Comedy exists in some form in every culture around the world. It’s an extremely popular genre of storytelling due to the pleasure one receives from a well-told and well-received joke.
Definition and Explanation of Comedy
Comedy is a genre of literature, film, and television that is meant to be humorous and entertaining. It should capture the viewer’s and reader’s attention with jokes, outrageous scenarios, interesting characters, and an engaging plotline. The latter’s importance stems more from the funny events, conflicts, and difficulties that it presents to the characters. The main goal of comedy is to make the audience laugh.
Types of Comedy
There are several different types of comedy. They include:
- Situational Comedy: takes its humor from awkward situations in which one can’t escape. This type of comedy most commonly appears in television sitcoms.
- Romantic Comedy: these stories fuse romance and comedy. Usually, they follow a couple through a difficult period that allows them to grow closer while also engaging in outrageous plot points.
- Dark Comedy: also known as gallows humor or black comedy. These stories use something that’s usually scary, like war, to make the audience laugh. This is usually done by making fun of that topic or depicting it in an amusing light.
- Innuendo: a humorous veiled remark about another person that insinuates something negative in an amusing tone.
- Parody: a comedic imitation of something else. This might be another literary or dramatic work, or it might the actions of another person. One literary example is Pride and Prejudice With Zombies, making fun of Jane Austen’s classic.
- Satire: something is criticized, parodied, or made fun of with the purpose of changing it. This might be in regard to a societal norm, law, or an individual’s actions.
- Farce: a comic piece that uses dramatic and improbable situations to create amusing scenarios.
- Dramatic Irony: with dramatic irony, the humor comes from the fact that the audience knows something that the characters in a televisions show, film or play don’t know. This means that jokes made at one character’s expense are extra amusing. The adenine feels “in on the joke” when other people in the story aren’t.
While these are far from the only genres of comedy, they are a few of the most commonly enjoyed.
Examples of Comedy in Novels
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is a satire novel of the Second World War. It was published in 1961 and uses third-person omniscient narration to follow various characters. The story is nonlinear, meaning that it doesn’t progress from the beginning to the end directly. The main character is an antihero, Captain John Yossarian and the novel examines the absurd nature of war and military life through his experiences. Yossarian and his fellow members of the Air Force struggle to maintain their sanity while also doing whatever they can to fulfill their terms of service and go home.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
In this outrageous novel, Moore describes the lost childhood of Jess through the eyes of Biff, his best friend. The latter is resurrected in the 20th century to finish the Bible, filling in missing parts that should help readers better understand Christ. Through his writings, readers are entertained with stories of Biff and “Joshuas’s” journeys and difficulties.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel that wasn’t published until eleven years after the writer’s death. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, who has been compared to Don Quixote, is a thirty-year-old living at home with his mother. His quest to find employment and events of the neighborhood fill the novel.
Examples of Comedy in Poetry
The People Upstairs by Ogden Nash
In this short amusing poem, Nash describes the outrageous sounding actions of the people upstairs. The speaker uses hyperbole to suggest that they’re practicing ballet, using a bowling alley, conducting tours, and more. Here are a few lines from the poem:
They celebrate week-ends all the week.
When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks
If I Were King by A.A. Milne
‘If I Were King’ is another amusing poem intended for young readers. This piece describes the humorous desires of a child who muses over what he’d do if he were king. He’d keep wild animals, like elephants, stop bushing his hair, and spend the rest of his time thinking of other lovely things to do.
Why Do Writers Write Comedy?
Writers create comedic poems, novels, short stories, films, and television shows in order to entertain. All genres of literature are aimed at entertaining to some degree, but comedy is the overriding, most important feature of the genre. If the audience doesn’t have a good time, doesn’t laugh, or take joy in what they’re seeing or reading, then the comedic work has failed (at least for that person). The latter alludes to something different at the heart of comedic writing—it isn’t going to work for everyone. Some will find themselves offended or confused by a writer’s attempts at humor while others might not be able to stop laughing. This isn’t something that writers in other genres, like history and biography, have to contend with. History is history no matter what someone thinks of it. But, if a comedic work isn’t funny, it isn’t a comedy.
Related Literary Devices
- Historical Fiction: a genre that fictionalizes real places, people, and events.
- Fantasy: a literary genre that includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots that couldn’t take place in the real world.
- Science Fiction: a literary genre that focuses on imaginative content based on science.
- Satire: used to analyze behaviors to make fun of, criticize, or chastise them in a humorous way.
- Aphorism: short, serious, humorous, and philosophical truths about life.
- Antihero: a character who is characterized by contrasting traits. This person has some of the traits of a hero and of a villain.