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Hopscotch to oblivion, Barcelona, Spain

Black comedy is a sub-genre of comedy and satire[1][2] in which topics and events that are usually regarded as taboo are treated in a satirical or humorous manner while retaining their seriousness. Synonyms include dark comedy, black humor, dark humor, and morbid humor.



The purpose of black comedy is to make light of serious and often taboo subject matter, and some comedians use it as a tool for exploring important issues, thus provoking discomfort and serious thought, as well as amusement, in their audience. Popular themes of the genre include rape, murder, suicide, war, drug abuse, terminal illness, abuse, insanity, disease, racism, disability, both physical and mental, chauvinism and crime. By contrast, blue comedy focuses more on crude topics, such as sex and bodily fluids.

Although the two are interrelated, black comedy is different from straightforward obscenity in that it is more subtle and doesn't necessarily have an explicit intention to offend people. In obscene humor, much of the humorous element comes from shock and revulsion, while black comedy usually includes an element of irony, or even fatalism. This particular brand of humor can be exemplified by a scene in the play Waiting for Godot, where a man takes off his belt to hang himself and his trousers fall down.

Writers such as William Faulkner, Thomas Pynchon[1], Kurt Vonnegut[1], Warren Zevon, Patrick Hamilton, Joseph Heller[1], Mark Twain, Martin McDonagh, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and George Bernard Shaw have written novels, poems, stories, plays and songs in which profound or horrific events were portrayed in a comic manner. Comedians including Lenny Bruce[2], George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Peter Cook, Jimmy Carr, Jack Dee, Frankie Boyle, Jhonen Vasquez and the Monty Python team have also helped popularize the genre.

The Book of Bunny Suicides by author Andy Riley is a more modern take on conventional black comedy. Its comedic value relies mostly on non sequitur, one-panel cartoon drawings of one or several bunnies finding creative ways of committing suicide.


Major "King" Kong riding a nuclear bomb to oblivion, from the film Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

In the United States, black comedy as a literary genre came to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s. An anthology edited by Bruce Jay Friedman, titled Black Humor, assembles many examples of the genre.

Black comedy is a prevalent theme of many cult films, television shows and video games. The 1964 Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove presents one of the best-known mainstream examples of black comedy.[1] The subject of the film is nuclear warfare and the annihilation of life on Earth. Normally, dramas about nuclear war treat the subject with gravity and seriousness, creating suspense over the efforts to avoid a nuclear war. But Dr. Strangelove plays the subject for laughs; for example, in the film, the fail-safe procedures designed to prevent a nuclear war are precisely the systems that ensure that it will happen. Plotwise, Group Captain Mandrake serves as the only sane character in the film, while Major Kong fills the role of the hero striving for a harmful goal.

Black comedy is commonly used in dramatic or satirical films, retaining its serious tone.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ a b

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