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The Comedy Portal

Comedy is an act that is funny. In its popular meaning, the term encompasses stand-up, along with any discourse generally intended to amuse; this differs from the academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins can be found in Ancient Greece. The theatrical genre can be simply described as a dramatic performance pitting two societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Comedy contains variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations, and there are many recognized genres.

Satire and political satire use ironic comedy to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt, thus alienating their audience from the object of humor. Parody borrows the form of some popular genre, artwork, or text but uses certain ironic changes to critique that form from within (though not necessarily in a condemning way). Screwball comedy derives its humor largely from bizarre, surprising (and improbable) situations or characters. Black comedy is defined by dark humor that makes light of so-called dark or evil elements in human nature. Similarly scatological humor, sexual humor, and race humor create comedy by violating social conventions or taboos in comedic ways. A comedy of manners typically takes as its subject a particular part of society (usually upper class society) and uses humor to parody or satirize the behavior and mannerisms of its members. Romantic comedy is a popular genre (also known as rom com or romcom) that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms and focuses on the foibles of those falling in love.

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Selected article

The starring cast of TV series Horrible Histories arrives at the Children's BAFTAs, 27 November 2011
Horrible Histories is a children's sketch-comedy adaptation of Terry Deary's long-running book series, produced by Lion Television with Citrus Television, that ran for five 13-episode series on Britain's CBBC from 2009 to 2013. Like the books, it was intended to foster children's interest in British and other Western world history through factual anecdotes retold with a focus on "gross-out"-style humour and comic violence – "history with the nasty bits left in". The producers of the TV series recruited writers and performers with roots in the adult British comedy community, these in turn took a deliberately non-condescending approach, relying instead on such influences as Blackadder and the Monty Python films. A focus on historical accuracy was combined with a comedy style relying heavily on parodies of current UK pop-culture to make those facts more accessible, leading to takeoffs of Masterchef, The Apprentice and Wife Swap among others. The result won numerous domestic and international awards, including two British Comedy Awards and four consecutive Children's BAFTAs (cast at 2011 ceremony pictured), and eventually garnered respect as a classic from viewers of all ages.

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Promotional poster for The Lucky Dog, 1921
Credit: The Lucky Dog

Laurel and Hardy were the American-based comedy team of thin, British-born Stan Laurel (1890-1965) and heavy, American-born Oliver Hardy (1892-1957). They became famous during the early half of the 20th century for their work in motion pictures, and also appeared on stage throughout America and Europe, the team is considered one of the most famous and finest double acts in motion-picture history.

Did you know...

Did you know?
  • ... that the episodes of the BBC 7 sitcom Knocker have titles such as "Privinvasionacy", "Obselejectivitysence" and "Confidentialitydence"?

Selected biography

David Schwimmer
David Lawrence Schwimmer (born November 2, 1966) is an American actor and director of television and film. Born in New York, he moved to Los Angeles at the age of two. Several years later, he began his acting career performing in school plays at Beverly Hills High School; in 1988 he graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and speech. After graduation, Schwimmer co-founded the Lookingglass Theatre Company, for much of the late-1980s, he lived in Los Angeles as a struggling, unemployed actor. He appeared in the television movie A Deadly Silence in 1989, he then appeared in a number of television roles, including L.A. Law, The Wonder Years, NYPD Blue, and Monty in the early-1990s. Schwimmer later gained worldwide recognition for playing Ross Geller in the situation comedy Friends. Aside from appearing in television, he starred in his first feature film The Pallbearer (1996), which was followed by roles in Kissing a Fool (1998), Six Days Seven Nights (1998), Apt Pupil, and Picking Up the Pieces (2000). He was then cast in the War miniseries Band of Brothers (2001). Following the series finale of Friends in 2004, Schwimmer landed the role of the titular character in the 2005 drama Duane Hopwood. Other film roles include the computer animated film Madagascar (2005), the dark comedy Big Nothing (2006), the thriller Nothing But the Truth (2008), and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008). Schwimmer made his London stage debut in the leading role in Some Girl(s) in 2005, for which he received critical reviews; in 2006 he made his Broadway debut in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Schwimmer made his directorial debut with the 2008 comedy Run Fatboy Run.



Selected quote

Jerry Seinfeld
There were two keys to the show [Seinfeld]. Our sense of humor is combustible together. There was no idea he [ Larry David ] would have that I couldn’t immediately get onto and say, ‘Yeah, then we’ll do that and then we’ll do that.’ We’re very combustible together. The other thing, equally as important to me, absolutely, if not more important, is we shared a relentless work ethic, both of us.

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Terms: Black comedyComedianComedy clubComedy of mannersConvention (norm)IronyKomosParodyPolitical satireRace humorRestoration comedySatireScrewball comedySurreal humourTabooToilet humor

Comedy genres: BouffonComedy filmAnarchic comedy filmGross-out filmParody filmRomantic comedy filmScrewball comedy filmSlapstick filmComic novelDramedyImprovisational comedyMusical comedyStand-up comedyAlternative comedyImpressionist (entertainment)One-liner jokeComedy genresSketch comedyTelevision comedyRadio comedySituation comedyTragicomedy

History of theatre: Ancient Greek comedyAncient Roman comedyBurlesqueCitizen comedyClownComedy of humoursComedy of mannersComedy of menaceComédie larmoyanteCommedia dell'arteFaceJesterRestoration comedyShakespearean comedyDadaist/SurrealistTheatre of the absurd

Comedy events and awards: British Comedy AwardsCanadian Comedy AwardsCat Laughs Comedy FestivalEdinburgh Festival FringeJust for laughsHalloween Howls Comedy FestivalMelbourne International Comedy FestivalNew York Underground Comedy Festival

Lists: List of comediansList of British comediansList of Canadian comediansList of Finnish comediansList of German language comediansList of Italian comediansList of Mexican comediansList of Puerto Rican comediansList of Indian comediansList of British TV shows remade for the American marketList of comediesList of New York Improv comedians


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