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What’s So Funny? A Glimpse at the Origins of Comedy It All Started With The Greeks… Dionysus, Greek god of the common man, wine, nature, and human/wild impulses Drama originated from ancient festivals honoring Dionysus (masks, torches, dancing, singing)

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what s so funny

What’s So Funny?

A Glimpse at the

Origins of Comedy

it all started with the greeks
It All Started With The Greeks…
  • Dionysus, Greek god of the common man, wine, nature, and human/wild impulses
  • Drama originated from ancient festivals honoring Dionysus (masks, torches, dancing, singing)
  • Komoidia means “the song of the komos” (communal ritual carouse)
    • Normal social rules and inhibitions set aside
three ages of greek comedy
Three Ages of Greek Comedy
  • Old Comedy (fifth century BC)
    • Political and social satire; enforce social norms
  • Middle Comedy (400-323 BC)
    • Mock reenactment of famous myths
  • New Comedy (320 BC to mid-third century BC)
    • Focus on family, love, relationships
characteristics
Characteristics
  • Original (not based on myths)
  • Outrageous ideas presented as plausible solutions (Lysistrata)
  • Role of the chorus prominent
  • Use of obscenity in language and gesture
    • Purpose: to ridicule recognizable figures without naming names
  • Political and social satire; vigorous concern with social events
old comedy a serious edge
Old Comedy: A Serious Edge
  • Scatalogical and obscene humor, but for a purpose:
    • to influence civic ideology,
    • to provide political and social critique
aristophanes
Aristophanes
  • Most well-known figure of old comedy
  • Wrote over 40 plays; eleven survive
  • Frogs, Clouds, Lysistrata are three of the most well known
characteristics9
Characteristics
  • Turned from confrontation, topical humor to mythological burlesque (mock reenactments of famous myths)
  • Less direct social/political comment
  • More interest in daily life
  • Attempts to develop characters more fully
characteristics11
Characteristics
  • Less obscene
  • Focused on family matters with complications in love relationships.
  • Love is an important theme New Comedy introduces into literature.
  • New Comedy concentrated on everyday life
  • Genial, mildly philosophical reflections of human situation
focus of new comedy
Focus of New Comedy
  • domestic situations,
  • troubles with husband/wives or particularly fathers and sons.
  • Interest in human characters revealed in an individual’s moral choice
  • Characters are placed in difficult situations through their own failings; must make difficult decisions.
  • Characters’ dilemmas reflect issues of Athenian society or Athenian attitude
where do we see old comedy
Where do we see Old Comedy?
  • Satire
  • Parody
  • Political cartoons
where do we see middle comedy
Where Do We See Middle Comedy?
  • Comedy of manners
    • Satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class
    • Much Ado About Nothing
and new comedy
And New Comedy?
  • Deals with relationships
  • Most easily translated to our society
  • Romantic comedies (“chick flicks”)
  • Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, It’s a Wonderful Life
subgenres of comic film

Subgenres of Comic Film

Or, Where the Greeks Led Us

comedy of manners
Comedy of Manners
  • Satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class
  • Often represented by stock characters
  • Plot often concerns illicit love affair or other scandal
  • Witty dialogue
  • Examples: Importance of Being Earnest, Seinfeld, anything by Noel Coward,
  • “Brit-coms”
fish out of water
Fish Out of Water
  • Main character(s) in a strange environment…for example:
  • Swapping gender roles (Tootsie)
  • Swapping age roles (Big)
  • Free spirit fitting into structured environment (Police Academy)
parody or spoof
Parody or Spoof
  • Satirizes other film genres or classic films
  • Uses sarcasm, stereotyping, mockery of scenes from the films, etc.
  • Examples: Blazing Saddles, Airplane!, Young Frankenstein
anarchic comedy
Anarchic Comedy
  • Nonsensical, stream-of-consciousness humor
  • Jokes and visual gags—usually non-sequiturs (i.e., random stuff happens)
  • Wildly exaggerated characters and situations, sometimes unrelated to the narrative
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Marx Brothers, Animal House, Wayne’s World
black comedy
Black Comedy
  • Based around normally taboo subjects: death, murder, suicide, war
  • Treats these subjects in a humorous way
  • Includes an element of irony (belt example from Waiting for Godot)
romantic comedy
Romantic Comedy
  • Focuses on development of relationship between two people
  • Typical plot: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back
  • Sexual tension and confusion along the way
  • Generally happy ending
put another way
Put Another Way…
  • Old Comedy focused on political and social commentary and change.
  • We see it today in satires (Daily Show, SNL, Simpsons, etc.)
slide25
Middle Comedy focused on increasing interest in daily life and character development, less interest in social/political commentary
  • We see it today in comedy of manners films
slide26
New Comedy focused on love, and developing human relationships. We see it today in one of the most prevalent subgenres of comedy: romantic comedy (chick flicks).
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