The Bear Season 3 Proves the Show Really Is a Comedy

The Bear season 3 has all the pathos you've come to expect. But it's also got jokes!

“THE BEAR” — “Doors” — Season 3, Episode 3 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: (l-r) Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, Oliver Platt as Uncle Jimmy.
Photo: FX

This article contains spoilers for The Bear season 3.

One of the biggest contemporary TV controversies for nerds and geeks (present author included!) surrounds the placement of FX and Hulu’s hit series The Bear into the comedy category at awards shows. Yes, the culinary creation has its moments through its first two seasons that produce a laugh or two, especially when tensions get high in the kitchen and swear words start bouncing off the walls as fast as customers enter the establishment. 

Most viewers categorize the multi-faceted series as a drama, though, and one that dives into the deepest aspects of the human experience. Suicide, alcoholism, family trauma, addiction, parental death, and clinical depression are just some of the dense themes The Bear serves on its menu. Not exactly a breeding ground for hilarity, right? 

Shows like BoJack Horseman, Six Feet Under, and The Sopranos have already proven that laughing in the face of morbidity may feel inappropriate, but it sure does release a cathartic energy within the human soul. The Bear season 3 takes those same principles from its predecessors to score a riotous, rolling-on-the-floor experience that proves the show’s comedic chops and justifies its categorization within the genre going forward. 

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The Bear season 3 lives within the intensity of the kitchen just the same as before, but the writers take special care to leverage the cast’s chemistry and the audience’s understanding of each character’s quirks to heighten the hilarious jokes and produce several payoffs per episode. This means that even when the stress levels start going to 100 and the anxiety starts weighing them down like a heavy meal stuck in the stomach, the show forces the viewers to read the irony of the room and the chaotic scenarios Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) and the gang get themselves into. 

The third episode in the season, “Doors”, features enough funniness for the entire 10-episode slate all on its own. Following an entire month of operating the restaurant in the first summer since it reopened, the episode asks us to laugh at the misery of the staff in a variety of sharply written and acted comedic scenes. 

Every person working at the Bear has a vital role, even jovial family friend Neil Fak (Matty Matheson). With Carmy frantically cooking up something new each evening and Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) applying his newfound serving skills learned during season 2’s “Forks,” Fak is a little bit of a Swiss army knife of support for both men. When Carmy asks Fak to bring some hot broth to some guests, his lack of clarity leads to Neil’s best scene in the series.

Fak may fit snuggly into the comedic relief role, but most of the characters have the ability to make us laugh just from off-hand one-liners and matter-of-fact line delivery. Jimmy “Cicero” Kalinowski (Oliver Platt) patrols both the kitchen and the lobby like a vulture looking for its next meal, obviously stressed about the payoff he’ll receive from his investment in the Bear. Cicero’s sarcasm never fails to make us laugh, from bluntly reporting how shitty the restaurant’s finances are to brilliant retorting about the unnecessary excesses of $11,268 butter. “What is it? From the rare Transylvanian, five-titted goat?” Carmy responds that it’s Orwellian butter, to which Cicero claps back asking if it’s dystopian! (In reality, it’s from the dairy-rich Orwell, Vermont).

Other times the show excels with situational comedy at a rarely seen level in other series. Richie leading some annoying guests who won’t leave the restaurant into the kitchen as a last-ditch effort to open up a table builds up palpable comedic tension. How will Carmy and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) react? The looks on their faces are worth more than a benign chuckle. 

Jamie Lee Curtis and John Cena also deserve a shout-out for not only adding to the guest star power of the season, but for multiplying the laughs most of the time they’re on screen. Cena has become one of Hollywood’s most popular light-hearted actors in recent years. While his presence is a little distracting in “Children,” the chemistry he develops with Neil and his threats to “haunt” the Fak family make for a perfect foil to the usual ominous energy hanging over the dining room. 

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Curtis is one of the best supporting ladies on the big and small screens working today. She follows up her tremendous cameo as the Berzatto family matriarch in last year’s “Fishes” with an even grander performance in “Ice Chips.” With Sugar (Abby Elliot) in labor and none of her closest confidants picking up the phone, Carmy’s sister desperately calls their mother. Curtis disarms the audience with her typical charm, coming in like a wrecking ball of energy. Imploring her daughter to scream “HEEEE, HEEEE, HEEEE” with every contraction is exquisite black humor during an overwhelming time in Sugar’s life. 

The Bear season 3 may have moved at a slower pace than the first two seasons, but the writing staff and actors seemed to hear the criticisms of the series’ comedy designation. By upping their wit and keeping the audience in a good mood as everyone’s lives fall apart, the show has never deserved its genre placement more than after the most recent batch of episodes. 

All 10 episodes of The Bear season 3 are available to stream on Hulu now.