Humour In The Big Bang Theory
Situational comedy (later referred to as sitcom) is “a genre of comedy performance in which some recurring characters showcase audiences a series of humorous stories in a familiar environment such as a family home, workplace stores and so forth” (Ma, Jiang 2013). American sitcoms usually feature 22-minute(s)-long episodes with usually about 20 episodes per season. M. Ioppi Chile states in The Sitcom Revisited: The Translation of Humor in A Polysemiotic Text that sitcoms are suitable for humor analysis because they “display different types of incongruities and superiority, as the result of audiovisual and linguistic elements interconnected; in addition, it usually reveals humor related to culture and to the world in the general” (168).
The Big Bang Theory is a popular American sitcom created and produced by Warner Bros Television and Chuck Lorre Productions and it is about two geeky physicists Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter and their friends, Raj Koothrappali and Howard Wolowitz, whose lives are completely changed when the pretty waitress and aspiring actress, Penny, moves into the the apartment opposite to Sheldon and Leonard’s. “Penny’s common sense and social skills and the guys’ geeky interests expand each other’s worlds” (The Big Bang Theory About). In the?th season there are two new additions to the group, Howard’s wife, Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz and Sheldon’s girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler. The sitcom aired in 2007, and its dubbed version has been broadcasting on Hungarian television for years on the Comedy Central channel. In The Big Bang Theory, humour is extremely culture-specific which makes it challenging to translate. The biggest problem the translator has to deal with is translating the obvious differences in culture in a way that the translated version stays coherent, funny and has the same effect.
Fortunately, there are certain sources of humour that are not culture-specific, thus they are perceived as funny in every language. The recurring themes of The Big Bang Theory are references to sci-fi subculture, social issues, such as racism, religion and sex, as well as more general matters, like politics and social institutions. For the most part, the humour in this sitcom is based on puns, sarcasm and innuendos about American pop-culture, making the source-target language transfer rather a demanding task, which I will further analyze in the following section.
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