Scott Diffrient’s chapter published in new book Serial Killing on Screen: Adaptation, True Crime and Popular Culture

Professor and Programming Director for the ACT Human Rights Film Festival Scott Diffrient has published the chapter “‘Homicidal Hams’ and ‘Psycho Clowns’: Serial Killer Humour in American Television Comedies” in the new book Serial Killing on Screen: Adaptation, True Crime and Popular Culture. The book, edited by Sarah E. Fanning and Claire O’Callaghan, both critically examines the adaptation of numerous and notable figures and their horrific crimes as well as touches on debates arising from criminology, cultural studies, film and television studies, and sociology.


Although the recurring theme of serial murder has received ample attention within scholarly studies of TV crime dramas, its prevalence within contemporary comedy programming has gone largely unnoticed. The incongruity between homicide and humor offers one possible explanation for that conspicuous absence in the critical literature; but that same inharmonious mix of ingredients is also a reason to take stock of the representational modes and parodic framing unique to televised sitcoms and sketch comedies, which have increasingly turned serial killing—or, rather, the moral panics surrounding it—into a seriously funny subject. This chapter provides a lens through which to make sense of several US television programs’ decidedly comedic take on the criminal imaginary, starting with some of the most significant small-screen representations of serial killers as either ‘homicidal hams’ (as seen in episodes of Cheers) or as ‘psycho clowns’ (to borrow the words spoken by characters in an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).