How It's Always Sunny Scores Comedy

How It’s Always Sunny Scores Comedy

 

When watching a movie or television show you probably don’t devote a lot of attention to the score, even though the music used in any given scene can tell you how to feel. While it is easy to hear happy or sad one sound that can be particularly difficult to define is funny- what does funny sound like? When scoring comedy editors and writers will often use juxtaposition; this is when the music and the scene unfolding appear to be opposite. Everytime the obligatory joke of classical music playing over a scene of utter chaos is a perfect, and cliched, example of this.

 

The premise of this setup is simple, something calm against something chaotic. It is the execution, not the setup where these scenes are lacking.

 

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia uses juxtaposition in scoring in a manner that is not only refreshing but funny.

 

The first example of this joke being successfully implemented is in the season 8 episode The Gang Recycles Their Trash. In this scene, the gang gets caught dumping trash in a lower income community, and is subsequently mobbed – forcing them to retreat into a trash covered limousine, Thin Lizzies The Boys are Back in Town plays in the background as the limo is rocked by the mob.  

Clip, (start at 2:40)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSWU-78exyo

Here the joke lands because the chaos of the mob is being juxtaposed by the fun upbeat nature of the song - the boys are back but it is not a fun time.

 

Another solid use of music for comedy is in Season 6 episode Dee Gives Birth. In this episode Dee, as the name suggests, gives birth. True to form the reveal of the newborn child involves the new mother being wheeled out into the waiting room cradling her child, the song choice is predictably of the sentimental variety.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZiNb-2Fntk

The comedy here comes not from the song so much as the scene it is juxtaposed with, as while the song fits this cliché scene to a tee the group waiting for Dee in the waiting room does not. Rather than panning to a more traditional family the camera pans to a sea of potential fathers, one of which is smoking crack from a tinfoil pipe.

 

The final example comes from Season 10 episode 6 The Gang Misses the Boat, with the episode starting with an amazing use of Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_OU2xxqWB8

Why is this so funny, the scene offers so little context it would appear that there is nothing to juxtapose the song to, however I believe there is a lot more going on than it seems. The Gwen Stefani classic has a very specific aesthetic to it – it’s about being a tough and cool. While the song continues to build in the back, pumping up the action, the gang within the car continues to sink lower and lower, moving from cool to pathetic, the opposite aesthetic to the song. We start with a group of friends jamming in a car and end with them driving into the river.

 

Ultimately, humour is a very subjective experience, and while I am celebrating the successes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, these examples may not have landed for anyone reading this article. However whether you find it funny or not, the one thing this show is able to do is to play with current conventions in T.V, and comedy in order to create new laughs from old tricks. Music has always been a part of film, informing audiences how to feel, and when to laugh It’s Always Sunny always has me laughing.