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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

Douglas adams portrait
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy radio series written by Douglas Adams (pictured) and first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. The serial follows the adventures of Englishman Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect, an alien who writes for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, an intergalactic encyclopedia and travelogue. After Earth is destroyed in the first episode, Dent and Ford find themselves aboard a stolen spaceship piloted by a motley crew including Zaphod Beeblebrox (Ford's semi-cousin and Galactic President), a depressed robot called Marvin and an Earth woman calling herself Trillian, who is the only other surviving human being. A second series was transmitted in 1980 and the first series was adapted for television. This in turn was followed by five novels, a computer game and several other adaptations. Before his death in May 2001, Adams considered writing a third radio series based on his novel Life, the Universe and Everything. Dirk Maggs eventually directed and co-produced radio series adaptations of that novel, as well as So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless in 2004–05.

Selected picture

Tameing a Shrew
Credit: Cartoon: Charles Williams; Restoration: Adam Cuerden

Tameing a Shrew; or, Petruchio's Patent Family Bedstead, Gags & Thumscrews, an 1815 caricature based on William Shakespeare's 1623 play The Taming of the Shrew. The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, and Kate, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Kate is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio tempers her with various psychological torments—the "taming"—until she is an obedient bride. In this cartoon, the husband engages in systematic spousal abuse, going far beyond what was considered acceptable at the time it was published.

Did you know...

  • ...that Lor Tok, a Thai comedian and actor, had roles in more than 1,000 films from the 1930s to the 1980s?
Did you know?
  • ... that the episode of 30 Rock titled "Sandwich Day" was actress Johnnie May's second appearance in the series, after playing a blood donations nurse in the episode "Tracy Does Conan"?

Selected biography

Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (May 13, 1842 – November 22, 1900) was an English composer best known for his operatic collaborations with librettist W. S. Gilbert, including the still-popular H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado. Sullivan's artistic output included 23 operas, 13 orchestral works, eight choral or oratorio works, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous hymns and other church pieces, songs, parlour ballads, part songs, carols, and piano and chamber pieces. Apart from his comic operas with Gilbert, Sullivan is best known for some of his hymns and parlour songs, including "Onward Christian Soldiers", "The Absent-Minded Beggar", and "The Lost Chord". However, his most critically praised pieces include his Irish Symphony, his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, his Overture di Ballo, The Martyr of Antioch, The Golden Legend, and, of the Savoy Operas, The Yeomen of the Guard. Sullivan's only grand opera, Ivanhoe, was initially successful but has been little heard since his death.



Selected quote

Richard Pryor in 1986
I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes. Though I'm gonna be on for an hour.

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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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