Characteristics of Comedy

The characteristics of comedy can give us a glimpse at the tools used to create these humorous looks at life. Although the goal of a comedy seems simple-to make use laugh-comedies are often used as a lens to allow us to see complex truths.

Common Elements Of Comedies

Whether it's a sly satire or a silly slapstick, all comedies share some characteristics. Here are a few of the most common:

  • I can't believe that! Often, a successful comedy will involve an incongruous situation: the baker will have to diffuse a bomb; a cold, calculating businesswoman is asked to look after a small child. These situations are instantly recognizable as improbable, but it is the bumbling, fish-out-of-water results that make them funny.
  • That's so true. From family life to office behavior, great comedies mine the truths of everyday life for their best material. A joke is often doubly funny when the audience can see themselves in both the set-up and the punch line.
  • Us against them. Many classic comedies use conflict to establish their story. Authority figures, faceless institutions, even the class bully-all have been used as foils to do battle with the main character. Easily recognizable antagonists give the audience a conflict they can relate to.
  • Wait, you're my cousin? Surprise is one of the main characteristics of good comedy. From the punch line of joke to the resolution of a mistaken identity, the best comedy takes what you think you know and turns it on its head.
  • I know her! The heroes of most comedies tend to be everyday people with an extra flaw or two thrown in for good measure. Audiences love to root for the underdog, and a flawed heroine from an average background creates a character that is at once sympathetic and recognizable.
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