Types of Comedy

We may not know all the types of comedy, but we know what makes us laugh! Comedies have come a long way from the broad physical humor of early films to include comedic elements found in stand-up, theatre and literature. There are many types of comedy-some that attract a narrow audience and some that have wide appeal.

A Rainbow of Comedies

The comedy genre has a wide range of tools to draw from. So wide, in fact, that many comedies incorporate several different types to generate laughs. Here is a sample of the types of comedy:

  • Slapstick - A popular form of physical comedy during the silent era, slapstick is characterized by exaggerated, aggressive visual actions. A type of comedy easily understood by diverse groups, slapstick tends to come back into style or to be used in small doses with other types of comedy.
  • Dark comedy - Mixing elements of comedy and tragedy, dark comedies often have death, war or illness as a central theme. Although dark comedies tend to use sophisticated techniques like irony and innuendo (Prizzi's Honor (1985), Fargo (1996)), some dark comedies have successfully blended broad humor as well (Weekend at Bernie's (1989), Very Bad Things (1998)).
  • Character - Character comedies gain much of their power from the persona developed by the lead character. Such personas often make use of exaggerated modes of dress, speech and movement to generate comic interest.
  • Romantic - Romantic comedies frequently feature couples that seem completely wrong for each other at the start of the story, yet fall madly in love by the conclusion. Romantic comedies often use mistaken identity, eccentric supporting characters and multiple reversals of fortune to move the plot along.
  • Parody - By making fun of the stereotypes, conventions and clichés of a particular genre, parody comedies play to the fan base of that particular genre. Prominent examples are Airplane! (1980)-which made fun of early disaster movies, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)-which lampooned spy films and Scary Movie (2000)-which took on modern horror movies.
  • Satire - Usually designed to poke fun at authority or tradition, satiric comedies often use witty dialogue, irony and improbable situations to make social commentary.
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