A double act
, also known as a comedy duo
, is a comic pairing in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners, usually of the same gender, age, ethnic origin and profession but drastically different in terms of personality or behavior. Often one of the members of the duo — the straight man, feed, dead wood, or stooge — is portrayed as reasonable and serious, while the other one — the funny man, banana man or comic — is portrayed as funny, less educated or less intelligent, silly, or unorthodox. If the audience identifies primarily with one character, the other will often be referred to as a comic foil. The term "feed" comes from the way a straight man sets up jokes and then "feeds" them to his partner.
Despite the names often given to the roles, the "straight man
" need not be humorless and it is not always the comic who provides the act's humor. Sometimes it is the straight man who gets the laughs through his or her sarcastic reactions to the comic's antics, as was often the case with Stewart Lee
, reasoned reactions to Richard Herring
's more ridiculous antics in their pairing
. Where the "straight man" serves no specific comic purpose, but acts as a device to make the "comic" look good, he is known as a "stooge". This is sometimes considered a derogatory term, and began to fall out of use by the 1930s when The Three Stooges
began identifying itself as all stooges. Most often, however, the humor in a double act comes from the way the two personalities play off each other, rather than from the individual players. In many successful acts the roles are interchangeable. Read more...