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Thalia, muse of comedy, holding a comic mask - detail of "Muses Sarcophagus", the nine Muses and their attributes; marble, early second century AD, Via Ostiense - Louvre

In a modern sense, comedy (from the Greek: κωμῳδία, kōmōidía) refers to any discourse or work generally intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, television, film, stand-up comedy, 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.

Satire and political satire use comedy to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt, thus alienating their audience from the object of their humor. Parody subverts popular genres and forms, critiquing those forms without necessarily condemning them.

Other forms of comedy include screwball comedy, which derives its humor largely from bizarre, surprising (and improbable) situations or characters, and black comedy, which is characterized by a form of humor that includes darker aspects of human behavior or human nature. Similarly scatological humor, sexual humor, and race humor create comedy by violating social conventions or taboos in comic 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 that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms and focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love.

Selected article

Kung Fu Hustle is set in Shanghai
Kung Fu Hustle (Chinese: 功夫; pinyin: Gōngfu) is a 2004 Hong Kong martial arts film co-written, co-produced, directed by and starring Stephen Chow. The film is a humorous parody and a homage to the wuxia genre, and contains most of the characteristics of a typical wuxia movie with exaggerations, serious situations and comic plots. Set in 1930s Shanghai, it is a tale of redemption for the central character, portrayed by Chow, a petty criminal who is trying to join the city's most-powerful gang. The use of visual effects have been widely acclaimed and the cartoon style of the movie accompanied by traditional Chinese music is its most striking feature, although the film features the return of a number of retired 1970s actors of Hong Kong action cinema, it is in stark contrast to recent martial arts films that have made an impact in the West, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. The film was released on 23 December 2004 after two years of production and received positive reviews from critics, it went on to become the highest grossing film in the history of Hong Kong, and the highest grossing foreign language film in the United States in 2005.

Selected picture

Statue of angel with yellow, smiley underpants. Prank at the University of Virginia.
Credit: an iconoclast

A practical joke or prank is a situation set up usually to produce what the perpetrator imagines to be a humorous outcome at the expense of the target. Practical jokes are distinct from slapstick comedy or knockabout, in which the goal is to make physical events appear miscalculated, inept, or stupid, the term practical refers to the fact that the joke consists of someone doing something (a 'practice'), rather than a verbal or written joke.

Barb says"Isn't that really a flying monkey?"

Did you know...

Did you know?
  • ... that the opening scene of the first episode of BBC Three sitcom Mongrels features cats eating the corpse of their dead owner?

Selected biography

Seth MacFarlane
Seth Woodbury MacFarlane (born October 26, 1973) is a two-time Emmy-winning American comedian, animator, screenwriter, producer, actor, voice actor, and composer. Born in Kent, Connecticut, MacFarlane is best known as the creator of the popular animated series Family Guy and American Dad!. He executive produced the short-lived television series The Winner. MacFarlane performs vocally as many of his cartoon characters, such as Peter Griffin on Family Guy and Roger the Alien on American Dad!. As an actor, he makes guest appearances on various shows including Gilmore Girls and The War At Home. A science fiction fan, MacFarlane has appeared on Star Trek: Enterprise, and spoofs Star Wars in several of his cartoons. MarFarlane occasionally speaks at universities and colleges throughout the United States, he supports the Democratic Party, and publicly sides with the writers union in the current Writers Guild of America strike.



Selected quote

Ernest Hemingway
They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.

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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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