Comedy Guide: Understanding Its Definition & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is comedy?
  2. Techniques of comedy
  3. Comedy in literature
  4. Comedy in film and television
  5. Stand-up comedy
  6. Improvisational comedy
  7. Comedy in theater

If you've ever found yourself chuckling at a clever joke, a witty one-liner, or a hilarious sitcom scene, you're already well-acquainted with the world of comedy. This guide will help you understand the very definition of comedy and the techniques that make us laugh. So, let's jump right in, shall we?

What is comedy?

Comedy, by its simplest definition, is a form of entertainment that aims to make its audience laugh. It's a powerful tool that can lighten moods, bring people together, and even make us think about things from a fresh perspective. But comedy isn't just about the laughs—it's also a genre in literature, theater, film, and television. Let's break this down:

  • Professional entertainment: This is probably the most common form of comedy. It includes jokes and satirical sketches that are designed to tickle your funny bones. Think about your favorite stand-up comedians or the last comedy show you've watched—those are all forms of professional entertainment.
  • Movies, plays, or broadcast programs: Comedy is a popular genre in various forms of media. From comedy films like "Home Alone" and "Dumb and Dumber" to sitcoms like "Friends" and "The Office", these are all designed to evoke laughter and amusement.
  • The style or genre: The definition of comedy also extends to the style or genre of comedic works. This can range from slapstick and satire to farce and sitcoms.

Now that we've explored the definition of comedy, it's time to understand the techniques that make comedy work. These are the secret ingredients that turn ordinary stories into laughter-inducing masterpieces. But hey, we'll save that for the next section!

Techniques of comedy

Ready to dive into the world of comedy techniques? These are the subtle strategies that comedians and writers use to keep us chuckling. Here are some common techniques:

  • Exaggeration: Have you noticed how comedians often stretch the truth for laughs? That's exaggeration for you. It's taking a situation or a characteristic to such an extreme that it becomes funny.
  • Irony: Irony is a popular technique where the outcome is opposite of what was expected. Imagine a cat being scared of a mouse—that's irony, and it's often hilarious.
  • Pun: A pun is a form of word play where a word has more than one meaning or sounds like another word. Puns can be a fun way to play with language and create humor.
  • Slapstick: Slapstick is physical humor. Think of someone slipping on a banana peel. It's simple, yet it can be incredibly effective.
  • Parody: Parody involves imitating a person, event, or work of art for comic effect. Remember "Scary Movie"? That's a parody of popular horror films.

These techniques form the basis of comedy. They're the tools that comedians and writers use to craft their jokes and comedic narratives. It's not just about making people laugh—it's about understanding human nature, timing, and the elements of surprise.

Next up, we'll explore how comedy finds its way into literature. But that's a story for another section. Stay tuned!

Comedy in literature

Did you know that comedy has been a significant part of literature for centuries? Yes, even Shakespeare was a fan! But what does the definition of comedy in literature entail? Let's find out.

Comedy in literature often revolves around ordinary people in everyday situations. It magnifies their folly, quirks, and absurdities. The goal? To give us a fresh perspective and make us laugh while doing so.

Here are a few key characteristics:

  • Satire: Satire is a form of humor that criticizes human missteps and vices through ridicule. Authors like Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift were masters of satire.
  • Wordplay: Like puns in stand-up comedy, wordplay is a popular comedic technique in literature. It involves clever use of language to create humor.
  • Humorous Dialogue: Ever read a book where the characters' conversations had you in splits? That's the power of humorous dialogue, and it's a staple in comedic literature.
  • Comic Relief: This is when a humorous scene, character, or dialogue is used to lighten up an otherwise serious situation. It provides relief from tension and keeps the tone balanced.

Whether it's P.G. Wodehouse's witty novels or the hilarious antics in Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," comedy in literature keeps us entertained, engaged, and often leaves us with a smile.

But that's not the only place you'll find comedy. Next, we'll take a look at comedy in film and television. You ready?

Comedy in film and television

Comedy has become a genre that truly shines in the realm of film and television. Here, the definition of comedy broadens to include visual humor, comedic timing, and even slapstick humor. But what makes a movie or TV show comedic? Let's explore.

Comedy in film and television often revolves around humorous plots, characters, and situations. These comedic elements are structured to provoke laughter and provide entertainment. Here are a few common comedy techniques in film and television:

  • Situational Comedy: Also known as 'Sitcom,' this is a genre of comedy centered around fixed set of characters who carry over from episode to episode. Shows like "Friends" and "The Office" are popular examples.
  • Physical Comedy: Ever laughed at a character tripping or getting a pie in the face? That's physical comedy. It's a type of humor that relies on physical acts, slapstick humor, and amusing facial expressions.
  • Parody: This is a humorous imitation of a person, event, or work of art. Parodies are meant to mock or comment on the original work. Movies like "Scary Movie" and shows like "Saturday Night Live" are known for their parodies.
  • Farce: Think exaggerated and improbable situations. Farces are filled with absurdity and highly humorous situations. The film "Home Alone" is a classic example of farce.

Whether it's the goofy antics in "Tom and Jerry" or the witty banter in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," comedy in film and television keeps us laughing and coming back for more. But comedy isn't just limited to the screen, it can be found in front of a live audience too. Are you ready to explore stand-up comedy?

Stand-up comedy

Stand-up comedy is a unique form of comedy where a comedian performs in front of a live audience, usually speaking directly to them. The performer often uses a microphone and a spotlight, making the experience much more personal and direct. So, how does the definition of comedy apply here?

In stand-up comedy, the performer's aim is to make the audience laugh through jokes, funny stories, and one-liners. The jokes are often based on social issues, personal anecdotes, or everyday life situations. Here are some key techniques used in stand-up comedy:

  • Observational Humor: This involves making jokes about everyday life. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld have perfected this technique, making us laugh at things we usually wouldn't find funny.
  • Self-deprecating Humor: This is when comedians make fun of themselves. It's a way to connect with the audience and show that they're human too. Amy Schumer is known for her self-deprecating humor.
  • Improvisation: Being able to think on your feet is key in stand-up comedy. Comedians often have to adapt to the crowd's reaction and improvise their routine on the spot.
  • Punchlines: A punchline is the climax of a joke. It's the line that makes the audience laugh. The best comedians know how to deliver punchlines effectively.

Stand-up comedy is a powerful form of entertainment. It allows us to laugh at our fears, frustrations, and the silliness of life. So, the next time you watch a stand-up comedy show, remember these techniques and the definition of comedy behind them. Who knows, you might even start seeing the humor in your own life!

Improvisational comedy

Improvisational comedy, also known as improv, is a spontaneous and interactive form of comedy. It's all about creating humor on the spot, without any scripted material. So, how does the definition of comedy play out in this spontaneous art form?

In improv, the performers create a scene based on suggestions from the audience. They might ask for a location, a relationship, or a situation. Then, they act out a scene, making it up as they go along. The key to improv is cooperation. The performers need to work together, building on each other's ideas to create a funny scene. Here are some techniques used in improvisational comedy:

  • Yes, and...: This is a fundamental rule of improv. It means accepting what your partner has offered and adding something of your own. It keeps the scene moving forward.
  • Character Work: This involves creating a believable character on the spot. It's not just about funny voices or physical comedy, but also about showing a character's motivations and reactions.
  • Scene Painting: This is when performers create an imaginary environment using only their words and actions. It helps set the scene and gives the audience a sense of place.
  • Heightening: This is about making each moment bigger and more ridiculous than the last. It's about taking a funny idea and exploring it to the fullest.

Improvisational comedy is like a high-wire act without a safety net. It's thrilling, unpredictable, and downright hilarious. And that's the beauty of it, you never know what you're going to get. So, if you're ever feeling adventurous, why not join an improv class? You'll learn a lot about the definition of comedy, and who knows, you might even discover a hidden talent!

Comedy in theater

Comedy has been a staple in theater since the very beginning. From the ancient Greeks to today's Broadway, the theater has always been a place to laugh and enjoy. But what's the definition of comedy when it comes to the theater?

Theater comedy often plays with absurd situations, humorous dialogue, and comedic characters to entertain the audience. There are various sub-genres within theater comedy, each with its own style and techniques:

  • Farce: This is a type of comedy that relies heavily on exaggerated and improbable situations. The characters in a farce often find themselves in ridiculous predicaments, leading to plenty of misunderstandings and slapstick humor.
  • Satire: This form of comedy uses humor, irony, and exaggeration to criticize or ridicule people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
  • Comedy of Manners: This kind of comedy revolves around the manners and conventions of a particular social class, often poking fun at their pretensions and hypocrisies.
  • Commedia dell'arte: Originating from Italy in the 16th century, this type of comedy revolves around a set of stock characters and involves a lot of improvisation and physical comedy. It's one of the earliest forms of professional theater.

The magic of theater comedy is that it brings us together. It's a shared experience, where we can all laugh at the same jokes and enjoy the same moments. It's a reminder that humor is a universal language, one that we all understand. So next time you're at the theater and the lights dim, prepare yourself for a good laugh and a deeper appreciation of the definition of comedy.

If you enjoyed this Comedy Guide and want to learn even more about the art of comedy, check out the '1-2-3 Comics' workshop by Ruby Elliot. In this workshop, Ruby will teach you the ins and outs of creating comedic content, helping you refine your techniques and understanding of comedy as an art form.