Comedy film

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Comedic actor Buster Keaton (left) struggling with a wrecked Model T car in The Blacksmith, a 1922 short comedy film. The-Blacksmith-1922.jpg
Comedic actor Buster Keaton (left) struggling with a wrecked Model T car in The Blacksmith , a 1922 short comedy film.

A comedy film is a category of film that emphasizes humor. These films are designed to amuse audiences and make them laugh. [1] Films in this genre typically have a happy ending, with dark comedy being an exception to this rule. Comedy is one of the oldest genres in film, and it is derived from classical comedy in theatre. Some of the earliest silent films were comedies such as slapstick comedy, which often relies on visual depictions, such as sight gags and pratfalls, so they can be enjoyed without requiring sound. To provide drama and excitement to silent movies, live music was played in sync with the action on the screen, on pianos, organs, and other instruments. [2] When sound films became more prevalent during the 1920s, comedy films grew in popularity, as laughter could result from both burlesque situations but also from humorous dialogue.


Comedy, compared with other film genres, places more focus on individual star actors, with many former stand-up comics transitioning to the film industry due to their popularity. [3]

In The Screenwriters Taxonomy (2017), Eric R. Williams contends that film genres are fundamentally based upon a film's atmosphere, character, and story, and therefore, the labels "drama" and "comedy" are too broad to be considered a genre. [4] Instead, his comedy taxonomy argues that comedy is a type of film that contains at least a dozen different sub-types. [5] A number of hybrid genres use comedy, such as the action comedy and the romantic comedy. Comedy is a genre of entertainment that is designed to make audiences laugh. It can take many forms, including stand-up comedy, sketch comedy, sitcoms, and comedic films. Comedy often uses humor and satire to comment on social and political issues, as well as everyday life. Many comedians use observational humor, in which they draw on their own experiences and the world around them to create comedic material. Physical comedy, which uses gestures, facial expressions, and body language to create humor, is also a popular form of comedy. The genre of comedy is known for its ability to make people laugh, but also make them think. It can be a reflection of society and its issues.


Silent film era

The film poster for the first comedy film, L'Arroseur Arrose (1895). Cinematographe Lumiere.jpg
The film poster for the first comedy film, L'Arroseur Arrosé (1895).

The first comedy film was L'Arroseur Arrosé (1895), directed and produced by film pioneer Louis Lumière. Less than 60 seconds long, it shows a boy playing a prank on a gardener. The most noted comedy actors of the silent film era (1895–1927) were Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton. [6]

Social commentary in comedy

Filmmakers in the 1960s finessed the use of comedy film to make social statements by building their narratives around sensitive cultural, political or social issues. Such films include Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Love the Bomb, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? and The Graduate. [7]

Camp and bawdy comedy

In America, the sexual revolution drove an appetite for comedies that celebrated and parodied changing social morals, including Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Fanny Hill. [7] In Britain, a camp sensibility lay behind the successful Carry On films, while in America subversive independent filmmaker John Waters made camp films for college audiences with his drag queen friends that eventually found a mainstream audience. [8] The success of the American television show Saturday Night Live drove decades of cinema with racier content allowed on television drawing on the program's stars and characters, with bigger successes including Wayne's World, Mean Girls, Ghostbusters and Animal House. [7]

Present era

Parody and joke-based films continue to find audiences. [7]

Reception of Comedy Films

While comedic films are among the most popular with audiences at the box office, there is an 'historical bias against a close and serious consideration of comedy' when it comes to critical reception and conferring of awards, such as at the Academy Awards.[3] Film writer Cailian Savage observes "Comedies have won Oscars, although they’ve usually been comedy-dramas, involved very depressing scenes, or appealed to stone-hearted drama lovers in some other way, such as Shakespeare in Love ." [4]

In a 2023 article in Collider , Lisa Laman states that "modern-day [film] comedies tend to suffer from so many visual problems" and use "frustratingly inert images" and "overly-lit" sets, making them "look like sitcoms, not movies." [9] She says "modern comedy movies are filmed with "little imagination in…staging", poor production values, "awkward editing and flat camerawork", and few "visual gags". [9]


Hybrid subgenres

According to Williams' taxonomy, all film descriptions should contain their type (comedy or drama) combined with one (or more) subgenres. [5] This combination does not create a separate genre, but rather, provides a better understanding of the film.

By country

Watch Brideless Groom
CountryComedy film
Flag of the United States.svg  US American comedy films
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  UK British comedy films
Flag of France.svg  FRA French comedy films
Flag of India.svg  IND Indian comedy films
Flag of Italy.svg  ITA Italian comedy films

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Film genre</span> Classification of films based on similarities in narrative elements

A film genre is a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film.

Romantic comedy is a subgenre of comedy and romance fiction, focusing on lighthearted, humorous plot lines centered on romantic ideas, such as how true love is able to surmount most obstacles. In a typical romantic comedy, the two lovers tend to be young, likeable, and seemingly meant for each other, yet they are kept apart by some complicating circumstance until, surmounting all obstacles, they are finally united. A fairy-tale-style happy ending is a typical feature.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Screwball comedy</span> Genre of comedy film

Screwball comedy is a film subgenre of the romantic comedy genre that became popular during the Great Depression, beginning in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1950s, that satirizes the traditional love story. It has secondary characteristics similar to film noir, distinguished by a female character who dominates the relationship with the male central character, whose masculinity is challenged, and the two engage in a humorous battle of the sexes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Farce</span> Comedy genre

Farce is a comedy that seeks to entertain an audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, ridiculous, absurd, and improbable. Farce is also characterized by heavy use of physical humor; the use of deliberate absurdity or nonsense; satire, parody, and mockery of real-life situations, people, events, and interactions; unlikely and humorous instances of miscommunication; ludicrous, improbable, and exaggerated characters; and broadly stylized performances.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thriller (genre)</span> Genre of literature, film, and television

Thriller is a genre of fiction with numerous, often overlapping, subgenres, including crime, horror, and detective fiction. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving their audiences heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. This genre is well suited to film and television.

A hybrid genre is a literary or film genre that blends themes and elements from two or more different genres. Works in hybrid genres are also referred to as cross-genre, multi-genre, mixed genre, or fusion genre. The Dictionary of Media and Communication describes hybrid genre as "the combination of two or more genres", which may combine elements of more than one genre and/or which may "cut across categories such as fact and fiction". Some such sub-genres have acquired their own specialised names, such as comedy drama, romantic comedy ("rom-com"), horror Western, and docudrama.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crime film</span> Film 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.

A sports film is a film genre in which any particular sport plays a prominent role in the film's plot or acts as its central theme. It is a production in which a sport or a sports-related topic is prominently featured or is a focus of the plot. Despite this, sport is ultimately rarely the central concern of such films and sport performs primarily an allegorical role. Furthermore, sports fans are not necessarily the target demographic in such movies, but sports fans tend to maintain high following and esteem for such movies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Romance film</span> Film genre

Romance films involve romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theatres or on television that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters. Typically their journey through dating, courtship or marriage is featured. These films make the search for romantic love the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family resistance. As in all quite strong, deep and close romantic relationships, the tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silent comedy</span> Genre of silent film

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.

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.

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

Slice of life is a depiction of mundane experiences in art and entertainment. In theater, slice of life refers to naturalism, while in literary parlance it is a narrative technique in which a seemingly arbitrary sequence of events in a character's life is presented, often lacking plot development, conflict and exposition, as well as often having an open ending.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comedy horror</span> Genre that combines elements of horror and comedy

Comedy horror, also known as horror comedy, is a literary, television, 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. Examples of comedy horror films include Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), An American Werewolf in London (1981), the Evil Dead franchise (1981–present), Gremlins (1984), Shaun of the Dead (2004), and The Cabin in the Woods (2011).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comedy</span> Genre of dramatic works intended to be humorous

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drama (film and television)</span> Film and television genre

In film and television, drama is a category or genre of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. The 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 they combine a drama's otherwise serious tone with elements that encourage a broader range of moods. To these ends, a primary element in a drama is the occurrence of conflict—emotional, social, or otherwise—and its resolution in the course of the storyline.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thriller film</span> Film genre

Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. Tension is created by delaying what the audience sees as inevitable, and is built through situations that are menacing or where escape seems impossible.

American comedy films are comedy films produced in the United States. The genre is one of the oldest in American cinema; some of the first silent movies were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. With the advent of sound in the late 1920s and 1930s, comedic dialogue rose in prominence in the work of film comedians such as W. C. Fields and the Marx Brothers. By the 1950s, the television industry had become serious competition for the movie industry. The 1960s saw an increasing number of broad, star-packed comedies. In the 1970s, black comedies were popular. Leading figures in the 1970s were Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. One of the major developments of the 1990s was the re-emergence of the romantic comedy film. Another development was the increasing use of "gross-out humour".

Inspired by the biological classification system of the Linnaean taxonomy, screenwriter Eric R. Williams developed the Screenwriters Taxonomy in 2017 to create a common language of creative collaboration for filmmakers. Williams’ central thesis in The Screenwriters Taxonomy: A Roadmap to Collaborative Storytelling is that the term “genre” is used so broadly to describe films that the modern use of the word has become meaningless. The Screenwriter's Taxonomy proposes seven categories for discussing the creative process of telling cinematic stories.

  1. Type
  2. Super Genre
  3. Macrogenres
  4. Microgenres
  5. Voice
  6. Pathway
  7. Point of View


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