used in the TV documentary series “How Britain Worked”, analysing cases where laughter appears in non-humorous situations between on-screen participants. It appears that laughter may constitute an offer to engage in a playful frame, and thus to achieve in-tune-ness between the interlocutors. Though the offer may be resisted, it is typically accepted, allowing the interlocutors to reframe their interaction through jocular banter and joint joking. In such situations, laughter indexes the momentary suspension of the serious nature of the activity at hand, enabling the participants to appear more authentic and spontaneous. I argue that this kind of sociable behaviour is a part of the design of the programme to relate to the audience on a more interpersonal level.
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