(Ian Stirling voice) Get ready for (camera pans dramatically across cast of HIMYM and Friends) the biggest showdown since Jake Paul and KSI… Buckle up, this is gonna be one hell of a ride…
In the red corner, we have Friends, dressed up in all its glory. I like to assume the best of people, so for the sake of this article I will assume that every student of Wimbledon High School has lent a couple precious months of their lives to binge-watching Friends. Either that, or it is a fond childhood memory from those glorious evenings after swimming lessons when your parents let you eat your fish and chips in front of the TV. For those of you, god forbid, who are unfamiliar with the show – you are forgiven only if you are in Year 7 (Gen Z kids are way too Maverick* for 90s sitcoms.) Friends is not just a sitcom, however. It is a beautifully crafted, raw insight into the lives of 6 BFFs, navigating their hectic lives in New York City. It explores the toils of contemporary urban life; the arduous and awkward world of dating and work. It poses the question; how does one successfully ‘adult’? And the answer, of course, is with the support of your best buds. Friends is America’s baby (and no, I’m not talking about the Giant Trump Baby Blimp) – it has managed to captivate the hearts of millions. The characters speak to us, we can relate to them. Just last week I heard someone on the bus remark to her friend: God, Rebecca, you are SUCH a Rachel!!
In the Blue corner, we have How I Met Your Mother, dressed up in… well, dressed up as Mexican Wrestler Ted! If you haven’t watched it, I implore you to stop reading and binge all 9 sensational seasons before you continue: what follows is a wealth of spoilers. You have been warned. How I Met Your Mother enjoys an ever-so-satisfying plot progression; clearly expertly stratified from the onset. Every episode is comedic genius; it certainly calls to those who enjoy a more complex sense of humour. What occurs in How I Met Your Mother is a perfect synergy between light-hearted comedy and deep emotional complexity. At surface level, we see a comedically hopeless romantic; whose desperate endeavours to find love invite his audience to ridicule him (to name a few: telling Robin he loves her on the first date (yikes), the stealing of the blue French horn, his Halloween tradition of dressing up as a Hanging Chad in the hopes he will reunite with the Sultry Pumpkin**, need I go on?) But beneath this surface, what truly drives the plot is the universal fear of the ever-ticking biological clock and the pressures it presents to settle down and start a family. Ted, you’re 40, time to sort your life out.
Both shows share extraordinary similarities, both American sitcoms airing around the early 2000s (Friend’s season finale was in 2004, the pilot episode for HIMYM aired in 2005), both set in the concrete jungle of New York, New York. Both centred around a group of mates who just sit in bars and cafes all day but always find themselves in the maddest predicaments. It is impossible to tackle this issue objectively. Therefore, we’re going to have to turn to science.
- Theme song
Everyone knows the Friend’s theme song; it is literally the heart and soul of the franchise. I know for a fact that it is etched into the back of my brain along with all the other useless sitcom trivia I have accumulated over the years. And better still, it’s relatable! We love relatable in 2018 (why else would memezar and other such Instagram accounts amass over 7 million followers?)
So, no one told you life was gonna be this way (clap, clap, clap, clap) your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A … Even though we all still live off mummy and daddy, we can’t resist your typical bit of relatable content. Catchy, too. 10/10
Now let’s take a closer look at the How I Met Your Mother theme song lyrics:
1 point to Friends.
With Friends in the lead 1 to nil, kicking off to a good start with their theme tune, I feel like it would be unfair if we did not take into the consideration the wealth of music that How I Met your Mother has brought to the table. It has truly revolutionised the niche that is Sitcom Pop. Some of my personal favourites, ranked by preference are:
- Nothin’ Suits me Like a Suit (Barney Stinson), a rich parody of musical theatre, expertly choreographed and all round comic genius – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_AgCzt9zcM
- Let’s go to the Mall, Sandcastles in the Sand, P.S I love you (Robin Scherbatsky) Just in general, Robin’s younger Canadian pop-star alter ego is hilarious; it is the subplot that keeps on giving – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY_bhVSGKEg
- You Just got Slapped (Slow Jam) – the perfect song to get you and the family in the Slapsgiving spirit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1kkOsIe0Ac
- Bang Bang Bangity Bang
- Marshall vs the Machines. This song will change your entire perception of western folk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CNzuv0U1X0
1 point to How I Met your mother
HIMYM and Friends are neck and neck. The crowd is going wild. It’s time for the big question: which show is funnier.
Friends is shot in front of a live studio audience, and we must respect both the writers and the actors for their unparalleled skill in meticulously crafting the plot progression in such a situation. The beauty of Friends is that it is very raw, the actors have the creative freedom to go off script, and often good old Jennifer Aniston is shot practically in pain from trying not to laugh at one of the other character’s unscripted slip ups. Breaking the forth wall is common in Friends, and this really does add a dynamism and spontaneity to the humour. Thumbs up from me.
How I met Your mother uses laugh tracks as opposed to a live studio audience. Laugh tracks are the sitcom equivalent of those infuriating ‘99% OF PEOPLE CAN’T LIKE THIS PICTURE WITH THEIR NOSE’ posts to cull likes from susceptible 9 year olds. I think we can all agree that these desperate attempts at instilling a reaction to humour through synthesised laughter, or posts that try and trick you into giving them a cheeky double tap, just hint towards an insecurity of the comedic value of their content. I will stop my tirade against laugh tracks, however, to say that luckily for How I Met Your Mother, their punchlines are commonly a right crack-up. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but that’s showbiz, baby.
Let’s compare some of the running gags in both of the shows.
|Friends inside jokes||How I Met Your Mother inside jokes||Points awarded|
|Joey’s ‘How you doin’’’||
Barney Stinson needs his own category:
‘Legend-wait-for-it dery!’, or the modified ‘It will be legend—wait for it… and I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the second half of that word is—dairy!’ as well as his
|Joey and Barney encompass the same sitcom trope of the womaniser. Joey’s ‘How you doin’’ is no doubt iconic, but Barney does this bit better. One point to HIMYM|
|Ross being constantly pretentious and annoying (yet lovable)||Ted being constantly pretentious and annoying (yet lovable)||Sometimes, you want to punch them both in the face. But that’s the beauty of their characters. However, while Ross’ desperation is more tame, sometimes Ted sounds like he could write Buzzfeed articles about ‘15 things you realise when you turn 30’, littered with gifs of women drinking a whole bottle of wine in the bath tub. One point to friends.|
|Monica’s childhood weight, e.g. in The One with the Prom Video||Ted Mosby’s dweebish and pretentious college self, brought to life by bits such as Doctor X, his anonymous radio personality||
I feel like Ted Mosby’s oblivious affectedness is easier to ridicule.
Poor old chubby Monica; this running bit is in poor taste, it just isn’t funny. One point to HIMYM.
Regina Phalange and the plane’s broken left phalange
|Ted and Robin’s major/sergeant/general inside joke. E.g. Major||Yeah, one point to Friends. Without this stroke of comic genius, Ross and Rachel would never have been able to get together.|
|Phoebe Buffet’s failing music career. Iconic songs include ‘Smelly Cat’ and ‘Ode to Pubic Hair.’||Robin Sparkles; Scherbatsky’s former Canadian pop star identity. Iconic songs, as listed before, include ‘Let’s go to the Mall’ and ‘Sandcastles in the sand’||How can you not love Robin Sparkles? She also allows for a wealth of Canada Jokes. One point to HIMYM. Friends get oot.|
|Ugly Naked Guy||The Naked Man||Ugly Naked Guy is a beloved character in Friends, no doubt, but he gets repetitive. I found that the joke got stale after a couple seasons. One point to HIMYM|
To conclude this highly unbiased, 100% scientific evaluation of humour, How I Met Your Mother wins this round.
Let’s tally up the totals. 5 points to HIMYM and 3 points to Friends. Science has spoken, ladies and gentlemen. Friends, it’s time to step off your throne and let someone else have the spotlight. On that note, I’ll leave you with this:
**Some names have been changed to keep it PG 13