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Comedy (from the Greek κωμωδία, komodia) as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse generally intended to amuse, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in Ancient Greece. In the Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was remarkably influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theaters.[1] The theatrical genre can be simply described as a dramatic performance which pits two societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye famously depicted these two opposing sides as a "Society of Youth" and a "Society of the Old",[2] but this dichotomy is seldom described as an entirely satisfactory explanation. A later view characterizes the essential agon of comedy as a struggle between a relatively powerless youth and the societal conventions that pose obstacles to his hopes; in this sense, the youth is understood to be constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to take recourse to ruses which engender very dramatic irony which provokes laughter.[3]

Much comedy contains variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations, but there are many recognized genres of comedy. Satire and political satire use ironic comedy to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt, thus alienating their audience from the object of humor. Satire is a type of comedy. Parody borrows the form of some popular genre, artwork, or text but uses certain ironic changes to critique that form from within (though not necessarily in a condemning way). Screwball comedy derives its humor largely from bizarre, surprising (and improbable) situations or characters. Black comedy is defined by dark humor that makes light of so called dark or evil elements in human nature. Similarly scatological humor, sexual humor, and race humor create comedy by violating social conventions or taboos in comic ways. A comedy of manners typically takes as its subject a particular part of society (usually upper class society) and uses humor to parody or satirize the behavior and mannerisms of its members. Romantic comedy is a popular genre that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms, and focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love.

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Etymology

The word "comedy" is derived from the Classical Greek κωμῳδία kōmōidía, which is a compound either of κῶμος kômos (revel) or κώμη kṓmē (village) and ᾠδή ōidḗ (singing); it is possible that κῶμος itself is derived from κώμη, and originally meant a village revel. The adjective "comic" (Greek κωμικός kōmikós), which strictly means that which relates to comedy is, in modern usage, generally confined to the sense of "laughter-provoking".[4] Of this, the word came into modern usage through the Latin comoedia and Italian commedia and has, over time, passed through various shades of meaning.[5]

Greeks and Romans confined the word "comedy" to descriptions of stage-plays with happy endings. In the Middle Ages, the term expanded to include narrative poems with happy endings and a lighter tone. In this sense Dante used the term in the title of his poem, La Divina Commedia. As time progressed, the word came more and more to be associated with any sort of performance intended to cause laughter.[5] During the Middle Ages, the term "comedy" became synonymous with satire, and later humour in general, after Aristotle's Poetics was translated into Arabic in the medieval Islamic world, where it was elaborated upon by Arabic writers and Islamic philosophers, such as Abu Bischr, his pupil Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes. Due to cultural differences, they disassociated comedy from Greek dramatic representation and instead identified it with Arabic poetic themes and forms, such as hija (satirical poetry). They viewed comedy as simply the "art of reprehension", and made no reference to light and cheerful events, or troublous beginnings and happy endings, associated with classical Greek comedy. After the Latin translations of the 12th century, the term "comedy" thus gained a more general semantic meaning in Medieval literature.[6]

History

Comedy is one of the original four genres of literature as defined by the philosopher Aristotle in his work called Poetics. The other three genres are Tragedy, Epic, and Lyric. Literature in general is defined by Aristotle as a mimesis, or imitation of, life. Comedy is the third form of literature, being the most divorced from a true mimesis. Tragedy is the truest mimesis, followed by epic, comedy and lyric. The genre of comedy is defined by a certain pattern according to Aristotle's definition. All comedies begin with a low, typically with an "ugly" guy who can't do anything right. By the end of the story or play, the "ugly" guy has won the "pretty" girl, or whatever it was he was aiming for at the beginning. Comedies also have elements of the supernatural, typically magic and for the ancient Greeks the gods. Comedy includes the unrealistic in order to portray the realistic. For the Greeks, all comedies ended happily which is opposite of tragedy, which ends sadly. The oldest Greek comedy is Homer's Odyssey, the story of Odysseus and his crew's attempt to return home after the fall of Troy.

Aristophanes, a dramatist of the Ancient Greek Theater wrote 40 comedies, 11 of which survive and are still being performed. In ancient Greece, comedy seems to have originated in bawdy and ribald songs or recitations apropos of fertility festivals or gatherings, or also in making fun at other people or stereotypes.[4] Aristotle, in his Poetics, states that comedy originated in Phallic songs and the light treatment of the otherwise base and ugly. He also adds that the origins of comedy are obscure because it was not treated seriously from its inception.[7]

Comedy took on a different view with the advent of the Christian era. The comic genre was divided by Dante in his work The Divine Comedy, made up of the epic poems Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Dante's division of comedy into three sub genres still exist today in various forms[citation needed]. Inferno represents the darkest of all comedies, or what is known as dark or black comedy[citation needed]. In such comedy, one is forced to laugh or enjoy dark or black topics that one shouldn't enjoy or laugh at. Generally, most who read the whole Divine Comedy find the Inferno to be the most enjoyable of the three. At the end of the dark comedy, one is still left with a sense of hope but one has not necessarily achieved what one has looked for. Purgatorio is made up of what most comedies today possess. Purgatorio is light hearted, at least compared to Inferno, and yet one still does not achieve fully what one looks for. As such, Purgatorio leaves the main character with a sense of hope greater than what was felt at the end of Inferno. Paradiso is the most traditional of the three in way of the Greek standard of comedy[citation needed]. The supernatural play a huge role in all three poems, but Paradiso ends the happiest of all three with the main character achieving his goal. Infernal, Purgatorial and Paradisal comedies are the three main genres in which one can place all other comic forms[citation needed].

The phenomena connected with laughter and that which provokes it have been carefully investigated by psychologists. They agreed the predominating characteristics are incongruity or contrast in the object, and shock or emotional seizure on the part of the subject. It has also been held that the feeling of superiority is an essential, if not the essential, factor: thus Thomas Hobbes speaks of laughter as a "sudden glory". Modern investigators have paid much attention to the origin both of laughter and of smiling, as well as the development of the "play instinct" and its emotional expression.

George Meredith, in his 1897 classic Essay on Comedy, said that "One excellent test of the civilization of a country ... I take to be the flourishing of the Comic idea and Comedy; and the test of true Comedy is that it shall awaken thoughtful laughter." Laughter is said to be the cure to being sick. Studies show, that people who laugh more often, get sick less.[8][9]

Forms of comedy

Comedy may be divided into multiple genres based on the source of humor, the method of delivery, and the context in which it is delivered. The different forms often overlap, and most comedy can fit into multiple genres. Some of the sub-genres of comedy are farce, comedy of manners, burlesque, and satire.

Performing arts

History

Plays (theatre)

Opera

Improvisational comedy

Clowns

Stand-up comedy

Stand-up comedy is a mode of comic performance in which the performer addresses the audience directly, usually speaking in their own person rather than as a dramatic character.

Stand-up comedy events and awards

Jokes

Lists of comedians

By nationality

Literature

Film

Television and radio

Lists of comedy television programs

See also

References

  1. ^ Henderson, J. (1993) Comic Hero versus Political Elite pp.307-19 in Sommerstein, A.H.; S. Halliwell, J. Henderson, B. Zimmerman, ed (1993). Tragedy, Comedy and the Polis. Bari: Levante Editori. 
  2. ^ (Anatomy of Criticism, 1957)
  3. ^ (Marteinson, 2006)
  4. ^ a b Francis MacDonald Cornford, The Origin of Attic Comedy, 1934.
  5. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary
  6. ^ Webber, Edwin J. (January 1958), "Comedy as Satire in Hispano-Arabic Spain", Hispanic Review (University of Pennsylvania Press) 26 (1): 1–11 
  7. ^ Aristotle, Poetics, lines beginning at 1449a. [1]
  8. ^ LENNY BRUCE (continued from cover) The Realist No. 15, February 1960
  9. ^ Essay on Comedy, Comic Spirit, by George Meredithfrom the Encyclopedia of the Self, by Mark Zimmerman
  10. ^ This list was compiled with reference to The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (1998).
  • Aristotle, Poetics.
  • Buckham, Philip Wentworth, Theatre of the Greeks, 1827.
  • Marteinson, Peter (2006). On the Problem of the Comic: A Philosophical Study on the Origins of Laughter, Legas Press, Ottawa, 2006.
  • Pickard-Cambridge, Sir Arthur Wallace
    • Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy , 1927.
    • The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens, 1946.
    • The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, 1953.
  • Raskin, Victor, The Semantic Mechanisms of Humor, 1985.
  • Riu, Xavier, Dionysism and Comedy, 1999. [2]
  • Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane, Tragedy and Athenian Religion, Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Trypanis, C.A. (1981). Greek Poetry from Homer to Seferis. University of Chicago Press. 
  • Wiles, David, The Masked Menander: Sign and Meaning in Greek and Roman Performance, 1991.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Marx Brothers were a popular team of sibling comedians who appeared in vaudeville, stage plays, film, and television.

Comedy has a popular meaning (stand-up, along with any discourse generally intended to amuse), which differs from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in Ancient Greece. The theatrical genre can be simply described as a dramatic performance pitting two societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Comedy contains variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations, and there are many recognized genres.

Sourced

  • What we eventually run up against are the forces of humourlessness, and let me assure you that the humourless as a bunch don't just not know what's funny, they don't know what's serious. They have no common sense, either, and shouldn't be trusted with anything.
    • Martin Amis, "Political Correctness: Robert Bly and Philip Larkin" (1997)
  • By calling him humourless I mean to impugn his seriousness, categorically: such a man must rig up his probity ex nihilo.
    • Martin Amis, Experience (2000), Part I: "Failures of Tolerance"
  • Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
  • It is the duty of the humor of any given nation in time of high crisis to attack the catastrophe that faces it in such a manner as to cause the people to laugh at it in such a way that they cannot die before they are killed.
  • It is not funny that anything else should fall down, only that a man should fall down ... Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
  • A joke's a very serious thing.
  • Men will confess to treason, murder, arson, false teeth, or a wig. How many of them will own up to a lack of humour?
    • Frank Moore Colby, (1926) The Colby Essays, Vol. 1., "Satire and Teeth". Reported in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, Columbia University Press. (1993) ISBN 0231071949. p. 431.
  • Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.
    • Christopher Morley, as quoted in An Enchanted Life : An Adept's Guide to Masterful Magick‎ (2001) by Patricia Telesco, p. 189
  • I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes. Though I'm gonna be on for an hour.
  • Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that Humour excites in those who lack it.
  • A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in "A View from the Asylum" in Philosophical Investigations from the Sanctity of the Press (2004), by Henry Dribble, p. 87

Attributed

  • Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.
    • Karl Barth, reported in Mary Cox Garner (2004). The Hidden Souls of Words, SelectBooks, Inc. p. 143. ISBN 1590790596.
  • As soon as You realize Everything's a Joke,being The Comedian is the only Thing that makes Sense
  • Comedy is tragedy plus time.
    • Carol Burnett, reported in Marty Grothe (2004). Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths, HarperCollins. p. 126. ISBN 0060536993.
  • There are two thoughts that will ensure success in all you do; (1) Don't tell everything you know, and (2) until Ace Ventura, no actor had considered talking through his ass.
    • Jim Carrey, reported in Patrick Combs; Jack Canfield (2003). Major in Success, Ten Speed Press. p. 60. ISBN 1580085326.
  • The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays the part.
    • Miguel de Cervantes, reported in Marty Grothe (2004). Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths, HarperCollins. p. 126. ISBN 0060536993.
  • If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And, if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point that I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge it as true.
    • John Cleese, reported in Nicki Joy (2003). What Winners Do to Win!: The 7 Minutes a Day That Can Change Your Life, John Wiley and Sons. p. 113. ISBN 0471265772.
  • Humor is the contemplation of the finite from the point of view of the infinite.
    • Christian Morgenstern, reported in Mary Cox Garner (2004). The Hidden Souls of Words, SelectBooks, Inc. p. 142. ISBN 1590790596.
  • Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.
    • Will Rogers, reported in Geoff Tibballs (2004). The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners, Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 0786714077.
  • Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
    • Peter Ustinov, reported in Geoff Tibballs (2004). The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners, Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 0786714077.
  • The man with the real sense of humor is the man who can put himself in the spectator's place and laugh at his own misfortunes.
    • Bert Williams, reported in Jacqueline Sweeney (1997). Incredible Quotations: 230 Thought-Provoking Quotes With Prompts to Spark Students' Writing, Thinking and Discussion, Teaching Resources/Scholastic. p. 26. ISBN 0590963783.

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

COMEDY, the general term applied to a type of drama the chief object of which, according to modern notions, is to amuse. It is contrasted on the, one hand with tragedy and on the other with farce, burlesque, &c. As compared with tragedy it is distinguished by having a happy ending (this being considered for a long time the essential difference), by quaint situations, and by lightness of dialogue and character-drawing. As compared with farce it abstains from crude and boisterous jesting, and is marked by some subtlety of dialogue and plot. It is, however, difficult to draw a hard and fast line of demarcation, there being a distinct tendency to combine the characteristics of farce with those of true comedy. This is perhaps more especially the case in the so-called "musical comedy," which became popular in Great Britain and America in the later 19th century, where true comedy is frequently subservient to broad farce and spectacular effects.

The word "comedy" is derived from the Gr. Kco/2 La, which is a compound either of Kwµos (revel) and aouSos (singer; aeiSecv, aSecv, to sing), or of Kwµn7 (village) and aouS6s: it is possible that KWµos itself is derived from K6A77, and originally meant a village revel. The word comes into modern usage through the Lat. comoedia and Ital. commedia. It has passed through various shades of meaning. In the middle ages it meant simply a story with a happy ending. Thus some of Chaucer's Tales are called comedies, and in this sense Dante used the term in the title of his poem, La Commedia (cf. his Epistola X., in which he speaks of the comic style as "loquutio vulgaris, in qua et mulierculae communicant"; again "comoedia vero remisse et humiliter"; "differt a tragoedia per hoc, quod t. in principio est admirabilis et quieta, in fine sive exitu est foetida et horribilis"). Subsequently the term is applied to mystery plays with a happy ending. The modern usage combines this sense with that in which Renaissance scholars applied it to the ancient comedies.

The adjective "comic" (Gr. Kw uKOs), which strictly means that which relates to comedy, is in modern usage generally confined to the sense of "laughter-provoking": it is distinguished from "humorous" or "witty" inasmuch as it is applied to an incident or remark which provokes spontaneous laughter without a special mental effort. The phenomena connected with laughter and that which provokes it, the comic, have been carefully investigated by psychologists, in contrast with other phenomena connected with the emotions. It is very generally agreed that the predominating characteristics are incongruity or contrast in the object, and shock or emotional seizure on the part of the subject. It has also been held that the feeling of superiority is an essential, if not the essential, factor: thus Hobbes speaks of laughter as a "sudden glory." Physiological explanations have been given by Kant, Spencer and Darwin. Modern investigators have paid much attention to the origin both of laughter and of smiling, babies being watched from infancy and the date of their first smile being carefully recorded. For an admirable analysis and account of the theories see James Sully, On Laughter (1902), who deals generally with the development of the "play instinct" and its emotional expression.

See Drama; also Humour; Caricature; Play, &C.


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Simple English

A comedy is a kind of play (acting in a theater), television show or a movie that is funny, silly, or that makes people laugh. Comedies may also show people telling jokes and funny stories. People who are known for acting in comedies are comedians or comedic actors.

Contents

History

Comedy plays have been around for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks had comedy 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

Slapstick

There are different types of comedy. One type of comedy is called "slap stick comedy." In "slap stick comedy," people just 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.

Stand-up comedy

Another type of comedy is "stand-up comedy." In "stand-up comedy", a comedian (person who tries to make people laugh) stands up in front of a crowd and tells jokes and silly stories. Some comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld, work as stand-up comedians as a job (way to make money). Other comedians do stand-up comedy in nightclubs (bars where adults drink alcohol and relax) as a hobby (activity that a person does for fun).

Comedy movies

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

A parody or spoof movie makes another movie, series or person look silly to make people laugh.

Different types of comedy movies

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

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.

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