(Module 7) Comedy and Cinema

  • Aristotle called humans “the Creature who laughs” – saying that laughter (or the science_of_laughter_sophie_scott_tedknowledge of what to laugh at) is one of the few things that separate us from others in the animal kingdom.
  • One of the first films ever released was a comedy: In 1889, Thomas Edison shot a film short known as “the Sneeze” – basically a shot of a guy sneezing into the camera (this was a COMIC ACTION).
  • Comedy – The Early Years – In 1895, the Lumiere Brothers who were pioneers of silent film-making released a comedy short (The Sprinkler Sprinkled) about a man trying to water his garden while a child stands on the hose – the gardener looks at the hose to see why it stopped – the boy gets up and water flows freely into the face of the gardener- (Comic ACTION = visual humor).
  • Visual humor was the hallmark of early films (examples: Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton). Why? In silent films the physical comedy was paramount.


In today’s cinema, comedy has probably more sub-genres that any other type of film. Here is a list sunday-slapstick-1418391879of a few of those:

  • Slapstick comedy – “Slapstick comedy is primarily a physical kind of comedy based around pratfalls and mild comic violence — smacks in the head, pokes in the eyes, people falling down, etc.” – Patrick Bromley 
  • Romantic comedy286102125c7eee8151097329282a6f8a

Romantic Comedies are eternally successful because they appeal to the basic instinct in every human, the search for being connected in a romantic way to someone else. Nearly everyone is in need of loving or being loved, feeling secure and accepted, being appreciated or respected by another, and so on.

WOMEN!!! Women drive the box office for these films. In researching film, Boxoffice Mojo shared that if a woman wants to see a movie, she’s likely to take a date or a friend – that translates into more people in seats at the theatre … and that means more MONEY!!.

  • Parody (spoof)– This is truly the most simple form of all humor. It is all about taking shaunofthedeadanything (and everything) to the extreme – providing full-blown exaggeration. Usually a parody or spoof will overplay the traits or weaknesses or the stereotypes of the intended target of the spoof – taking the comedy over the top (non-natural comedy). Variety TV shows (like SNL) with skits are usually parody-driven (politics, culture, current issues , etc.).

BUT …. The audience must be familiar with the target of the spoof in order for this comedy to be successful (or interpreted correctly). Look for a play on words – and deep dialogue manipulation. Also look for sight gags and visual humor.

  • Deep thought-provoking satireSatire is like the more serious brother to parody –they both cover the same topics at times but they approach them in different ways. Satire (at times) feels more like drama or dark comedy.


Satire examples are found in many works of literature, art and film. Satire is used to show foolishness or vice in humans, organizations, or even governments, by using sarcasm, ridicule, or irony. Satire is often used to impact political or social change or to prevent it from happening. In most cases satire provides some type of message, meaning or social commentary.

  • Dry-wit (deadpan) comedy – “Dry humor is more sarcastic in nature, and less emotive. Dry humor is also connected to many forms of British humor, which is different than American humor, being that American humor shows more emotion.” – Jenna Cossuto

 Fish out of water comedy –elf

  1. Central Character or Characters are thrown into an unfamiliar Situation.

2.The Character(s) then face(s) Titanic obstacles. 

  1. Character(s) usually overcome(s) those obstacles.

4.The Character(s) usually experiences some type of awakening (spiritual, cultural, educational, emotional).

  1. As a result of that awakening – internal or external changes occur.

Jack Black is a rock-n-roll slacker who impersonates a substitute teacher (Fish out of Water) in School of Rock:

  • Dark Humor – No Subjects are off limits. Dark comedies:giphy
  1. Shock the Audience.
  2. Leave a lasting impression (good or bad).
  3. Take a semi-comical look at the serious side of life, usually someone’s misfortune (death, murder, pain, suffering, war, mental breakdowns, etc.)
  4. Combines the serious and the funny (audiences are usually split on deciding if the film was a comedy or something completely different).
  5.  You must also answer this question when watching a dark comedy- Why do we Laugh at others misfortunes?

A. Is it because someone else is suffering (other than us)?

B. Is it because we realize that our own problems are not so bad after all?

C. Is it because we can live through the on-screen pain of other characters without truly suffering the consequences? (Therapy)


Noel T. Manning II – 3.24.19


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