I first heard about Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis from one of my very good friends who loves reading, writing, romance, and Reylo as much as I do. After learning that Hazelwood drew inspiration for the book from Star Wars fan fiction she’d written, I knew I had to read it. I did grow up watching the original Star Wars from the VHS boxed set after all, and yes, I may also have a secret crush on Adam Driver. As I immersed myself in The Love Hypothesis, I began thinking about the nature of romantic comedies and why they work so well.
So, for those who haven’t read The Love Hypothesis, the story follows third-year PhD candidate Olive Smith as she pursues her research on pancreatic cancer at Stanford. In an attempt to convince her best friend, Anh, that she’s over her ex, Olive falls into an entertaining fake-dating scheme with the aloof and disagreeable professor Adam Carlsen.
When I’m really connecting with a book, I often fold down page corners to remember favorite quotes. Sometimes, I’ll go back, jot down the quotes in my reading journal, and unfold the corners. Usually, though, I leave the page corners folded forever like a true book troll. While reading The Love Hypothesis, I found myself folding down corner after corner. By the time I finished reading, my book didn’t have just a couple of dog ears; it had a dogsled team’s worth.
As I traced my steps back through the pages, I noticed many of the quotes I loved shared a loose theme. These quotes were funny, and they made me laugh. They left enough of an impression that I wanted to save these gems of humor and not forget them when I finished the book. With these funny scenes in mind, I began piecing together my hypothesis on why humor makes a romance so great.
So, What’s So Great About Humor in Romance?
Protagonists Are Lovable And Relatable
In a romance novel, I more often see myself in the protagonist’s shoes when they’re in funny situations. When life doesn’t go smoothly for my character, I can laugh with them and think, “Yes, I get that. This person is me.” Take the following quote for example:
“She leaned forward. ‘Will you ask a long-winded, leading question that will cause me to ramble incoherently and lose the respect of my peers, thus forever undermining my place in the field of biology?'” (The Love Hypothesis, p. 217)
I have been in those situations where I get anxious while talking, and I’m terrified of veering onto the path of incoherent rambling. I’m relieved Olive gets it. Pieces of humor like this make me commiserate deeply with the protagonist and laugh at the same time.
As that Shakespeare saying goes, “the course of true love never did run smooth,”and in my experience, that’s definitely putting it lightly. Seeing a romance protagonist stumble through the woes of finding love, awkward moments and all, is refreshing and cathartic.
Friend Groups You Want To Be Friends With
For me, funny friends in romance novels come across as more genuine. I feel like I’m a part of the fictional friend group as I’m enveloped in their good humor, and this was definitely the case while I read The Love Hypothesis. I loved Olive’s friends, Anh and Malcolm. They were supportive, likable, and funny.
After Olive gives a presentation at a research conference, Anh and Olive have the following conversation:
“‘…while you were talking, I had a vision of your future in academia.’
Olive wrapped her arms around Anh. ‘What vision?’
‘You were a high-powered researcher, surrounded by students who hung on your every word. And you were answering a multiparagraph email with an uncapitalized no.'”(p. 226)
My fatal flaw is multi-paragraph emails, and the idea of sending just a “no” is very liberating. The humor like this coming from Anh and Malcolm throughout the book reminded me of my own banter with my friends. Anh and Malcolm were friends I wanted to be friends with, and they did feel like friends while I was reading.
In a 2021 interview with Collider, Ali Hazelwood said, “It’s very hard to make friends as an adult. And I feel like I truly found my adult friends through fanfiction and through the fandom community.” I couldn’t agree with her more; it is hard to make friends as an adult. For me, the funny characters I meet through romance novels feel like I’m in the company of good friends. As they crack jokes in the story, I’m right there snickering along with them.
Best of All, Humor in Romance Cheers Me Up
My favorite romances are the ones that cause me to burst out laughing at the most unexpected times, and that happened for me throughout The Love Hypothesis.
“‘There will be only one bed.’
He frowned. ‘No, as I said it’s a double–’
‘It’s not. It won’t be. There will only be one bed, for sure.’
He gave her a puzzled look. ‘I got the booking confirmation the other day. I can forward it to you if you want; it says that–’
‘It doesn’t matter what it says. It’s always one bed.’ (p. 209)
This teasing of romance tropes was too good. Coming across these unanticipated snippets of humor felt like finding the cookie dough chunks in cookie dough ice cream. You don’t always know if it’s in your spoonful, but when you come across one, it’s the most delicious surprise.
Here, I think lies the heart of why humor makes an impact for me in romance. Romance, with its happily ever afters, is such a feel-good genre. I have always loved reading romance, but I also gravitate towards this genre when I’m feeling down and am consciously or subconsciously in need of something uplifting. When I read a romance novel, I’m wrapped up in a cozy love story. I feel a little more hopeful about the world too.
When humor gets added into romance, though, it’s more than just comforting. It truly cheers me up. When life gives me bad days, winter, or pandemics, I read a rom-com, and I feel some joy again. If you’d like another corny metaphor, romance novels are the bandaids for my tough days and romantic comedies are the Neosporin. They’re a balm for my soul.
My Romcom Hypothesis (Or Rather, Conclusion)
So here’s my romcom hypothesis/conclusion for you: reading romantic comedies is one of my favorite ways to cheer up. It’s not a groundbreaking conclusion, but it is something I think I forget sometimes.
I have been reading and watching romcoms for (almost) as long as I have been watching Star Wars. Sometimes though, I take them for granted. In the midst of dreary or busy weeks, I forget what a pick-me-up a romantic comedy can offer. The Love Hypothesis reminded me of that. This book cheered me up when I needed it, and I hope romcoms can do that for you too.
I can’t wait for Ali Hazelwood’s next book, Love On the Brain, to come out in August. I have a feeling it’ll be just as funny as The Love Hypothesis.
For more humor in romance, check out these 9 Diverse Romantic Comedies to Leave You Smiling, or these 15 Funny Romance Books That Will Bring You Laughter With Each Chapter. You may also enjoy reading this Rioter’s exploration of the idea of Romantic Comedies as Escapist Fantasy Novels. Happy reading, lovebirds!