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Disciplines > Storytelling > Plots > Classic story types > Comedy

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Comedies make you smile, laugh or guffaw. They have a feel-good factor that leads to overall and often relaxed enjoyment.

Typical comic plots include:

  • A person thinks X is true and keeps acting as if it were true, even when its falsehood is plainly evident.
  • A person sets themself up as superior, but then proves to be inferior (pride goes before a fall!).
  • People fall over, make stupid mistakes and generally do things that people generally do not do.
  • Strange (but harmless) events happens. People try (largely unsuccessfully) to cope.
  • Misinformation and misunderstanding leads to confusion and frustration before eventual enlightenment.

Here are a number of different types of comedy:

  • Black comedy: Serious and macabre things made funny (eg. death).
  • Burlesque: Earthy skits and sketches.
  • Classic comedy: General humor with a happy ending (vs. classic tragedy, where people generally die).
  • Comedy of errors: Hapless people make many mistakes.
  • Commedia Dell'Arte: Italian (16th-18th century) improvisation on standard situations and stock characters.
  • Farce: People keep just missing one another. Lots of hiding in wardrobes and misunderstanding.
  • Melodrama: Exaggerated situational comedy. Hysteria and stupidity.
  • Parody: Imperfect copying of traditional situations (including exaggeration, error, etc.).
  • Romantic comedy: People fall in love, act stupidly and eventually get together.
  • Satire: Caustic mockery of serious people and situations.
  • Situation comedy: Humor in everyday life situations.
  • Slapstick: Custard pies, falling over, chase, collision and other visual gags.
  • Screwball: Manic people do ridiculous things.


Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
Much Ado About Nothing


Humor is largely based on unexpected events. When we predict something and it does not happen as expected, then for some strange human reason, we often laugh, particularly if no harm is done (well, it's better than crying or getting cross).

Comedy is also very much about timing. Even fractions of a second can make a difference when telling funny stories or acting in a comedy.

Many stories have elements of comedy in them, sometimes as light relief from the otherwise-suspenseful action.

Telling humorous stories can relax people and build a good atmosphere. People who can tell funny stories have lots of friends and are often the center of attention at parties.

A common aspect of comedy is personal transformation as people become enlightened. Sins are forgiven. Villains are redeemed. The ignorant become wise. The lost find their way. In this way comedies offer hope. As Booker says, 'the essence of Comedy is always that some redeeming truth has to be brought out from the shadows into the light.'

Comedic focus on the truth can allow exploration of embarrassing situations and other things about which we normally do not talk. By the same principle comedies may be about revelation, as the true nature of characters and situations gradually appear. Even the plot may be initially disguised and the fact of it being comedy remain unclear.

See also

Using humor


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