Comedy Genres

Physical Comedy – aka Slapstick

exaggerated violence, clumsiness &/or misfortune, examples include ‘Tom & Jerry‘, ‘Laurel & Hardy‘, ‘The Three Stooges‘, ‘Charlie Chaplin‘

Screwball Comedy

Combination of farcical situations & slapstick with fast-paced witty dialogue and a plot that often involves courtship/marriage/remarriage, examples include ‘American Pie‘, ‘There’s Something About Mary‘, ‘Kingpin’

Comedy of Manners

Ridicules the behaviour & mannerisms of a particular part of society, often the upper class, examples include ‘Keeping Up Appearances‘, ‘Faulty Towers‘, ‘Little Britain‘.

Romantic Comedy

Focuses on the foibles & adventures of those falling in love. The term ’romcom’ is used too often nowadays – lots of romantic movies are called romcoms but aren’t very funny at all! Examples of funny romcoms include ‘How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days‘, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral‘, ‘10 Things I Hate About You‘.

Black Comedy

Discussing topics & events that are usually regarded as taboo in a comic way. Intention is often to provoke discomfort & serious thought as well as amusement. Taboo themes include murder, suicide, cannibalism, war, drug abuse, domestic violence, insanity, terminal illness, racism, disability, chauvinism, corruption, crime. Examples Include ‘Blackadder’ & comedians such as Jimmy Carr & Tommy Tiernan.

Sub-genres: blue comedy (jokes about sex) & toilet humour (jokes about pee & poo).

Satire

Uses irony to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt. Often focuses on politics/ politicians /government ineptitude. Examples include political cartoons in newspapers, Tina Fey’s impressions of Sarah Palin, ‘Gift Grub‘, ‘Yes Minister‘, ‘Yes Prime Minister‘.

Parody

mimics a well known genre, person or artwork in order to make fun of it, but often in a complimentary way (unlike satire). Examples include ‘Scrubs’ (parody of hospital drama), ‘Scary Movie‘ (parody of horror movie clichés).

Word Play/ Pun / Double Entendre

makes use of the fact that words can have more than one meaning & spelling. Examples are found daily in tabloid headlines, but are also frequently used by the writers of comic songs eg ‘Breakfast Roll Song‘.

Observational comedy

Draws attention to the way we live our lives by making familiar situations appear cringe worthy & human beings seem ridiculous. Most famous example is The Office.

WHY DO WE LAUGH?

Most comedy contains some of the following elements:

  • Surprise
  • Conflict
  • Repetitiveness
  • Incongruity / ridiculousness
  • Plant and pay off

Perhaps we laugh because the comedy made us feel foolish by giving us the opposite of what we expected.

Perhaps we laugh at others because it makes us feel good about ourselves and glad we’re not in their situation. (Schadenfreude = happiness at the misfortune of others. It’s a German word, we don’t have an equivalent in English)

Perhaps we laugh because the comedy has made us more aware of our own stupidity.

Perhaps comedy allows us to laugh at things we’re expected to take seriously in everyday life.

Perhaps comedians say things we all think but never say & their honesty makes us laugh.

Perhaps comedians give us a new way of looking at the world.

For a more detailed discussion of why we find things funny, see Jimmy Carr’s book “The Naked Jape”.

Tagged with:
 

One Response to Comedy: what makes something funny?

  1. Daisy says:

    I lileartly jumped out of my chair and danced after reading this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *