Comedy

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Comedy has a classical meaning (comical theatre) and a popular one (the use of humour with an intent to provoke laughter in general). In the theater, its Western origins are in ancient Greece, like tragedy, a genre characterised by a grave fall from grace by a protagonist having high social standing. Comedy, in contrast, portrays a conflict or agon (Classical Greek ἀγών) between a young hero and an older authority, a confrontation described by Northrop Frye as a struggle between a "society of youth" and a "society of the old". A more recent development is to regard this struggle as a mere pretext for disguise, a comical device centered on uncertainties regarding the meaning of social identity. The basis of comedy would then be a plot mechanism conceived to engender misunderstandings either about a hero's identity or about social being in general.

Returning to the popular term comedy, it is known to be difficult to describe. Humor being subjective, one may or may not find something humorous because it is either too offensive or not offensive enough. Comedy is judged according to a person’s taste. Some enjoy cerebral fare such as irony or black comedy; others may prefer scatological humor (e.g. the "fart joke") or slapstick. A common gender stereotype that plays on this convention is that men love the comedy of The Three Stooges, while women do not.

While hard to pin down, it can safely be said that most good comedy, as with a good joke, contains within it variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, and the effect of opposite expectations. The audience becomes a part of the experience, if it is to be successful. Sometimes, it is the fulfillment of the expectation which is part of the experience, such as the long "take" of a Jack Benny, resolved, paradoxically, when the expected happens. Comedy is a serious business, and one only knows it when one sees it or hears it.

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[edit] Comedy drama

Comedy is the term applied to theatrical dramas, the chief object of which are to amuse. It is contrasted on the one hand with tragedy and on the other with farce, burlesque, and so on. As compared with tragedy, it is distinguished by having a (the comedies)".

[edit] Derivation

The word "comedy" is derived from the Classical Greek κωμῳδία, which is a compound either of κῶμος (revel) or κώμη (village) and ᾠδή (singing): it is possible that κῶμος itself is derived from κώμη, and originally meant a village revel.

In ancient Greece, comedy seems to have originated in bawdy and ribald songs or recitations apropos of fertility festivals or gatherings, or also in poking fun at other people or stereotypes.<ref>Francis MacDonald Cornford, The Origin of Attic Comedy, 1934.</ref>

Aristotle, in his Poetics, tells us the same: that comedy originated in Phallic songs and the light treatment of the otherwise base and ugly. He also adds that the origins of comedy are obscure because it was not treated seriously.<ref>Aristotle, Poetics, lines beginning at 1449a. [1]</ref>

P.W. Buckham writes that "the lighter sort of Iambic became Comic poets, the graver became Tragic instead of Heroic".<ref>P.W. Buckham, p. 243</ref>

The word comes into modern usage through the Latin comoedia and Italian commedia. It has passed through various shades of meaning. In the middle ages it meant simply a story with a happy ending. Thus some of Chaucer's tales are called comedies, and in this sense Dante used the term in the title of his poem, La Commedia (cf. his Epistola X., in which he speaks of the comic style as "loqutio vulgaris, in qua et mulierculae communicant"; again "comoedia vero remisse et humiliter"; "differt a tragoedia per hoc, quod t. in principio est admirabilis et quieta, in fine sive exitu est foetida et horribilis"). Subsequently the term is applied to mystery plays with a happy ending. The modern usage combines this sense with that in which Renaissance scholars applied it to the ancient comedies.

The adjective "comic" (Greek κωμικός), which strictly means that which relates to comedy, is in modern usage generally confined to the sense of "laughter-provoking": it is distinguished from "humorous" or "witty" inasmuch as it is applied to an incident or remark which provokes spontaneous laughter without a special mental effort. The phenomena connected with laughter and that which provokes it, the comic, have been carefully investigated by psychologists, in contrast with other phenomena connected with the emotions. It is very generally agreed that the predominating characteristics are incongruity or contrast in the object, and shock or emotional seizure on the part of the subject. It has also been held that the feeling of superiority is an essential, if not the essential, factor: thus Hobbes speaks of laughter as a "sudden glory." Physiological explanations have been given by Kant, Spencer and Darwin. Modern investigators have paid much attention to the origin both of laughter and of smiling, the development of the "play instinct" and its emotional expression. Comedy has a classical meaning (comical theatre) and a popular one (the use of humour with an intent to provoke laughter in general). In the theater, its Western origins are in ancient Greece, like tragedy, a genre characterised by a grave fall from grace by a protagonist having high social standing. Comedy, in contrast, portrays a hero who is both young and relatively powerless, who is in conflict or agon (Classical Greek ἀγών) against an older moral or social authority, a confrontation described by Northrop Frye as a struggle between a "society of youth" and a "society of the old".

[edit] Notes

<references />

[edit] References

  • Aristotle, Poetics.
  • Buckham, Philip Wentworth, Theatre of the Greeks, 1827.
  • Marteinson, Peter, On the Problem of the Comic: A Philosophical Study on the Origins of Laughter, Legas Press, Ottawa, 2006.
  • Pickard-Cambridge, Sir Arthur Wallace
    • Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy , 1927.
    • The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens, 1946.
    • The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, 1953.
  • Raskin, Victor, The Semantic Mechanisms of Humor, 1985.
  • Riu, Xavier, Dionysism and Comedy, 1999. [2]
  • Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane, Tragedy and Athenian Religion, Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Wiles, David, The Masked Menander: Sign and Meaning in Greek and Roman Performance, 1991.

[edit] See also

[edit] Forms

[edit] Elements of Comedy

[edit] Styles

[edit] Historical or theatre

  • Greek comedy
  • Clown
  • Commedia dell'arte - historically, a form of improvisational theatre, chiefly from the 16th to 18th centuries.
  • Farce - most often thought of as theatrical, but has been adapted for other media.
  • Jesters - clowns associated with the middle ages.
  • Vaudeville - comedy performed in theatres that declined as television ownership increased.

[edit] Definitions

[edit] Comedy events and awards

[edit] Lists of comedy performers

[edit] by nationality

[edit] Lists of comedy programs

[edit] Other lists

[edit] See also


[edit] External links

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Comedy

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