What's So Funny About Fat?

Rob McElhenney of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia has gained 50 pounds in the past six months. On purpose. His character's name is Mac, so now the show can have "Big Mac" jokes. His costar Charlie Day explains:

"We were a little on the fence about it for his own personal health and safety… But it has definitely made Mac a lot funnier!"

Why is fat so funny?

Maybe audiences think fat is amusing because overweight people are viewed as being out of control. If you're heavy, you're wild and unpredictable! Who knows what could happen? There's also the stereotype that a fat person is jolly. Chubby men like Santa Claus, Chris Farley, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill are seen as being friendly and fun to be around; the rotund buffoon has been a stock character for centuries.

Women are seldom portrayed as fat and funny. It happens from tine to time, but it's been years since Roseanne had her own show, and since Renée Zellweger gained weight for Bridget Jones. In Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy's weight wasn't necessarily an integral part of her character, but the flick did use fat as a punchline, especially in the sandwich scene at the end.

It's worth pointing out that neither Roseanne nor Melissa McCarthy (nor Jonah Hill or of the aforementioned guys) gained weight in order to be funny. They would be hilarious no matter their body type. And Zellweger only put on some pounds to fit a character in a screenplay based on a book. (With women, the road to stardom usually involves losing weight. Tina Fey worked behind the scenes until she lost 30 lbs. and became a breakout star on Saturday Night Live.)

But if McElhenney actually gained weight for a running joke, he's working under the assumption that fat, in and of itself, is hilarious. That making fat jokes, mocking overweight people and using paunch as a punchline is okay. Chances are, millions of Americans wouldn't agree.

'It's Always Sunny' Star Rob McElhenney Gains 50 Lbs. For Show, Hopes To Make Character Funnier [NYDN]