I think it was Charlie Chaplin who said that life was a comedy when seen from a distance but a tragedy when seen up close.
It is true the that the worlds of tragedy and comedy are closely related; the best comedies have a hint of tragedy and pathos about them. Steptoe and Son was fuelled by the situation and how the outer world looked down their noses on the two rag and bone men, in the episode Without Prejudice Harold tries to move them out of the grotty little hovel of Oil Drum Lane and into the suburbs only to find that the people who live on the street have no intention of letting them move in and offered them the asking price for the house on Oil Drum Lane if they will stay there. The other tragedy of the show is that although they can’t stand one another they are very much co-dependant upon one another, Albert is too old to go to work and Harold is not business savvy or financially substantial enough to go it alone which is illustrated in an episode in which he moves out and barely has enough money to eat and put money in the meter. One of the secrets about the success of Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour and even the Likely Lads and Porridge was that despite them being comedies , they didn’t actively have jokes in them, the humour was derived from the characters and the situations they found themselves in. Any jokes in the shows were made by the characters as part of the fiction to other characters and it is was a case of us laughing with the characters.