Office Humor

By Maddie Gaw

Swimmers follows a day in the life of several office employees. In between actual work, bouts of hilarity ensue. Sound like a familiar premise?

From TV shows to movies to comic strips, the office workplace has often been a fertile source of comedy. Sometimes the humor comes from poking fun at the more mundane and annoying aspects of office life, like endless typing, mindless paper work that no one reads and broken copy or coffee machines. Other times the humor has more to do with your workplace relationships, whether it’s with a clueless or adversarial boss or your cute cubicle-mate.

Before you dive into Swimmers’ wacky day at the office, here are some other classic office comedies to check out:

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying—This musical from the same team who wrote Guys and Dolls is based on a 1952 manual by Shepherd Mead, which satirizes office politics based on Mead’s experience at an advertising agency. While lead character J. Pierrepont Finch’s quick rise through the ranks is exaggerated, the song “Coffee Break” is a completely realistic depiction of the caffeine addiction that continues to afflict many in the workforce.

9 to 5—This 1980 comedy is the first—and perhaps best—in a long line of “Getting Revenge on the Boss” films. It follows three female office workers who are forced to put up with their sexist boss’ antics until they put their heads together and find a way to run the company behind his back. Though written more than thirty years ago, the character Violet’s struggle to get promoted over her male coworkers is shared by Swimmers’ character Farrah.

Dilbert—This long-running comic strip is set in a Silicon Valley office and follows an engineer, Dilbert, and his co-workers as they navigate the insanely bureaucratic world of 1990s corporate culture. Dilbert’s humor didn’t come from exaggerating office life—it came from exact replication. Many strips got their situations or dialogue verbatim from reader-submitted stories and real-life company slogans and memos.

Office Space—This 1999 film about IT workers is many people’s gold standard for the modern office comedy. A disenchanted programmer accidentally finds himself promoted when he stops caring about his job and famously seeks revenge on cubicles and printers all while blasting hardcore gangster rap.

The Office—This U.K. television series and its arguably more famous U.S. remake are both mockumentaries about a fictional paper company that is captained by a highly incompetent boss. The U.S. version, which lasted for 9 seasons, was a true ensemble piece, juggling many characters and multiple storylines. Swimmers, with its 11 characters, aims to do something similar.