Reading Between the Lines: A Study of Dialogue in Two British Sitcoms

  • Deborah Wilcox

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This paper analyses whether writers of comedy can give depth and insight into their characters by using dialogue to replace the elements that traditionally enhance the recipients’ enjoyment and immersion in the narrative.To address this question, I chose to use situation comedy as an exemplar of a humorous medium that forgoes backstory, making a comparison of two popular, but different, examples. The process was undertaken by first watching them performed, thereby experiencing the dialogue spoken aloud. This was followed by close reading of the scripts to eliminate any possible enrichment added by the director, set and actors. Finally, the use of the identified techniques and their effect on the audience were studied for commonalities that could be applied to my own work.The results showed an unexpected sophistication in exchanges of dialogue, even when used in low comedy such as slapstick and farce, to offer insight into the inner thoughts of characters at all levels. Results also revealed that dialogue evolves in response to the development of the narrative and is an effective tool for controlling pace and tension, both of which are essential elements of successful comedy. This study concludes that since comedy is a highly subjective concept that varies greatly between individuals and over time, the impact of writing formulaically has great influence over success as measured by appeal to a wide audience, over and above its expected lifespan.
    Date of Award27 Oct 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAlice Entwistle (Supervisor), David Towsey (Supervisor) & Diana Wallace (Supervisor)


    • British situation comedy
    • dinnerladies
    • Dad's Army
    • dialogue
    • Writing

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