Comedic genres

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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.

These classifications overlap, and most comedians can fit into multiple genres. For example, deadpan comics often fall into observational comedy, or into black comedy or blue comedy to contrast the morbidity, or offensiveness of the joke with a lack of emotion.

GenreDescriptionNotable examples
Aggressive Humour [1] Typically detrimental to the sentiments of others by igniting criticism and ridicule through the offensive jokes on subjects like racism, sexism or anything hurtful, differs from blue humor or dark comedy as it inclines more towards offending people than being humorous Daniel Tosh, Anthony Jeselmik, Kunal Kamra, Bill Burr, Sarah Silverman, Paul Mooney, Seth McFarlane, Jim Jefferies, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Doug Stanhope, Frankie Boyle, Roseanne Barr, Jon Stewart, Michael Richards, Denis Leary, Chris Morris, Ari Shaffir, Lisa Lampanelli
Alternative comedy Differs from traditional punchline jokes which features many other forms of comedy such as observation, satire, surrealism, slapstick and improvisation. In its content, Alternative Comedy emerged as a counter to the establishment entertainment figures from the previous generation: It was often cited for its disregard to established comedic movements and ranged from the surreal to slapstick, usually with a combination of both. Tony Allen, Alexei Sayle, Mark Steel, Dan Harmon, Dave Gorman, Linda Smith, Jeremy Hardy, Ron Sparks, Alan Davies, Ben Elton, Jo Brand, Stewart Lee, Sean Hughes, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmonson, Malcolm Hardee, Kristen Schaal, Kevin McAleer, Simon Munnery, Arthur Smith, Arnold Brown, Robert Newman, Kenny Sebastian
Anecdotal comedy [2] Named after the word anecdote (which stems from the Greek term meaning “unpublished”); refers to comic personal stories that may be true or partly true but embellished [2] Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., Patrice O'Neal, Russell Peters, Norm Macdonald, Aries Spears, Hannibal Buress, Deon Cole, John Mulaney, Bill Burr, Roy Wood Jr., Dave Chappelle, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Gabriel Iglesias, Alonzo Bodden, D. L. Hughley, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Griffin, Hasan Minhaj, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Tom Segura, Trevor Noah, Daniel Kitson, Chris Rock, Zakir Khan
Anti-humor A type of indirect humor that involves the joke-teller delivering something which is intentionally not funny, or lacking in intrinsic meaning Norm Macdonald, Ted Chippington, John Thomson, Andy Milonakis, Neil Hamburger, Tim & Eric, Eric Andre, Million Dollar Extreme, Edward Aczel, Paul Putner, Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Martin Mull, Bill Bailey, Bo Burnham.
Black comedy or dark comedyDeals with disturbing subjects such as death, drugs, terrorism, rape, and war; can sometimes be related to the horror movie genre Jim Norton, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Dave Chappelle, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Louis C.K., Ryan Reynolds, Denis Leary, Monty Python, Richard Pryor, Ricky Gervais, George Carlin, Chris Rush, Mike Ward, Penn & Teller, Seth MacFarlane, Christopher Titus, Sacha Baron Cohen, Trey Parker/Matt Stone, Quentin Tarantino, David Cross, Peter Kay, Anthony Jeselnik, Daniel Tosh, Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg, Bobcat Goldthwait, Brendon Burns, Mark Normand
Blue comedy Typically sexual in nature (risqué) and/or using profane language; sometimes using gender or race based humor. Dave Attell, Roy 'Chubby' Brown, Frankie Boyle, Chappelle's Show, Cheech & Chong, Jim Davidson, Derek and Clive, Jenny Eclair, The Firesign Theatre, Redd Foxx, Jim Jefferies, Lisa Lampanelli, Martin Lawrence, George Lopez, Seth MacFarlane, Bernard Manning, Monty Python, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Joe Rogan, Bob Saget, Sarah Silverman, Frank Skinner, Doug Stanhope, Robert Schimmel, Amy Schumer, John Valby, Ron White
Burlesque [1] Nonsensical or ridiculous treatment of serious works of art, music, literature or theatre to make a statement, in a humorous and entertaining way, prior knowledge of the subject is required by the audienceThe Comedies of Aristophanes, Burlesque, A Modest Proposal, The Rehearsal, Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, Beggar's Opera, The Rape of the Lock, Morgante, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Tale of Sir Thopas, The Virgile Travesty, Chrononhotonthologos
Character comedy Derives humor from a persona invented by a performer; often from stereotypes Phyllis Diller, Andy Kaufman, Jim Carrey, Bob Nelson, Catherine Tate, Paul Eddington, Andrew Dice Clay, Rich Hall, Tim Allen, John Gordon Sinclair, Lenny Henry, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Ryan, Steve Guttenberg, Jerry Sadowitz, Steve Coogan, Bip, Jay London, Larry the Cable Guy, Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney), Sarah Silverman, Paul Reubens, Rob Brydon, Rowan Atkinson, Peter Helliar, Harry Enfield, Margaret Cho, Little Britain, Stephen Colbert, Al Murray, Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Kevin Hart, Alex Borstein, Vadivelu, Barry Humphries, Paul O'Grady, Caroline Aherne, Mary Tyler Moore, Kate McKinnon, Mo Collins, Chris Lilley, Michael McDonald (comedian), Kristen Wiig
Cringe comedy A comedy of embarrassment, in which the humor comes from inappropriate actions or words; usually popular in television shows and film, but occasionally in stand-up as well Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Ricky Gervais, Richard Herring, Rufus Hound, Larry David, Alan Partridge, Bob Saget; TV shows: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Peep Show , The Proposal , The Larry Sanders Show
Deadpan comedyNot strictly a style of comedy, it is telling jokes without a change in facial expression or change of emotion Milton Jones, Jack Dee, Bob Newhart, Jimmy Carr, Steven Wright, Peter Cook, Stephen Colbert, Craig Ferguson, Dylan Moran, Christopher Walken, W. Kamau Bell, Buster Keaton, Bill Murray, Jim Gaffigan, Les Dawson, Mike Birbiglia, Mitch Hedberg, Bruce McCulloch, Demetri Martin, Todd Barry, Elliott Goblet, Aubrey Plaza, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Redmond, Judah Friedlander, James Acaster
Heritage comedyA method or genre in which a comedian discusses humorous traits or stereotypes about their own culture or heritage Pat Cooper, Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Gabriel Iglesias, George Lopez, Jackie Mason, Russell Peters, Richard Pryor, Yakov Smirnoff, Henning Wehn
Improvisational comedy Improvisational (sometimes shortened to improv) comics rarely plan out their routines; television show examples: Curb Your Enthusiasm , Whose Line Is It Anyway? , Thank God You're Here Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Eddie Izzard, Bob Nelson, Paula Poundstone, Paul Merton, Tony Slattery, Josie Lawrence, Jim Sweeney, Steve Steen, Lily Tomlin, Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Drew Carey, Greg Proops, John Sessions, Neil Mullarkey, Kathy Greenwood, Brad Sherwood, Chip Esten, Jeff Davis, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert, Jonathan Mangum, Mark Meer, Larry David, David Lawrence, Paul Spence, John Valby, Kaneez Surka
Inside humor Humor which requires special knowledge in order to be appreciated by the audienceOn their first two albums, the Firesign Theatre quoted lyrics and parodied character names from songs found on Beatles albums, [3] which did not appear on the popular Top 40 list. They also created their own inside jokes on later albums by referring to events which occur on their earlier albums.
Insult comedy A form which consists mainly of offensive insults directed at the performer's audience and/or other performers Don Rickles, Andrew Dice Clay, Ricky Gervais, Bob Saget, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Jerry Sadowitz, Sam Kinison, Seth MacFarlane, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Roy 'Chubby' Brown, Marcus Valerius Martialis, Jeffrey Ross, Dave Attell, Lisa Lampanelli, D.L. Hughley, Greg Giraldo, Goundamani, Kathy Griffin, John Valby, Gilbert Gottfried, Joan Rivers, Jeremy Clarkson, Daniel Tosh
Mockumentary A parody using the conventions of documentary styleFilms and TV shows: Fubar & Fubar 2, Borat , This is Spinal Tap , The Monkees , The Rutles , Summer Heights High , Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo , The Office , Brüno , Parks and Recreation , Modern Family , Come Fly with Me , Angry Boys , The Compleat Al , "Trailer Park Boys"
Comedy music A form of alternative comedy where humor is mostly derived from music with (or sometimes without) lyrics Bill Bailey, Denis Leary, Tim Minchin, Ninja Sex Party, The Lonely Island, Flight Of The Conchords, Les Luthiers, Mitch Benn, Tenacious D, Spinal Tap, Stephen Lynch, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Bob Rivers, Bo Burnham, Wayne Brady, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Tiny Meat Gang, Tom Lehrer, Victor Borge, John Valby, Jasper Carrott, Boothby Graffoe, David O'Doherty, Rachel Bloom, Adam Sandler, Allan Sherman, Peter Schickele, Victoria Wood, Jon Lajoie, Dan Bull, Da Vinci's Notebook
Observational comedy Pokes fun at everyday life, often by inflating the importance of trivial things or by observing the silliness of something that society accepts as normal George Carlin, Cheech & Chong, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., Craig Ferguson, Larry David, Mitch Hedberg, Billy Connolly, Michael McIntyre, Russell Howard, Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey, Gabriel Iglesias, W. Kamau Bell, Ray Romano, Chris Rush, Dane Cook, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Jim Gaffigan, Kathy Greenwood, Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Peters, John Mulaney, Peter Kay, Victoria Wood, Sapan Verma, Kanan Gill
One-line joke A joke that is delivered in a single line. A good one-liner is said to be pithy - concise and meaningful Tommy Cooper, Rodney Dangerfield, Ken Dodd, Stewart Francis, Milton Jones, Tim Vine, Henny Youngman, Mitch Hedberg, Jimmy Carr, Steven Wright, Demetri Martin, Anthony Jeselnik, Doug Benson, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifianakis, Shappi Khorsandi, Dan Mintz, Groucho Marx, Jay London
Physical comedy Somewhat similar to slapstick, this form uses physical movement and gestures; often influenced by clowning Michael Richards, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, Jim Carrey, Bob Nelson, Norman Wisdom, Jerry Lewis, Robin Williams, Chevy Chase, John Ritter, Conan O'Brien, Kunal Nayyar, Mr. Bean, Michael Mcintyre, Lee Evans, Bill Irwin, David Shiner, Max Wall, Matthew Perry, Brent Butt, Kathy Greenwood, The Three Stooges, Lano & Woodley, Lucille Ball, Chris Farley, Sebastian Maniscalco, The Dangerous Brothers, Danny Kaye
Prop comedy Relies on ridiculous props, casual jackets or everyday objects used in humorous ways Bob Nelson, Carrot Top, Gallagher, Timmy Mallett, The Amazing Johnathan, Jerry Sadowitz, Red Skelton, Tape Face, Howie Mandel, Tommy Cooper, Harpo Marx, Bruce Baum
Shock humor A style of comedy that uses shock value to invoke a strong negative emotion as well as a comedic Howard Stern, Eric Andre, Tom Green
Sitcom Scripted dialogue creating a thematic situation; commonly found on television series The Big Bang Theory , Seinfeld , Fawlty Towers , Black Books , Porridge , Dad's Army , Blackadder , Gavin & Stacey , Brooklyn 99 , My Wife and Kids , I Love Lucy , Friends , Corner Gas , That '70s Show , The Office , The Cosby Show , The Simpsons , Open All Hours , Only Fools and Horses , Dinner Ladies , Modern Family , Melissa & Joey , Miranda , All in the Family , The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air , The Kapil Sharma Show
Sketch A shorter version of a sitcom, practised and typically performed live Armstrong and Miller, Cheech & Chong, Jennifer Saunders, Lorne Michaels, Dawn French, Craig Ferguson, Catherine Tate; TV shows: Monty Python , Armstrong and Miller , Saturday Night Live , Chappelle's Show , Firesign Theatre , In Living Color , A Bit of Fry & Laurie , Mad TV , Mr. Show , Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! , Wonder Showzen , Key & Peele , Lenny Henry , Little Britain
Spoof/ParodyThe recreating of a book, film or play for humor; it can be used to make fun of, or ridicule, a certain production Mel Brooks, French and Saunders, Mitchell and Webb, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Peter Serafinowicz, Weird Al Yankovic, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker; Films and TV shows: Hot Shots , Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights , Shriek , Look Around You , Onion News Network
Surreal comedy A form of humor based on bizarre juxtapositions, absurd situations, and nonsense logic Spike Milligan, Jay Kogen, Eddie Izzard, J. Stewart Burns, Ross Noble, Bill Bailey, Brent Butt, The Mighty Boosh, Steven Wright, Eric Andre, Trey Parker, Monty Python, Seth MacFarlane, David X. Cohen, Vic and Bob, The Goodies, Jack Handey, Derek Drymon, Wallace Wolodarsky, Harry Hill, The Kids in the Hall, Conan O'Brien, Tim and Eric, Paul Merton, Mitch Hedberg, Firesign Theatre, Shaun Micallef, Emo Philips, Hans Teeuwen, Tony Law, Chic Murray
Topical comedy/Satire Relies on headlining/important news and current affairs; it dates quickly, but is a popular form for late night talk-variety shows George Carlin, Cheech & Chong, Bill Hicks, Dick Gregory, Chris Morris, Dennis Miller, Norm Macdonald, Conan O'Brien, Russell Howard, Craig Ferguson, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Dan Harmon, Andy Hamilton, Dave Allen, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Ian Hislop, Brent Butt, Paul Merton, Mort Sahl, Kathy Griffin, Stephen Colbert, Stewart Lee, Mark Thomas, Matt Groening, Rory Bremner, W. Kamau Bell, Ben Elton, David Cross, Lewis Black, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, The Chaser, Punt and Dennis, Jon Holmes, Tanmay Bhat, Hari Kondabolu; TV shows: The Daily Show , Have I Got News For You , Mock The Week , The News Quiz , Saturday Night Live , The Simpsons , The Tonight Show, Late Show with David Letterman , Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! , South Park
Ventriloquism Involves character comedy; the comedian uses the skill of ventriloquy to "throw his or her voice" into a dummy or puppet character. The ventriloquist generally speaks as the "straight man" and gives the comic lines to the dummy. Exceptionally skilled ventriloquists can make the dummy sing. Fred Russell, Arthur Prince, The Great Lester, Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell, Jimmy Nelson, Shari Lewis, Señor Wences, Willie Tyler, Nina Conti, Darci Lynne, Jeff Dunham
Wit/Word play More intellectual forms based on clever, often subtle manipulation of language (though puns can be crude and farcical) Groucho Marx, William Shakespeare, Harry Hill, Jay Jason, Oscar Wilde, Woody Allen, George Carlin, Tim Vine, Stephen Fry, Demetri Martin, Bo Burnham, Firesign Theatre, Myq Kaplan, Crazy Mohan, Coen brothers, Ronnie Barker, Stanley Unwin

Related Research Articles

A comedy film is a category of film in which the main emphasis is on humor. These films are designed to make the audience laugh through amusement and most often work by exaggerating characteristics for humorous effect. Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending. One of the oldest genres in film—and derived from the classical comedy in theatre—some of the earliest silent films were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. When sound films became more prevalent during the 1920s, comedy films took another swing, as laughter could result from burlesque situations but also dialogue.

Film genre Classification of films based on similarities in narrative elements

A film genre is a motion-picture category based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film. Drawing heavily from the theories of literary-genre criticism, film genres are usually delineated by "conventions, iconography, settings, narratives, characters and actors". Standard genre characters vary according to the film genre; for film noir, for example, standard characters include the femme fatale and the "hardboiled" detective; a Western film may portray the schoolmarm and the gunfighter. Some actors acquire a reputation linked to a single genre, such as John Wayne or Fred Astaire. A film's genre will influence the use of filmmaking styles and techniques, such as the use of flashbacks and low-key lighting in film noir, tight framing in horror films, fonts that look like rough-hewn logs for the titles of Western films, or the "scrawled" title-font and credits of Se7en (1995), a film about a serial killer. As well, genres have associated film-scoring conventions, such as lush string orchestras for romantic melodramas or electronic music for science-fiction films.

Pun Figure of speech

The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play that exploits multiple meanings of a term, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use of homophonic, homographic, metonymic, or figurative language. A pun differs from a malapropism in that a malapropism is an incorrect variation on a correct expression, while a pun involves expressions with multiple interpretations. Puns may be regarded as in-jokes or idiomatic constructions, especially as their usage and meaning are usually specific to a particular language or its culture.

Humour tendency of experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement

Humour or humor is the tendency of experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement. The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humours, controlled human health and emotion.

Black comedy Comic work based on subject matter that is generally considered taboo

Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark humor, dark comedy, morbid humor, or gallows humor, is a style of comedy that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss. Writers and comedians often use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues by provoking discomfort, serious thought, and amusement for their audience. Thus, in fiction, for example, the term black comedy can also refer to a genre in which dark humor is a core component. Popular themes of the genre include death, violence, discrimination, disease, and human sexuality.

A cross-genre is a genre that blends themes and elements from two or more different genres.

Crime film cinematic genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre

Crime films, in the broadest sense, is a film genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre. Films of this genre generally involve various aspects of crime and its detection. Stylistically, the genre may overlap and combine with many other genres, such as drama or gangster film, but also include comedy, and, in turn, is divided into many sub-genres, such as mystery, suspense or noir.

Campaign setting Fictional environment setting for a role-playing game

A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or wargame campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place. Usually a campaign setting is designed for a specific game or a specific genre of game. There are numerous campaign settings available both in print and online. In addition to published campaign settings available for purchase, many game masters create their own settings, often referred to as "homebrew" settings or worlds.

Silent comedy

Silent comedy is a style of film, related to but distinct from mime, invented to bring comedy into the medium of film in the silent film era (1900s–1920s) before a synchronized soundtrack which could include talking was technologically available for the majority of films. Silent comedy is still practiced, albeit much less frequently, and it has influenced comedy in modern media as well.

Comedic device refers to a kind of device used to make a statement more humorous. In layman's terms, what makes things funny.

Gross out describes a movement in art, which aims to shock and disgust the audience with controversial material such as toilet humour, nudity, or any sexual topic.

Cringe comedy is a specific genre of comedy that derives humor from social awkwardness. Often a cringe comedy will have an air of a mockumentary and revolve around a serious setting, such as a workplace, to lend the comedy a sense of reality.

Comedy horror Film genre that blends elements of horror and comedy

Comedy horror or horror comedy, is a literary and film genre that combines elements of comedy and horror fiction. Comedy horror has been described as able to be categorized under three types: "black comedy, parody and spoof." It often crosses over with the black comedy genre. Comedy horror can also parody or subtly spoof horror clichés as its main source of humour or use those elements to take a story in a different direction, for example in The Cabin in the Woods, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Shaun of the Dead or the Evil Dead franchise.

Comedy music

Comedy music is a genre of music that is comic or humorous in nature. Its history can be traced back to the first century in ancient Greece and Rome, moving forward in time to the Medieval Period, Classical and Romantic eras, and the 20th century. Artists in the 20th century include Allan Sherman, Frank Zappa, Tiny Tim, Randy Newman, and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

Comedy Genre of dramatic works intended to be humorous

In a modern sense, comedy is a genre of fiction that refers to any discourse or work generally intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, television, film, stand-up comedy, books or any other medium of entertainment. The origins of the term are found in Ancient Greece. In the Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theaters. The theatrical genre of Greek comedy can be described as a dramatic performance which pits two groups 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 that pose obstacles to his hopes. In this struggle, the youth is understood to be constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to take recourse in ruses which engender very dramatic irony which provokes laughter.

In film and television, drama is a category of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular super-genre, macro-genre, or micro-genre, such as soap opera, police crime drama, political drama, legal drama, historical drama, domestic drama, teen drama, and comedy-drama (dramedy). These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.

Play (theatre)

A play is a work of drama, usually consisting mostly of dialogue between characters and intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. The writer of a play is a playwright.

Comedy hip hop or comedy rap, is a subgenre of lighter hip hop music designed to be amusing or funny, compared to artists who incorporate humor into their more serious, purist hip hop styles.

Comedy thrillers are a cross-genre that draw subject matter generally from comedy and thrillers. They often include a darker tone, relative to other genres, of humor.

Television comedy is a category of broadcasting that has been present since the early days of entertainment media. While there are several genres of comedy, some of the first ones aired were variety shows. One of the first United States television programs was the comedy-variety show Texaco Star Theater, which was most prominent in the years that it featured Milton Berle - from 1948 to 1956. The range of television comedy has become broader, with the addition of sitcoms, improvisational comedy, and stand-up comedy, while also adding comedic aspects into other television genres, including drama and news. Television comedy provides opportunities for viewers to relate the content in these shows to society. Some audience members may have similar views about certain comedic aspects of shows, while others will take different perspectives. This also relates to developing new social norms, sometimes acting as the medium that introduces these transitions.


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  2. 1 2 "20 Types and Forms of Humor". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  3. Simels, Steve (1993). Putting It Simply, There's Never Been Anything Like The Firesign Theatre Before or Since (liner notes). Archived from the original on December 15, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2017.