Every passing year it seems like professional athletes get bigger, faster, and stronger. It only makes sense that athletes would get better with the advancement of modern medicine and our culture’s laser-like focus on sports and entertainment. I’m starting to think, however, the same might be true for TV sitcoms.
We as a species have been writing TV comedy from the moment we had the working technology to broadcast Lucille Ball into family rooms – it only makes sense that we’d continually get better at it. Or at the very least, TV writers are finding a way to cram more jokes into 22-minute increments.
That’s the conclusion we at Den of Geek are starting to draw from our ongoing, wildly unscientific “Jokes Per Minute (JPM)” series in which we attempt to calculate just how many jokes select TV sitcoms are able to cram in per minute.
TBS’ procedural cop show parody Angie Tribeca is the most recent show we’ve examined and it also happens to feature the highest JPM season we have on record, 6.17, beating out Rick and Morty season 2 (5.92), Rick and Morty season 1 (5.40), and Veep season 4 (4.28). Maybe it’s pure coincidence!
Angie Tribeca is about the most ideal show possible to have a high JPM as it leaves absolutely no pun unturned and seems to dread having to feature a line of dialogue that isn’t a joke in some way. Or maybe we’re just that much closer to cracking the code of televised comedy.
By 2050, we’ll be measuring in jokes per second.
Angie Tribeca Episode 1: Pilot
Running Time: 21:16
Total Number of Jokes: 140
Best Joke: “It looks like the Harlem Globetrotters are going to have to find someone else to throw confetti on instead water.”
Angie Tribeca hits the ground running absurdly fast. The pilot episode features the third highest JPM of the season, which is pretty much unheard of in our studies as comedy tends to get more confident as it goes along.
Maybe it’s just a testament to the comedic professionals involved here or maybe it’s just the audience being truly disarmed at the amount of jokes it’s able to cram in Airplane style but the pilot episode is uncommonly JPM-heavy.
Angie Tribeca Episode 2: The Wedding Planner Did It
Running Time: 21:12
Total Number of Jokes: 116
Best Joke: The mere sight of James Franco
While the Pilot was jam-packed with traditional jokes, “The Wedding Planner Did It” introduces a level of meta-humor that makes it difficult to calculate JPM.
The wall-to-wall jokes are still here but there are some other aspects that it’s tough to figure out if we’ll count. The name of the episode being a spoiler certainly counts as a joke and now it’s also clear that the episode descriptions contain their own bran of humor as well. The chief is always “just sick” about whatever crime is going down that week.
And the mere inclusion of James Franco in a flashback? That’s the best joke of all.
Angie Tribeca Episode 3: The Famous Ventriloquist Did It
Running Time: 20:45
Total Number of Jokes: 118
Best Joke: “I just couldn’t master moving my lips. I told myself it doesn’t matter but it turns out that’s a big part of it. I never put my hand inside anything again.”
Though three episodes, Angie Tribeca is charting remarkably well on the JPM scales but there’s an argument to be made that there are levels of humor that the metric can’t even cover. This time around the episode title is again a hilarious spoiler. Ditto for the episode description. But “The Famous Ventriloquist Did It” makes it even clearer that Angie has recurring humor as part of its repetoir.
Dr. Scholl’s having a fake injury or malady, a cop screaming through the opening credits and a cop always puking at crime scenes are inherently funny. They’re even funnier, however, when they happen every single episode. I’ll count them as one joke for now but that doesn’t seem completely fair to the show’s dedication to escalating gags.
Angie Tribeca Episode 4: The Thumb Affair
Running Time: 19:48
Total Number of Jokes: 109
Best Joke: “It’s ok, kid. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have some type of reaction to a missing painting.”
The best joke in “The Thumb Affair is just stellar” as it adds another hilarious element to a recurring joke that was plenty funny already.
“The Thumb Affair” is a pretty middle-of-the-road episode for the season and features the third lowest JPM recorded yet. Still, this episode shows just how much the performances are tied to JPM. When our JPM studies finally receive proper government funding we’ll have to look into what John Michael Higgins career JPM is. He makes this episode as a pair of very strange twins.
“Carpaccio MacGuffin” indeed.
Angie Tribeca Episode 5: Commissioner Bigfish
Running Time: 20:15
Total Number of Jokes: 124
Best Joke: “There’s a hotel called ‘All the way Inn.’ Tell the concierge, you’re there to pay for sex. She’ll know what it means.”
“Commissioner Bigfish” deserves our praise if for nothing else other than the “Surveillance & Sons” truck. Angie Tribeca’s brand of humor is very silly and absurdist but it also has a clear appreciation for how inherently silly the genre it’s spoofing really is.
“Bigfish” also shows how difficult the JPM calculating process can be. I be just be so sick with myself if the episode’s JPM suffered because I didn’t notice that a bank in a flashback scene was named “Elizabeth Banks.”
Angie Tribeca Episode 6: Ferret Royale
Running Time: 20:44
Total Number of Jokes: 126
Best Joke: “I have a three and a card that tells you how to play.”
One of the shortcomings of the JPM metric is that some jokes are just plain funnier than others. Take Kerri Kenney’s character for instance. The fact that the Fish and Game division of the LAPD is just marvelous and gets funnier every time Kenney’s character is onscreen. Still, it’s just one joke.
“Ferret Royale” then may be considerably funnier than “Commissioner Bigfish” despite having a nearly identical JPM. If nothing else, it shows that a Casino Royale parody will never be unwelcome. Also, shoutout to the puking cop who has now puked at the sight of a stolen painting and a ferret.
Angie Tribeca Episode 7: Tribeca’s Day Off
Running Time: 20:45
Total Number of Jokes: 126
Best Joke: “Hidden Valley country club? Didn’t this used to be a ranch?” “They moved to Thousand Islands.”
In terms of “woah, Billy Murray’s in this???” astonishment, Angie Tribeca finishes third only to Zombieland and Parks and Recreation. It’s hard to get an accurate JPM reading when Bill Murray’s involved as his mere presence sets the humor scales off like an electro-magnetic field reader at the Stanley Hotel.
Even without Murray’s presence, however, “Tribeca’s Day Off” is plenty hysterical on its own, what with it’s “public domain radio” and Cecily Strong’s creepy face and whatnot.
This is also the third nearly identical JPM episode in a row. That’s how you know we’re dealing with comedic pros here.
Angie Tribeca Episode 8: Murder in the First Class
Running Time: 19:17
Total Number of Jokes: 131
Best Joke: “They don’t let people in coach kill people in first class.”
Thank goodness, there was finally an air-sick bag for the puking cop to use this time.
“Murder in the First Class” features the second highest JPM of the season. Part of this can be attributed to a slightly shorter running time but part of it is that the episode maintains all of its verbal humor while at the same time stepping its visual gag game up.
Dr. Edelweiss descending into the lab on a stair wheelchair device and some random guy on the flight openly weeping reading a Sky Mall magazine may be two of the best low-key jokes of the season.
Angie Tribeca Episode 9: Inside Man
Running Time: 19:17
Total Number of Jokes: 132
Best Joke: “Our best guess is that Nafan has it. Our worst guess is that this is all a dog’s dream.”
“Inside Man” has the highest JPM of Angie Tribeca’s first season. Our best guess as to why is that its using every comedic tool in its arsenal: puns (“in a minute, he’s sweeping”), background humor (a pub in Liverpool called “Robby McBanks”) and good old fashioned soccer hooliganism.
Our worst guess for why “Inside Man” has the highest JPM is that this is all a dog’s dream.
Angie Tribeca Episode 10: The One With The Bomb
Running Time: 20:38
Total Number of Jokes: 123
Best Joke: “I feel like a princess in an old-fashioned fairytale. Wait, let me go drain the lizard.”
If you thought using the Friends episode title format for its finale wouldn’t count as a joke, then you were sorely mistaken.
“The One With The Bomb” has an unexpectedly low JPM for a finale. This could be because as a finale, it is a little pre-occupied with finishing up a story of the season and preparing for the next one. I’m inclined to believe that it’s just that it takes it time to set up bigger homerun jokes instead of singles and doubles.
The hostage situation with its weird Dennis the Menaces and slow-moving bomb defusal robots are not particularly JPM-heavy but no less funny than the rest of the season.
All-Time Jokes Per Minute Records:
Angie Tribeca season 1 – 6.17
Rick and Morty season 2 – 5.96
Rick and Morty season 1 – 5.40
Veep season 4 – 4.28
Individual Episode Studies:
The Simpsons season 4 episode 12: “Marge vs. The Monorail” – 7.14
Happy Endings season 2 episode 15: “The Butterfly Effect Effect” – 6.99
30 Rock season 1 episode 7: “Tracy Does Conan” – 6.15
Seinfeld season 4 episode 11: “The Contest” – 5.33
Arrested Development season 2 episode 4: “Good Grief” – 6.62