Being a comedian is no joke. Just ask Todd Milliner and Mark Herzog.
"Not only are [comics] serious but they take their profession very seriously," says Milliner, one of the co-creators of TVNZ 1's new show, The History of Comedy.
"Their job is not a joke, but their job is to make us laugh. That's a really interesting distinction."
Milliner and Mark Herzog know all about it after putting together an in-depth documentary series that takes a deep dive behind the lols.
Across The History of Comedy's eight episodes, the pair have tried to place comedy in a historical context, focusing each episode around a different theme to explore the role humour plays in sex, politics and race.
That sounds tedious but what makes the show compelling viewing is the narrative supplied by the show's interview subjects.
With more than 70 interviews undertaken for the series, The History of Comedy features discussions with everyone from Jimmy Kimmel to Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Larry David, Margaret Cho, Patton Oswalt and Judd Apatow.
The pair were shocked by just how seriously each of those interviewed took their comedy careers.
"We should have called this 'A Serious Look at Comedy," says Herzog. "Every one of our interviewees wanted to analyse comedy, they were very serious about it [and] historical about it.
"A lot of these comedians understand the people who came before them, know their place in comedy and how they can inspire the next generation."
The show, says Milliner, will "connect the dots from Jonathan Winters to Lenny Bruce to George Carlin to Robin Williams to Amy Schumer".
Don't worry, it's not just a history lesson: you're still guaranteed a bunch of lols. The History of Comedy is full of clips from classic stand-up icons and TV shows that will have you laughing like it was yesterday.
The pair spent months digging up whatever footage they could find. Herzog says his favourite clip is of Jean Carroll performing stand-up in the 1950s.
"I'd never heard of her [and] every time I watch it I laugh," he says. "If I'm laughing at a joke she did on some stage on some TV show 65 years ago, she's worth presenting to the world. That's really rewarding."
The pair found themselves with so much footage and so many interviews that they've almost finished work on season two, and discussions are underway for a third.
But their biggest question was: what makes comedians tick? Why would someone do this every day, get up on stage with the potential to die a horrible showbiz death up there?
The answer could be a little darker than you might think.
"There are a number of brilliant comedians who found the resources of their comedy in a dark place, and used that to get out of a dark place," says Herzog.
"Some had issues with the darkness, with addiction, self-esteem. Comedy [and], I think, the adulation from the audience, helped them find a certain type of peace."
As Curb Your Enthusiasm star Richard Lewis tells the duo, to be a comedian, "You're wired dark - you can go dark really fast."
The pair devote an entire episode to the topic of depression and suicide, but emphasise that not all comedians have that dark size.
"Comedy comes from all types of places," says Herzog.
But there is one thing they all have in common: bombing sucks. But that, says Herzog, "goes back to the analytical nature of comedy".
"Why did I bomb? How did I say that joke poorly? How did I set it up the wrong way?"
Continues Milliner: "You either bomb or you kill. There's no in between."
What: The History of Comedy
Where and when: Tonight, TVNZ 1, 8.30pm