Comedy And Comedians

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					Comedy and Comedians


Comedy resists definition. Some have argued that it is an adaptive
strategy providing relief from the tragic or the mundane through
laughter. To elicit this laughter, comedy assumes many forms. Types of
comedy include slapstick, farce, black comedy wordplay burlesque, satire,
vaudeville, situation comedy on television, stand-up comedy clowning,
mime, etc. However, some material considered “comedy” may not necessarily
induce laughter. Comedy may simply refer to a presentation that focuses
on the lighter side of life. In general, the term “comedy” has certain
genre connotations, while the term “humor” refers to a comic quality
causing amusement, such as dry humor, or buffoonery. Because of cultural
assumptions regarding the nature and function of comedy many members of
marginalized groups (with respect to race, class, ethnicity or religion)
have made their way into the entertainment industry through comedy while
the world of serious drama has been harder to penetrate. Women, however,
have experienced more difficulty being taken “seriously” as comedians.

Since the end of the Second World War, one of the most important
developments in American comedy has been the advent of the situation
comedy on television. This form of comedy emerged from a long history of
comedy in America—characterized by vaudeville, film comedy (including the
silent film comedy of such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton
and Harold Lloyd), radio comedy stand-up comedy and variety television
shows. Since the introduction of the VCR, video rentals, and cable
television in the late 1970s, there has been much crossover between these
various comedic venues. Many of the American comedians who started out
with stand-up routines in comedy clubs and then moved on to film and/or
television careers have become quite successful. (Consider the careers of
Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg
and Jerry Seinfeld—to name just a few.) Prior to this route, many
American comedians started out in vaudeville (George Burns and Gracie
Allen, for example, who went on to begin one of the first television
situation comedies, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, which ran
from 1950–8). Comedian Bob Hope also developed a genre of television
specials based on his shows for American troops abroad, rebroadcast on
holidays.

Still, there are comedians who are known primarily for certain types of
comedy. Analysts have divided comedians into various types, including
social commentators, politicos, observationalists, fringe players,
wiseguys, etc. Other notable American comedians of the postwar era
include (in addition to those mentioned above): Lily Tomlin, Eddie
Murphy, Jackie Gleason, Jim Carrey Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Walter
Matthau, Margaret Cho, Jack Benny Billy Crystal, Goldie Hawn, Jim
Belushi, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Jane Curtin, Richard
Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, David Letterman, Sandra
Bernhard, Flip Wilson, Jay Leno, Bill Murray John Leguziamo, Mary Tyler
Moore, Spalding Gray Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Cheech and Chong, Roseanne,
Steve Martin, Marilyn Monroe, Gene Wilder, Dan Ackroyd, Redd Foxx and
Henny Youngman.

				
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