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A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting foolish (as in slapstick), or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comedian.
A popular saying often attributed to Ed Wynn attempts to differentiate the two terms: 
"A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny."
This draws a distinction between how much of the comedy can be attributed to verbal content and how much to acting and persona.[ citation needed ]
Since the 1980s, a new wave of comedy, called alternative comedy, has grown in popularity with its more offbeat and experimental style. This normally involves more experiential, or observational reporting (e.g., Alexei Sayle, Daniel Tosh, Malcolm Hardee). As far as content is concerned, comedians such as Tommy Tiernan, Des Bishop, Kevin Hart, and Dawn French draw on their background to poke fun at themselves, while others such as Jon Stewart, Ben Elton and Sarah Silverman have very strong political and cultural undertones.[ citation needed ]
Many comics achieve a cult following while touring famous comedy hubs such as the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, the Edinburgh Fringe, and Melbourne Comedy Festival in Australia. Often a comic's career advances significantly when they win a notable comedy award, such as the Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly the Perrier comedy award). Comics sometimes foray into other areas of entertainment, such as film and television, where they become more widely known (e.g., Eddie Izzard, Lee Evans). A comic's stand-up success does not always correlate to a film's critical or box-office success.[ citation needed ]
Comedians can be dated back to 425 BC, when Aristophanes, a comic author, and playwright, wrote ancient comedic plays. He wrote 40 comedies, 11 of which survive and are still being performed. Aristophanes' comedy style took the form of satyr plays. 
The English poet and playwright William Shakespeare wrote many comedies. A Shakespearean comedy is one that has a happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare's other plays.
American performance comedy has its roots in the 1840s from the three-act, variety show format of minstrel shows (via blackface performances of the Jim Crow character); Frederick Douglass criticized these shows for profiting from and perpetuating racism.   Minstrelsy monologists performed second-act, stump-speech monologues from within minstrel shows until 1896.   American standup also emerged in vaudeville theatre from the 1880s to the 1930s, with such comics as W. C. Fields, Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers.
British performance comedy has its roots in 1850 music hall theatres, where Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, and Dan Leno first performed,  mentored by comedian and theatre impresario Fred Karno, who developed a form of sketch comedy without dialogue in the 1890s and also pioneered slapstick comedy. 
In the modern era, as technology produced forms of mass communications media, these were adapted to entertainment and comedians adapted to the new media, sometimes switching to new forms as they were introduced.
Stand-up comedy is a comic monologue performed standing on a stage.  Bob Hope became the most popular stand-up comedian of the 20th century in a nearly 80-year career that included numerous comedy film roles over a five-decade span in radio, television, and entertaining armed-service troops through the USO. Other noted stand-up comedians include Lenny Bruce, Billy Connolly, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Victoria Wood, Joan Rivers, Whoopi Goldberg, Patton Oswalt and Jo Brand.
Some of the earliest commercial sound recordings were made by standup comedians such as Cal Stewart, who recorded collections of his humorous monologues on Edison Records as early as 1898, and other labels until his death in 1919. 
Bandleader Spike Jones recorded 15 musical comedy albums satirizing popular and classical music from 1950 to his death in 1965. Tom Lehrer wrote and recorded five albums of songs satirizing political and social issues from 1953 to 1965. Musician Peter Schickele, inspired by Jones, parodied classical music with 17 albums of his music which he presented as written by "P.D.Q. Bach" (fictional son of Johann Sebastian Bach) from 1965 through 2007.
In 1968, radio surreal comedy group The Firesign Theatre revolutionized the concept of the spoken comedy album by writing and recording elaborate radio plays employing sound effects and multitrack recording, which comedian Robin Williams called "the audio equivalent of a Hieronymous Bosch painting." Comedy duo Cheech and Chong recorded comedy albums in a similar format from 1971 through 1985.
Karno took Chaplin and Laurel on two trips to the United States to tour the vaudeville circuit. On the second one, they were recruited by the fledgling silent film industry. Chaplin became the most popular screen comedian of the first half of the 20th century. Chaplin and Stan Laurel were protégés of Fred Karno, the English theatre impresario of British music hall, and in his biography Laurel stated, "Fred Karno didn't teach Charlie [Chaplin] and me all we know about comedy. He just taught us most of it".  Chaplin wrote films such as Modern Times and The Kid . His films still have a major impact on comedy in films today. 
Laurel met Oliver Hardy in the US and teamed up as Laurel and Hardy. Keaton also started making silent comedies.
Fields appeared in Broadway musical comedies, three silent films in 1915 and 1925, and in sound films starting in 1926. The Marx brothers also made the transition to film in 1929, by way of two Broadway musicals.
Many other comedians made sound films, such as Bob Hope (both alone, and in a series of "Road to ..." comedies with partner Bing Crosby), ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, and Jerry Lewis (both with and without partner Dean Martin).
Some comedians who entered film expanded their acting skills to become dramatic actors, or started as actors specializing in comic roles, such as Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde, Michael Keaton, Bill Murray and Denis Leary.
Radio comedy began in the United States when Raymond Knight launched The Cuckoo Hour on NBC in 1930,  along with the 1931 network debut of Stoopnagle and Budd on CBS. Most of the Hollywood comedians who did not become dramatic actors (e.g. Bergen, Fields, Groucho and Chico Marx, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Judy Canova, Hope, Martin and Lewis), transitioned to United States radio in the 1930s and 1940s.
Without a Hollywood supply of comedians to draw from, radio comedy did not begin in the United Kingdom until a generation later, with such popular 1950s shows as The Goon Show and Hancock's Half Hour . Later, radio became a proving-ground for many later United Kingdom comedians. Chris Morris began his career in 1986 at Radio Cambridgeshire, and Ricky Gervais began his comedy career in 1997 at London radio station XFM. The League of Gentlemen , Mitchell and Webb and The Mighty Boosh all transferred to television after broadcasting on BBC Radio 4.
On television there are comedy talk shows where comedians make fun of current news or popular topics. Such comedians include Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Graham Norton, Jim Jefferies, James Corden, John Oliver, Jonathan Ross, David Letterman, and Chelsea Handler. There are sketch comedies, such as Mr. Show with Bob and David and Monty Python who created their sketch comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus (a BBC show that influenced Saturday Night Live ), and sitcoms, such as Roseanne , Only Fools and Horses , and Not Going Out , as well as popular panel shows like The Big Fat Quiz of the Year , Have I Got News for You , and Celebrity Juice . The most acclaimed sitcoms include Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory.
Comedy is increasingly enjoyed online. Comedians with popular long-running podcasts series include Kevin Smith and Joe Rogan. Comedians streaming videos of their stand-up include Bridget Christie, Louis C.K. and Daniel Kitson.
There are many established formats for jokes. One example is the pun or double-entendre, where similar words are interchanged. The Two Ronnies often used puns and double-entendre.  Stewart Francis and Tim Vine are examples of current comedians who deploy numerous puns. Jokes based on puns tend to be very quick and easy to digest, which sometimes leads to other joke forms being overlooked, for example in the Funniest Joke of the Fringe awards. Other jokes may rely on confounding an audience's expectations through a misleading setup (known as a 'pull back and reveal' in the UK and a 'leadaway' in the US).  Ed Byrne is an example of a comedian who has used this technique.  Some jokes are based on ad absurdum extrapolations, for example much of Richard Herring and Ross Noble's standup.  In ironic humour there is an intentional mismatch between a message and the form in which it is conveyed (for example the work of Danielle Ward). Other joke forms include observation (Michael McIntyre), whimsy (David O'Doherty), self-deprecation (Robin Williams) and parody (Diane Morgan).
In a January 2014 study, conducted in the British Journal of Psychiatry , scientists found that comedians tend to have high levels of psychotic personality traits. In the study, researchers analyzed 404 male and 119 female comedians from Australia, Britain, and the United States. The participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire designed to measure psychotic traits in healthy people. They found that comedians scored "significantly higher on four types of psychotic characteristics compared to a control group of people who had non-creative jobs." Gordon Claridge, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford and leader of the study claimed, "the creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis—both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."  However, labeling comedians' personality traits as "psychotic" does not mean that individual is a psychopath,   since psychopathy is distinct from psychosis, and neither does it mean their behavior is necessarily pathological.
Forbes publishes an annual list of the most financially successful comedians in the world, similarly to their Celebrity 100 list. Their data sources include Nielsen Media Research, Pollstar, Box Office Mojo and IMDb.  The list was topped by Jerry Seinfeld from 2006 until 2015, who lost the title to Kevin Hart in 2016.  In that year, the eight highest paid comedians were from the United States, including Amy Schumer, who became the first woman to be listed in the top ten.  The top ten of 2016 are as follows: [lower-alpha 1]
|Rank||Name||Annual earnings (USD)||Nationality||Age||Notable works|
|1||Kevin Hart||$87.5 million||United States||38||Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain , Ride Along , The Secret Life of Pets|
|2||Jerry Seinfeld||$43.5 million||63||Seinfeld , The Marriage Ref , I'm Telling You for the Last Time|
|3||Terry Fator||$21 million||52||America's Got Talent|
|4||Amy Schumer||$17 million||36||Trainwreck , Inside Amy Schumer , 2015 MTV Movie Awards|
|5||Jeff Dunham||$13.5 million||55||Spark of Insanity , Arguing with Myself , Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special|
|6||Dave Chappelle||$60 million||44||Dave Chappelle's Block Party , Half Baked , Chappelle's Show|
|7||Jim Gaffigan||$12.5 million||51||Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe , The Jim Gaffigan Show , It's Kind of a Funny Story|
|8||Gabriel Iglesias||$9.5 million||41||Hot and Fluffy , The Fluffy Movie , Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand Up Revolution|
|9||Russell Peters||$9 million||Canada||47||Red, White and Brown , Outsourced , Breakaway|
|10||John Bishop||$7 million||United Kingdom||51||John Bishop's Britain , The John Bishop Show , Panto!|
Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy. Slapstick may involve both intentional violence and violence by mishap, often resulting from inept use of props such as saws and ladders.
Throughout film, television, and radio, British comedy has become known for its consistently peculiar characters, plots, and settings, and has produced some of the most renowned comedians and characters in the world.
Stand-up comedy is a comedic performance to a live audience in which the performer addresses the audience directly from the stage. The performer is known as a comedian, a comic or a stand-up.
Jerome Allen Seinfeld is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer. He is best known for playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself in the sitcom Seinfeld (1989–1998), which he created and wrote with Larry David. The show aired on NBC from 1989 until 1998, becoming one of the most acclaimed and popular sitcoms of all time. As a stand-up comedian, Seinfeld specializes in observational comedy. In 2004, Comedy Central named him the 12th-greatest stand-up comedian of all time.
The minstrel show, also called minstrelsy, was an American form of theater developed in the early 19th century. The shows were performed by mostly white actors wearing blackface make-up for the purpose of comically portraying racial stereotypes of African-Americans by playing the role of black minstrels. There were also some African-American performers and black-only minstrel groups that formed and toured. Minstrel shows stereotyped blacks as dim-witted, lazy, buffoonish, cowardly, superstitious, and happy-go-lucky. Each show consisted of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music performances that depicted people specifically of African descent.
Brian Joseph Regan is an American stand-up comedian who uses observational, sarcastic, and self-deprecating humor. He is known for incorporating body language and facial expressions into his act. His performances are often described as clean as he refrains from profanity as well as taboo subject matter. Regan's material typically covers everyday events, such as shipping a package with UPS, mortgages, and visits to the optometrist. While he does not define himself as youth-oriented, Regan makes frequent references to childhood, including little league baseball, grade school spelling bees, and science projects.
Frederick John Westcott, best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was an English theatre impresario of the British music hall. As a comedian of slapstick he is credited with popularising the custard-pie-in-the-face gag. During the 1890s, in order to circumvent stage censorship, Karno developed a form of sketch comedy without dialogue.
Radio comedy, or comedic radio programming, is a radio broadcast that may involve variety show, sitcom elements, sketches, and various types of comedy found in other media. It may also include more surreal or fantastic elements, as these can be conveyed on a small budget with just a few sound effects or some simple dialogue. Radio comedy began in the United States in 1930, based on the fact that as most United Kingdom music hall comedians such as Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel progressed to silent films, they moved to Hollywood and fed the radio comedy field. Another British music hall comic, George Formby, stayed in the British movie industry, and in 1940 joined the Entertainments National Service Association to entertain British World War II troops. UK radio comedy therefore started later, in the 1950s.
Comic timing or “Comedic timing” emerges from a performer's joke delivery: they interact with an audience—intonation, rhythm, cadence, tempo, and pausing—to guide the audience's laughter, which then guides the comedic narrative. The pacing of the delivery of a joke can have a strong impact on its comedic effect, even altering its meaning; the same can also be true of more physical comedy such as slapstick. Comic timing is also crucial for comedic video editing to maximize the impact of a joke, for example, through a smash cut.
A double act is a form of comedy originating in the British music hall tradition, and American vaudeville, in which two comedians perform together as a single act. Pairings are typically long-term, in some cases for the artists' entire careers. Double acts perform on the stage, television and film.
Stan Laurel was an English comic actor, writer, and film director who was one half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. He appeared with his comedy partner Oliver Hardy in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles.
George Henry Wallace is an American comedian and actor.
Observational comedy is a form of humor based on the commonplace aspects of everyday life. It is one of the main types of humor in stand-up comedy. In an observational comedy act, the comedian makes an observation about something which is common enough to be familiar to their audience, but not commonly discussed. Such observations are typically presented with the phrase "Have you ever noticed...?" or "Did you ever notice...?" which has become a comedy cliché.
American humor refers collectively to the conventions and common threads that tie together humor in the United States. It is often defined in comparison to the humor of another country – for example, how it is different from British humor and Canadian humor. It is, however, difficult to say what makes a particular type or subject of humor particularly American. Humor usually concerns aspects of American culture, and depends on the historical and current development of the country's culture. The extent to which an individual will personally find something humorous obviously depends on a host of absolute and relative variables, including, but not limited to geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, and context. People of different countries will therefore find different situations funny. Just as American culture has many aspects which differ from other nations, these cultural differences may be a barrier to how humor translates to other countries.
Carol Leifer is an American comedian, writer, producer, and actress whose career as a stand-up comedian started in the 1970s when she was in college. She has written many television scripts including The Larry Sanders Show, Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld. She has received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations for The Larry Sanders Show, Seinfeld, the 82nd Academy Awards and the 84th Academy Awards. Leifer's inner-monologue driven, observational style is often autobiographical, encompassing subjects about her Jewish ancestry and upbringing, coming out, same-sex marriage, relationships and parenting.
Hokum is a particular song type of American blues music—a humorous song which uses extended analogies or euphemistic terms to make sexual innuendos. This trope goes back to early blues recordings and is used from time to time in modern American blues and blues rock.
The stump speech was a comic monologue from blackface minstrelsy. A typical stump speech consisted of malapropisms, nonsense sentences, and puns delivered in a parodied version of Black Vernacular English. The stump speaker wore blackface makeup and moved about like a clown. Topics varied from pure nonsense to parodies of politics, science, and social issues. Although both the topic itself and the black character's inability to comprehend it served as sources of comedy to white people, minstrels used such speeches to deliver racist social commentary. The stump speech was a precursor to modern stand-up comedy.
Comedy is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, television, radio, books, or any other entertainment medium. The term originated in ancient Greece: In Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was influenced by political satire performed by comic poets in theaters. The theatrical genre of Greek comedy can be described as a dramatic performance pitting two groups, ages, genders, or societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye depicted these two opposing sides as a "Society of Youth" and a "Society of the Old". A revised view characterizes the essential agon of comedy as a struggle between a relatively powerless youth and the societal conventions posing obstacles to his hopes. In this struggle, the youth then becomes constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to resort to ruses which engender dramatic irony, which provokes laughter.
American burlesque is a genre of variety show derived from elements of Victorian burlesque, music hall and minstrel shows. Burlesque became popular in the United States in the late 1860s and slowly evolved to feature ribald comedy and female nudity. By the late 1920s, the striptease element overshadowed the comedy and subjected burlesque to extensive local legislation. Burlesque gradually lost popularity beginning in the 1940s. A number of producers sought to capitalize on nostalgia for the entertainment by recreating burlesque on the stage and in Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 1960s. There has been a resurgence of interest in this format since the 1990s.
The roots of modern stand-up comedy began in 1840s minstrel shows that perpetuated racist stereotypes in the United States. American vaudeville emerged around the same time and along with the later developed Chitlin' Circuit, produced the founders of this form of entertainment. Early stand-up comedians spoke directly to the audience as themselves without props or costumes, which distinguished these acts from vaudeville performances. These comics stood in front of the curtain during their shows, like early 20th century "front cloth" stand-up comics in Britain and Ireland whose numbers allowed the stage behind them to be re-set for another act.
Thomas D. Rice (1808–1860) originated the Jim Crow character, inspiring the minstrel show, which evolved into one of the most popular forms of variety entertainment through the end of the century and into the first distinctly American form of theatrical entertainment ... In the 1840s and 50s, the Virginia and Christy Minstrels built upon Rice's success, formalizing a three-act structure of music and humor, variety entertainment, and scenes from plantation life (or burlesques of popular plays). Appealing across class lines, the minstrel show employed archetypal characters, created derogatory and fictitious pictures of African American males, and provided a lens through which whites viewed blacks ... Frederick Douglass described the purveyors of minstrel entertainment as 'filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens.' Minstrelsy relied on the promise of presenting 'real' Southern life.
American stand-up comedy has its beginnings in the minstrel shows of the early 1800s
[T]he minstrel show was the most popular form of public amusement in the United States from the 1840s through the 1870s. It virtually ended, in its original form, by 1896, although vestiges lasted well into the twentieth century. Much humor in later comedy forms originated in minstrelsy and adapted itself to new topics and circumstances. The minstrel show also provided American burlesque and other variety forms with a prototypical three-part format. The minstrel show began with a 'walk around' with a verbal exchange between the 'end' men and the interlocutor. An 'olio,' or variety section, followed. Finally, a one-act skit completed the show.
Stand-up's early roots can also be traced back to minstrel, a variety show format based in racial stereotypes which was widely performed in America between the 1840s and the 1940s. Minstrel acts would script dedicated ad-lib moments for direct actor-audience communication: these spots often were used for telling quick jokes.