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Comedy (from Greek: Kωμωδία), in modern times, is an entertainment with generally funny content. It is able to make people laugh. This definition was used for theatre plays, and was first used in Ancient Greece. Aristotle defined this as “Comedy is, as an imitation of characters of a lower type- not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. To take an obvious example, the comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain.” To him, the lampooners became writers of Comedy and the truly artistic ones became writers of Tragedy.
History[change | change source]
Satire[change | change source]
One of the best-known comedy authors of the time was Aristophanes (about 446–386 BC). One of his works, The Clouds was performed 425 BC. The work did not survive completely, but a later version did survive. It is a satire against Socrates, and pictures the great philosopher as a swaggering con artist. Some of the accusations were re-used at Socrates' trial, twenty years later.
Typical for satire are that the author criticizes society, and living people.
Satyr plays[change | change source]
Another type of Ancient Greek theatre was the satyr play. This was mock drunkenness, brazen sexuality (including phallic props), pranks, sight gags, and general merriment. The modern equivalent would be knock-about comedy.
Humour[change | change source]
Humour, or 'New Comedy' is not about criticizing people or ideas, but rather about showing characters in funny situations. The most important Greek playwright of this type was probably Menander. The best known Roman comedy writer was Plautus. He often used Greek comedies for his plays.
Many comedy plays were written in the 1500s by the British writer William Shakespeare. Shakespeare's comedy plays include: All’s Well That Ends Well, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Nights Dream, and Twelfth Night. In Shakespeare's day a comedy did not mean a play that would make people laugh or that had a lot of jokes. Instead it was a play in which all the problems work out all right in the end. This was unlike a tragedy, where the problems do not work out, usually resulting in someone's death. The two masks, one was smiling, the other crying, often associated with theatre represent comedy and tragedy.
Types[change | change source]
Slapstick[change | change source]
There are different types of comedy. One type of comedy is called "slap stick comedy." In "slap stick comedy," people do silly things such as tripping, falling over or embarrassing themselves just to make people laugh. Slap stick comedy can be used in comedy movies or comedy television shows.
Slap stick comedy was used a lot in silent (no sound) movies from the 1920s. A comedian who acted in the silent movies who used a lot of slapstick comedy was Charlie Chaplin. In the 1950s and 1960s, comedian Jerry Lewis also used silly slap stick comedy in his comedy movies.
Comedy movies[change | change source]
A comedy is a very popular type of movie. Some comedy movies have "slapstick comedy," in which people just do silly things such as tripping, falling over or embarrassing themselves just to make people laugh. Other comedy movies show funny stories or situations in which people are behaving in a silly manner. Some comedies make the audience laugh by showing strange or unusual images or situations that do not make sense.
Parody/Spoof[change | change source]
A parody or spoof movie imitates or exaggerates another person or movie to make them seem silly, dumb, or just plain out of it.
Different types of comedy movies[change | change source]
Some types of comedy movies mix comedy with other types of movies.
- There is a type of movie called a dramedy, which is a mix of a drama movie and a comedy movie.
- There is also a type of movie called a romantic comedy (sometimes called a "rom-com"). In romantic comedies, there is a love story about a couple who fall in love, along with silly or funny comedy parts.
Comedy television shows[change | change source]
Comedy shows are very popular on television. Comedy shows on television are often called "sitcoms." The word "sitcom" is a shortened way of saying "situational comedy." Television situational comedies usually show characters who do silly or funny things which make the audience laugh.