Who knew the goober-smart could be so funny? The Big Bang Theory is one of the most unique and funniest sitcoms on television today. The show is based around four genius guys who are best friends and employed at Caltech. Out of all the colorful characters, Sheldon is our favorite and the most interesting to analyze.
Experimental physicist, Leonard, and theoretical physicist Sheldon are roommates and they are often seen hanging with their two intellectual side-kicks Howard and Rajesh. Sheldon and Leonard live across the hall from Penny, a cute waitress/actress. Penny may be of average intelligence but her social skills and common sense are played up to highlight the lack of the same skills in the profoundly gifted Sheldon and his geek squad.
While Sheldon is the most amusing, some might believe his character is an exaggeration, although teachers of the highly gifted can attest there are Sheldons out there in the world. Typically, sitcoms reflect the lives of people of average intelligence, lives most of us can identify with. So what makes a show, most people have nothing in common with, so darn funny?
Part of the show’s attraction can be found in the non-stop humor surrounding the quirks of the characters. The highly gifted are known for being eccentric and this show highlights that through a parade of situations in which the characters and Sheldon in particular demonstrate their oddities.
If you keep track, your favorite intellectual character is likely to display social immaturity, rigidity, adolescent humor, unawareness of social cues, one-sided conversations, unusual facial expressions, heightened sensitivity and down right terror around the opposite sex. The mixed results are a hilarious time for the audience.
Sheldon started college at age 11. He has two PhDs and an IQ of 187 putting him into the range of the profoundly gifted. Some of the funniest episodes revolve around Sheldon and his literal interpretations of sarcasm. Humor escapes him entirely, unless it is his own brand and then his highbrow funnies sometimes escape the audience. But even that can be humorous.
We see clearly that Sheldon has no humility and has problems feeling empathy for others. Not surprising, he is his own biggest fan. He engages in complicated rituals and must have things his way. For his soup to be edible, it has to be at an exact temperature, 180 degrees. Sheldon has a contract with his roommate Leonard that regulates everything from living room seating to how to deal with one another in the event they are bitten by a Zombie.
Sheldon’s collection of attributes, including his lack of empathy, could lead one to believe he has sociopathic tendencies. More likely, Sheldon has Asperger’s Syndrome. Behaviors associated with Asperger’s include: difficulties socializing, inability to show genuine interest in others, obsessing on their favorite subjects and being overstimulated by noise, lights and strong textures and tastes.
According to Ami Klin who wrote, Asperger Syndrome: An Overview, a person with Asperger’s may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favorite topic, while misunderstanding or not recognizing the listener’s feelings or reactions. The failure to react appropriately to social interaction may appear as disregard for other people’s feelings, and may come across as insensitive. Sounds a bit like Sheldon. But despite his limitations, to know Sheldon is to love Sheldon. He is endearing, likable and both his real naivete and feigned innocence gives life to his hilarious character.
The writers do a superb job formulating the scripts. The show is believable because the characters display classic signs of the profoundly gifted. Also, the show is created under the watchful guidance of a bona fide physicist who keeps us from having to suspend our disbelief too much. The story lines range from adolescent-like lust, obsessions with video games, comic books and the sophisticated rantings of intellectual giants who agonize while trying to solve “The Einstein Approximation”.
The Big Bang Theory attracts about millions viewers a week. The show is shown in over 30 countries and one might wonder how Sheldon translates, considering all countries have their own brainiacs, yet humor varies among cultures. Every month thousands Google: “Sheldon Big Bang Theory”, which means there are many people out there who want to know more about this unique character.
Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon has won three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, in 2009 he won for Individual Achievement in a Comedy at the TCA Awards, and in 2010 he was nominated for favorite comedy actor for the 36th People Choice Awards and in 2011 he won a Golden Globe for best actor in a television series.
Sheldon once asked Penny, “Do you know why I am here?”
Penny sarcastically replied, “I always figured it was to study us, to discover our weakness and report back to your alien overlords.”
Sheldon nor his intellectual friends are from another planet, but at times it may seem that way. They may believe lesser mortals are not worth their time, because we just wouldn’t “get it”. Maybe we don’t totally get them but we do get the show and it’s darn funny.
As Sheldon would say, “Bazinga!”