12

Below is a dialog between two girls - Maddie and London - talking about a man called Lance:

London: So how did it go with the lifeguard?
Maddie: Well...
London: What's the matter? Didn't he love your outfit?
Maddie: Yah but, I don't think it's going to work.
London: Why not? He loved your outfit!
Maddie: But I didn't like him.
London: Didn't you like his outfit?
Maddie: London, it's not all about outfits! It's about the people inside them.
London: Huh?
Maddie: He's really nice but, all he can talk about is water! Okay, swimming in water, diving in water, splashing water, saltwater versus fresh water, after talking to him for an hour, I had to go so bad!
[Maddie's cell phone rings]
Maddie: Oh no it's him!
London: Dump him. Dump him like last month's shoes!
Maddie: But I don't want to hurt him.
London: Oh, so you're just going to marry him and live pool side with a bunch of boring lifeguard babies?
Maddie: You're right, I've got to end it!
[Maddie answers phone]
Maddie: [to Lance] Hi Lance...oh, I miss you too...oh really...[to London] apparently the PH balance in the pool is perfect.

I got this script from this website: https://studentsoftheworld.info/sites/tv/savannah0033.php

And the above dialog is from the TV series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, season 1 episode 1, at minute 12:33. Here is the video link: https://vimeo.com/582552215#t=12m33s

I understand the literal meaning of the bold sentence above. But why is there a laugh for it? Does it mean something else?

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  • 1
    Why do you think Maddie said "apparently the PH balance in the pool is perfect" to London?
    – minseong
    Jan 21, 2023 at 14:00
  • 1
    "You had to be there..." Jan 22, 2023 at 21:53
  • 1
    Frankly, I fail to see the humor here. In a swimming pool, maintaining proper pH balance is absolutely critical to health and safety - it is scarcely a laughing matter. :-) Jan 23, 2023 at 15:40
  • 1
    @BobJarvis-СлаваУкраїні / Lance?! :)
    – MrWhite
    Jan 23, 2023 at 16:50
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    @RobbieGoodwin It's all to do with the delivery, nearly anything can be funny if the timing is right and the acting is good. It looks funny on page–yes, it does–but maybe the acting wasn't (I have not seen the video) and that is why the OP couldn't understand why the audience laughed. Then again, it could have been canned laughter which sitcoms use to tell viewers a scene is "hilarious" that added to their bewilderment.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 24, 2023 at 9:51

5 Answers 5

37

It is indeed a funny scene. Maddie described Lance to be a water nerd. She talked to him for an hour and all he could talk about was water, which was kind of funny. Now, Maddie receives a call from Lance and Lance being Lance tells Maddie that the pH balance of the water in the pool is perfect. He's still talking about water over the phone! He just can't think about anything but water.

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    Plus, having a feeling for and being aware of the perfect pH value for swimming water is extremely specific, exemplifying even better his obsession with water and how that could prove annoying after a while.
    – Joachim
    Jan 21, 2023 at 7:57
13

The sentence about the pH value has no additional, secondary meaning.

It however has a function, as it is the last "puzzle piece" to what constitutes the joke in the scene.

First we learn that Lance, or rather, his and Maddie's relationship has a problem.

An elaborate set of illustrative descriptions and debate build up tension, which eventually becomes a burden to bear (through empathy), and gets us invested in finding a resolution to this tension.

A solution candidate gets introduced: end it with the guy. A ray of hope, maybe our tension/burden gets resolved. (We are now well prepared to receive the joke.)

Then Maddie goes:

  • "oh, I miss you too"
    • Okay, she's not gonna end it; but maybe the guy on the phone — who we cannot hear — redeemed himself somehow?
  • "apparently ..."
    • This signifies that Maddie is still not on-board with what Lance is saying; she is not truly empathizing with him.
  • "... the PH balance in the pool is perfect"
    • Oh no, Lance did not redeem himself whatsoever!

      The tension/burden is as alive as it ever was. We, the observer are stuck with it without a hope of ease. We are screwed.

The laugh track is delivered on/following that sentence because it's the one that delivers the surprise that all the preceding dialogue built up.


(The final joke is that Maddie is not strong enough to stand up to her own interests. We sympathize with her weakness, because we as well are being put in comparable situations day by day: it's a very familiar feeling and we are relieved that it's not only us who is impacted by it.)

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    "oh, I miss you too". More likely, it's a rote response to him having said he misses her.
    – chepner
    Jan 21, 2023 at 16:37
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    @chepner Also true, but it does not refute the conclusion; the very meaning of the expression indicates that this is not a (typical) direction towards a breakup.
    – Levente
    Jan 21, 2023 at 16:39
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    I suspect she just hasn't had a chance to break into the conversation yet. Lance launched right from "hi, i miss you" to talking about water pH without a pause.
    – chepner
    Jan 21, 2023 at 16:40
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    @chepner again, true, but I would say, also ambiguous. Of course there are several possible interpretations competing. But we are in a comedy skit, a televised gag, the kind that uses laugh tracks. In this high-paced genre the budget for both time and the audience's attention is tight; each utterance has a defined function, to advance the plot (or to contribute to a gag) in some way. On the other hand, the link to the video is available above in the question. Spoiler alert: a minute later Maddie exclaims: "I can't believe I made another date with him!" :)
    – Levente
    Jan 21, 2023 at 17:34
2

Answering your question is difficult without the full context.

I am speculating here, but below are 2 possible explanations for the inserted laughter:

  1. She is not romantically attracted to the lifeguard because of his obsession with water. Her comment to her friend about what he's telling her on PH is to laugh at him and his obsession.

  2. She is romantically attracted to the lifeguard in spite of his obsession with water. Her comment to her friend about what he's telling her on PH shows how hopelessly attracted she is to him. Actually, the comment could also show her attraction when she awkwardly creates cheap poetry to link the "balance" in the PH with a fancied romantic "balance".

1

The punchline emphasizes that Lance is obsessed with water (a water nerd as weebmanish notes) to such an extent that he is presumably excited about the fact that the water pH is perfectly balanced, something that presumably is challenging to attain, and feels it is imperative to communicate to Maddie this fact which most would ignore as trivial or uninteresting. This interpretation of the joke would be more effective if the audience was somehow made more clearly aware of Lance's excitement.

0

It's actually pretty clear to me:

Lance seems to be a boring kind of guy face to face, but a romantic one on the phone; this other side of him balanced the scales somehow. Maddie expressed it funnily/sarcastically by using water terminology.

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