Comedy Terms






Class Consciousness

Plot and Structure

Photo Credits

Comedy takes many forms--e.g., farce, parody, satire--and there are many types of humor--e.g., physical humor such as slapstick and verbal humor that features double entendres and plays on words. In addition to looking at different types of comedy, these webpages explore how comedy works: plot structures, different types of characters, the role of gender and class, the relationship of actors to audience, and finally, sets, costumes, music, and masks. These webpages, created by the students of CLA 364 during Term 1, 2006, will help you to understand better how comedy works, whether that comedy is in the works of four great Greek (Aristophanes and Menander) and Roman (Plautus and Terence) playwrights, or in Hollywood film comedies.

The plays discussed include

Aristophanes' Birds (414 BCE), Clouds (423 BCE), and Lysistrata (411 BCE)

Memander's Dyskolos (Old Cantankerous) (316 BCE), Perikeiromene (The Girl Shorn), and Samia (Woman from Samos) (315-309 BCE)

Plautus' Persa (The Persian) and Poenulus (The Puny Carthaginian or Towelheads) (190s BCE)

Terence's Adelphoe (The Brothers) and Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law) (160 BCE)

Films discussed:

Charlie Chaplin in The Immigrant, The Count, and Easy Street (1916)

Mae West in Goin' to Town (1935)

Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934), starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable

Sam Wood's A Night at the Opera (1935), starring Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx, Kitty Carlisle, and Allan Jones

David Butler's Road to Morocco (1942), starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour

Norman Jewison's Moonstruck (1987), starring Cher, Nicholas Cage, and Olympia Dukakis

For questions or comments, please contact John Gruber-Miller