What is Comedy?
Comedy is a kind of entertainment that aims to make people laugh. Comedy is a tool storytellers use across various platforms, including literature, cinema, television, radio, live performances, and visual arts like cartoons. Comedy, as we know it now, has its roots in the ancient Greek plays of authors like Aristophanes.
Aristophanes, a satirical and comedic playwright of the Ancient Greek Theater, authored 40 comedies beginning in 425 BCE, 11 of which have survived. From the early satyr plays, which were sometimes quite pornographic, Aristophanes created his brand of humor. The only surviving satyr plays are those by Euripides, which far later work that is not typical of the genre. Comedy first appeared in bawdy and ribald songs or recitations about phallic processions and fertility festivals or gatherings in ancient Greece.
Aristotle said that comedy began in phallic processions and the light portrayal of the otherwise low and ugly in his book Poetics around 335 BCE. He continues by stating that humor’s beginnings are unknown since it was not taken seriously from the start. However, comedy had its own Muse in the form of Thalia.
Since comedy promotes happiness—the ideal condition and the result of all endeavors, according to Aristotle—it is typically beneficial for society. Aristotle believed that a comedy need not have sexual humor. A comedy is about a sympathetic character’s happy development. Farce, romantic comedy, and satire are the three subgenres or categories that Aristotle uses to classify comedy. Plato, on the other hand, claimed that humor destroys the ego. He thought it causes an emotion that trumps learning and reasonable restraint. Plato claims that comedy should be strictly managed if one wishes to reach the ideal state. He believes that the guards of the state should refrain from laughing, “for ordinarily when one abandons himself to violent laughter, his condition provokes a violent reaction.”
Aristotle identified humor as one of the first four literary forms in Poetics. Tragedy, epic poetry, and lyric poetry make up the remaining three categories. Aristotle characterizes literature in general as a mimesis or imitation of life. The third literary genre is comedy, which is the furthest from real mimesis. The most authentic mimesis occurs in tragedy, which is followed by lyric poetry, epic poetry, and comedy. According to Aristotle’s definition, a specific pattern characterizes the comedy genre. Comedies start with low or base characters pursuing meaningless goals and conclude with some achievement of the goals, either lightening the initial baseness or exposing the meaninglessness of the goals.
Popular Types of Comedy
1. Slapstick comedy
Physical humor, exaggerated facial expressions, and stunts are all slapstick elements. Comics like Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges made this type of humor famous at the beginning of the 20th century.
2. Dark comedy
Also known as black comedy, this subgenre focuses on the incongruity of comedic elements and morbid subjects like war, death, and crime. Dark comedy in this vein may be found in the works of authors like Kurt Vonnegut and directors like the Coen brothers.
3. Self-deprecating comedy
Self-deprecating humor emphasizes a character’s or performer’s flaws. In several of his acts, stand-up comic Rodney Dangerfield made fun of himself.
4. Romantic comedy
This subgenre of comedy incorporates humor and themes of romantic love. Shakespeare produced several significant romantic comedies, such as Twelfth Night in 1601 and The Merchant of Venice in 1596.
5. High comedy
Works like Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) serve as examples of this sophisticated kind of humor. High comedy, sometimes referred to as a comedy of manners, frequently employs scathing humor in the context of upper-class cultures.
6. Situational comedy
Situational comedies find humor in the interactions and dynamics of a cast of people that return time and time in the same location. Seinfeld (1989–1998) and The Office (2005–2013) are two prominent comedic TV programs.
By imitating and exaggerating previous works, parodies satirize them. Young Frankenstein (1974) and Scary Movie (2000) are two parody movies.
8. Surreal humor
This form of humor focuses on absurd situations that defy logic and reason. In their plays and movies, the British comic group Monty Python created a distinctive type of surreal humor.
Tragicomedies examine many facets of the human experience by fusing humor with serious issues.
Farce centers around exaggerated characters dealing with improbable situations caused by miscommunication or mistaken identity. The Hangover (2009) and Home Alone (1990) are two well-known comedies.
11. Wordplay comedy
Performers engage audiences in this genre of humor by employing clever wordplay. Alliteration, rhyming, puns, and double entendre are a few examples of wordplay.
12. Deadpan comedy
This style of dry comedy evokes laughter through the intentional lack of emotion while talking about absurd topics.
13. Observational comedy
Performers employ this kind of comedy to highlight the humor that goes undetected in daily life.
14. Insult Comedy
It is probably unnecessary to describe this kind of humor. You probably appreciate insulting humor if you enjoy it when comedians make fun of the audience. This bold approach emphasizes mocking other people, sometimes in extremely crude or obscene ways. Witnessing a Roast is one of the finest ways to experience this kind of humor. Leaders in this genre of humor, which Don Rickles helped establish, include Jeff Ross and Jimmy Carr.
15. Topical Comedy
Topical comedy is sometimes referred to as social criticism. Comedy writers that employ this specific approach to comedy frequently produce work that critiques many facets of society, including the government, movements, or other social systems. In truth, a lot of stand-up comedians include social criticism in their performances while employing a different style. For instance, Dave Chappelle’s most recent specials, which make use of anecdotal delivery, are highly current. George Carlin was another comedian who included social criticism in his observant delivery. Hannah Gadsby and Vir Das are today’s most innovative topical comics.
16. Improv Comedy
Improv comedy is more commonly referred to as a hybrid of classic stand-up comedy and theater than as actual stand-up comedy, according to many individuals. After all, improv comedy frequently involves many performers engaging with the audience and one another on stage. Since actors must continually adapt to the unexpected behaviors of other performers and the ideas yelled by the audience, improv comedy calls for inventiveness and quick thinking. The venerable program Whose Line Is It Anyway? is a fantastic way to view this genre, with Robin Williams maybe being its most well-known representative.
17. Anecdotal Comedy
Many of the top comedians today fit under the expanding genre of anecdotal humor. This genre focuses on narrative in comics. Here, engaging stories are more likely to be told than quick one-liners. It is not surprising that anecdotal comedy is becoming more and more popular since engaging storytelling has the power to captivate an audience. In this genre, some of the most well-known figures include Dave Chapelle, Hannibal Burress, and the late Norm McDonald.
18. Observational Comedy
Observational comedy was likely featured in your very first comedy presentation. Over time, this approach has tended to be the one that is most usually done. The observational kind merely observes life and finds comedy in it. You’ve heard observational comedy if you’ve listened to a comic talk about relationships, eating, or travel. Jerry Seinfeld and George Carlin, two well-known comedians, contributed to the development of this look.
3 Common Types of Comedic Performances
Performers use a variety of comedic styles to entertain audiences. Take a look at some of the most typical comedy acts.
1. Stand-up comedy – Stand-up comedians tell anecdotes and jokes with punchlines to surprise and amuse their audiences.
2. Sketch comedy – In sketch comedy, a cast of actors performs brief funny situations. This style was made famous by sketch comedy programs like Saturday Night Live (1975–present).
3. Improvisational comedy – In this genre of comedy, actors create humorous situations on the spot without using a script.
In conclusion, comedy is a multifaceted genre of entertainment with the primary goal of making audiences laugh. It has a long history that may be traced back to Aristophanes’ classical Greek plays. The world of humor has been forever changed by several famous comedians who have appeared throughout the years. Comedy continues to be a popular type of entertainment for audiences all over the world because of its capacity to make people happy and laugh.