Mel Brooks once said something to the effect that comedy is harder than tragedy, because while it’s easy to make one person cry at something, it’s a lot harder to make them laugh. Whether or not that’s true, some of the greatest television dramas of the past couple decades have risen to this challenge by blurring the lines between genres. By incorporating comedic elements into their episodes, they’ve provided audiences with hilarious scenes that stay with viewers for years. But why? What advantage is there in inserting these moments of levity into otherwise bleak proceedings? The one thing that some of the most successful and beloved shows of recent years – like Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” – have in common is a surprisingly deft comic touch.
First, it’s a necessary tension breaker. After scenes and entire episodes dealing with the various intricacies of betrayals and murders, an audience needs something to relieve that pressure, breaking up the funeral dirge of favorite characters and grim moments. The deftest writers, those of the shows previously mentioned, are usually very good at incorporating these moments of laughter into plot-driven parts, making it natural rather than a transparent attempt at easing the tension and angst inherent in life, death and tragedy. For example, in “Game of Thrones,” while the wedding between Tyrion and Sansa is a veritable downer moment that finds two beloved characters in a situation neither enjoys but are forced to undergo, the writers find time for a drunken Tyrion to make merry and therefore mock the seriousness of the occasion.