What is comedy?
It is one of the most important subgenres of the dramatic genre in the artistic world, since it is currently one of the most represented elements in a great variety of art formats, whose main intention is based on the entertainment of the audience, generating fun and laughter, which is why they often have a happy ending.
Comedy is part of the dramatic genre since it starts as a literary genre initially, therefore in its passage through art, it is based on different situations of life through the dialogue of the characters in the play.
Meaning of comedy
The term comedy comes from the Latin comoedĭa, but also from the Greek kōmōidía, composed mainly by kōmōs, which refers to a parade and odé, which points to an ode or a song. It is thus that, at the time when the Greek theater emerges, the union with the comic dye will include satirical and burlesque songs in the company of satirical poems to be sung.
Definition of comedy
Comedy can be defined as a literary subgenre of drama that refers to all works whose main intention is to amuse through mockery and satire to various situations. Its plot seeks to provoke laughter in the audience by using different elements such as parody, confusion, sarcasm, misunderstanding, exaggeration and irony.
That is why the concept of comedy also allows to define a type of dramatic staging where its joyful content will be the opposition of a cold, serious and tragic state.
What is the function of comedy?
Although the objective of comedy is focused on the awakening of the laughter of the spectator, the function resides in criticizing, exposing and evidencing in an exaggerated way aspects such as the vices of human beings, as well as the infinity of defects and flaws with a moralizing intention and in many cases educational. In this way, comedy ridicules the bad habits of human beings so that, through laughter, it also awakens reflection and stimulates correction or, alternatively, to avoid acquiring them.
Origin of comedy
The birth of this dramatic subgenre dates back to Ancient Greece, especially the Athenian comedy, in which, as in the case of tragedies, the plays were performed under the observation and sponsorship of the State, in addition to acquiring a competitive character. Although the comedy reached the recognition of the Emperor, soon began to reduce its representations due to the economic decline of the area.
Thus, for an amount of money received by the playwrights, they presented a play for each of them to compete for the most important prize. Among them, the oldest known comedy is the one called “The Acarnians”, written by Aristophanes, which was performed for the first time in the year 425. On the other hand, and from this moment on, the development of comedy began at the hands of Aristotle in the “Poetics”, where he established the first foundations of comedy that will determine aspects that influence the composition from the directors who introduce phallic songs and various resources to generate the laughter of the spectator.
After Aristophanes, a less slow development of comedy begins, which many experts have organized by spaces such as the old comedy, the middle comedy and the new comedy. However, this classification has not been made official, although Menander has been recognized as one of the main exponents of the last period of comedy. The evolution of this is given with the economic fall that ceases to be profitable from the war with Sparta.
From this moment the new comedy, in particular, acquires a much more reflective character in which the characters are opposed to the new modalities of the same regulation and adding the general reality, where they will begin to build characters that found a personality with a role or work within the society in which they live. The presence of divinities will be substantially reduced and the vision will be focused on the human being and his everyday life.
Characteristics of comedy
At a general level, comedy makes use of humor to ridicule and exaggerate the drama in different situations whose ending, in most cases, will be happy. Let’s look at more aspects of this subgenre:
Intention to amuse
The objective of this subgenre is to generate laughter in the spectators, to amuse and entertain them with the piece. To do so, it makes use of elementary humor, the grotesque, the exaggerated, the psychology of the characters, creating spaces for jokes, gags and all that can be presented both visually and verbally.
In the case of comedy, the main character is usually the representation of an archetype, that is, a type of model for imitation that is built from elements of the human being, emphasizing the negative aspects such as lying, deceit and greed, which are pointed out to trigger their situations. This exaggeration of behavior is the source of mockery and the one that amuses, therefore, the spectators, the audience or the readers of the play.
Often in the comedy there are defects and vices of the protagonist or protagonists, which are observed as a kind of representation of society, in which these aspects are exaggerated in order to build a moral dye that remains in the memory and reflection of the public.
As we have mentioned, the comedy is characterized, among other things, because it generates a happy ending in which the forces that opposed the intentions of the protagonist or the most important characters, are punished and removed from the path they were on, most of the time they are ridiculed due to the negative behaviors executed.
Elements of comedy
Next we will see some of the aspects that may or may not be included within the composition of comedy in any of its scenarios. These are:
This is an aspect that allows comedy to be able to oppose the solemnity expressed in tragedy and the seriousness of the events, adding also the comic and mocking tone. It starts to become a usual aspect born from satirical dramas, which initially dealt with themes about mythology, where the playwright incorporated humorous notes.
Agon or combat
This is the first episode in which a fight is represented in which the winner is the character in charge of representing the ideas of the playwright or writer of the play.
This refers to the moment when the performance is empty and the actors have left the stage, where the accompanying chorus removes their masks and cloaks from their bodies and proceeds to advance towards the audience. This stage of the comedy contains other elements, such as the commation, in which a brief chant takes place. There is also the anapestos in which a speech is addressed to the audience vocalized by the chorus or the chorus leader, there is the pnigos which refers to an extended four-part speech.
Although it is a fundamental aspect for the representation, the truth is that it did not have established its parameters of time and place, although it was the comediographers who began to establish and build their comedies with a certain time.
Types of comedy
With the development that comedy will have and its incorporation in various artistic expressions from literature, it will be classified into several scenarios through which we can classify a number of modalities of comedy. These are:
It refers to the comedy that was born in Ancient Greece, which integrates the vestiges of classical theater where tragedy was permeated in their compositions. Thus, in this scenario, comedy arises and develops from poems with satirical overtones, but it will also be represented with masks that will be used by the actors of the tragedies.
Comedy of art
It is a modality that was born in the XVI century in Italy and remained until the XIX century. In this stage it is the comedy as a type of theater of popular character that is identified from the use of improvisation as a tool of the actors and the incorporation of masks with gestures and exaggerated or funny articulations, except for the protagonists, who in love, will not wear the mask.
It is a type of comedy that takes place in the theater, recognized for fusing other artistic expressions with acting such as singing, dancing and, therefore, music. Broadway shows are one of the most important referents of this type of comedy, although in addition to the theater, it has also passed to other scenarios such as the film industry where it has become a type of show comedy.
This category refers, most of the time, to comedies taken to the cinema where the protagonists, lovers and lovers, are in a constant meeting and misunderstanding where they will end up together, that is, the happy ending occurs here. The protagonists will often drift apart because of their differences or other circumstances, it is one of the most characteristic entertainment films.
This last type of comedy is represented by the so-called “sketch”, short pieces in which the exaggeration and the presentation taken to the limit of situations or events that are part of everyday life are evident.
It is a type of comedy in which blows are shown and in general, acts of violence that are represented in an exaggerated way and that do not have any type of real consequence for any of the characters, where the blows are shown as the execution of the correction, in most cases.
As its name indicates, it is a type of comedy that particularly connects directly with the audience, since it begins to narrate a comic anecdote that, when told, generates the interaction of dialogue with the spectator.
Although it does not put into play the objective of laughter in the comedy spectator, it is a modality that is also capable of playing with the audience’s expectations where it presents them with unpredictable outcomes. In this category are also those comedies that are not considered funny under a generic look.
It is also known as -black humor-. It refers to a type of love that ridicules events that usually generate feelings of sadness, pity, compassion or even terror. It is a type of comedy that is considered in opposition to moral values, since it includes topics related to violence, diseases, sexuality, racism, war, poverty, terrorism, among others.
Also known as white humor and in opposition to the previous one, it is a type of comedy that makes jokes considered politically correct, since they do not go against or attack a particular person or group. It is a type of comedy that is mostly appreciated and presented in spaces aimed at children and young audiences.
It focuses on issues related to sexuality, which is why it is sometimes also called Ribaldry,
In this type of comedy a character is created, starting from improvisation in most cases, where a series of comic situations also begin to arise from their behaviors and attitudes.
It is also called deadpan. In this case, the comedy focuses on a character who is attributed with a somber attitude, but with characteristics of monotony, bored, distracted and disconnected. Thus, due to this attitude, a speech with comic situations that do not change or modify the previous characterization of the character.
It is a type of comedy in which the comic is represented within a television program and genre in which the facts are developed by repeated characters. This modality includes pre-recorded laughter in each space in which a dialogue or comic event takes place.
In this case, the comedy is made from the cultural context, so that the jokes and gags are pertaining to this particular culture.
The use of informal language is the main differentiating factor of this type of comedy, so that in its language it will include all kinds of swear words and insults for the development of the situation, as well as, at a general level, verbal violence.
This type of comedy takes place in the cinema, where the audience is made to believe that they are watching a real documentary, although in reality they are presented with false information in which a series of situations that may or may not be part of their own context are mocked, criticized and judged.
This comedy is aimed at making jokes about events that are directly related to everyday life.
This is a much more recent type of comedy, in which the comedy is performed in real time, most of the time, where a comedian appears before an audience with whom he interacts based on his own events, experiences and so on.
This type of comedy is one of the most representative of the subgenre, given that in this one the mockery is attached to another text that already exists, so that it can refer to a historical situation, a movie, a book, a news item, etc.
It is also known as shock humor. It is characterized because it is a type of comedy that, although it seeks the amusement of the spectator, it does it through impact, resorting to aspects such as crudity within scatological themes in most cases.
Often this type of comedy is also known as absurd humor, since it is characterized fundamentally by dyes of situations with little coherence, there is a lack of logic in front of the facts and is the reason why they are funny to the viewer.
Satire is an element that is frequently found in comedy, however, it is also consolidated as a comedy modality in which the jokes that are made are intended to refer to current issues in which the characters of the moment are attacked, a conflictive situation, among other purposes.
This last type of comedy is characterized because the jokes are built on a structure of words that can be conceived with double meaning, as well as allegories and other language resources. In some cases it is considered as a refined humor.
How to write comedy?
Generating laughter in others is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges, however comedy uses a great variety of resources to achieve it, as we have seen. To put them into practice in addition to bringing together another series of elements, we will see below a series of guidelines that are going to allow you to write your own comedy. Let’s see:
Identify a comic character
The first thing to do is to find the character on which the story is going to be built, since this is the source of all the contextual characteristics on which jokes and jokes can be made. To do this it is convenient to take a look at general comedies or comedies of your preference to observe the object of mockery and from where it is told.
You can invent a character and build a personality, along with psychological traits that allow you to represent a character with a defined image to which you give movement through interaction and comedy.
Apply comedic overtones
By this we mean that you can begin to imprint the aspects that will be the impulse for laughter, such as exaggeration, their physical and personal flaws, if you prefer, and in general their imperfections as a human being, which become the focus of the comedy. Avoid making the mistake of overdoing the work elements, “less is more”. Focus on choosing some of these resources and characteristics to work on, develop and test within the character you are creating.
Look for the opposite
Contrast is a key aspect to make the differences and exaggerations much more evident, which is why you can find the opposite of the character and even a normal created character that complements the comic character.
Increase the conflict
The situations in which the character develops must be taken to the exaggeration of the event, although it may start with a small fact, it will be its development in the scene that will intensify the problem he faces, a process that must be done quickly. To do this you can include the character’s emotions in depth and the internal debates for decision making.
Exaggerate the conditions
Remember that traits, situations and conditions must be pushed to the limit, so that the bad must be made worse, as well as actions, flaws, sins, etc. This allows to elevate the strength of the events being narrated creating a free space for madness that generates greater impact on the viewer. These limits can lead to complete madness, partial or complete destruction of a character or objects, etc.
Remember that saying something funny does not necessarily generate the laughter we want to provoke, it actually goes much further than that. Try to meddle in aspects with which you can enter into trust with the audience, so as to increase the chances of identifying with the comic character and the situation.
Authors and most important works
When the birth of comedy is identified, we also begin to identify the great playwrights who include this subgenre within their artistic creations on the theater, so that Aristophanes becomes the main exponent of comedy in Ancient Greece.
With the passage of time many other names will appear that will take comedy to other scenarios, taking into account its development and the variety of spaces in which it will be executed, as is the case of Charlie Chaplin in the cinema, as well as other great artists among which are Dan Leno, Fred Karno, Stan Laurel, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd.