Cringe comedy is a specific genre of comedy that derives humor from social awkwardness, idiosyncratic humor and guilty pleasure. A type of a cringe comedy are pseudo-reality TV shows, sometimes with an air of a mockumentary. They revolve around a serious setting, such as a workplace, to lend the comedy a sense of reality.
The protagonists are typically funny people who overstep the boundaries of political correctness and break social norms. The comedy will attack the protagonist by not letting them become aware of their self-centered view, or by making them oblivious to the ego-deflation that the comedy deals them. Sometimes an unlikable protagonist may not suffer any consequences, which violates people's moral expectations, and also makes the audience cringe.
Humor theorist Noël Carroll explains this kind of humor in relation to incongruity theory and annoyance:
Imagine the cutlery laid out for a formal dinner. Suppose that the salad fork is in the wrong place. If you are the sort of person who is disturbed by such deviations from the norm, you will not be capable of finding this amusing. On the other hand, if you are more easy-going about such matters and also aware of the incongruity, it may elicit a chuckle. That is, you may find the error amusing or not. But if you find it genuinely amusing, you cannot find it annoying.
Notable examples of television programs in the genre of cringe comedy include:
I’m not sure why this Comedy of Cringe is so pleasurable to watch
a key step in the rise of humiliation comedy — the crucial link between Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers and David Brent/Michael Scott of The Office.
We join them for an afternoon of cringe comedy
the apex of the comedy-of-humiliation also seen on The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
the cringe comedy at its core