Comedy is any work of art intended to be humorous by evoking laughter which is the main and most dominant theme in television and film, thus it grabs attention and captivates the audience



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Comedy is any work of art intended to be humorous by evoking laughter which is the main and most dominant theme in television and film, thus it grabs attention and captivates the audience. It is argued to have Greek backgrounds even as seen by the actual Greek word ''Komedia'' which meant to reveal. Dark comedy, the silent era comedy, burlesque, stand up are the main types of comedy in which elements such as parody, satire, lampoon, sarcasm, farce are presented intelligently in order for people to laugh. n Ancient Greece was the first to experience standup comedy when actors would role play heads of states, public figures, officials mocking them in front of crowds in the Anthens arenas. Bates (1906) argues that the roots of comedy are found in Greece looking at the artists who attacked politics, society, and corruption using humour. Bates goes on to list the types of comedy eras from its origins in relation to the Greek empire. There was the Old comedy, Middle comedy and the New comedy.

Old comedy backdates too 400B.C during the era of Aristophanes a famous Greek comic and powerful satiric playwright and author of Greek theatre who focused on obscene plays about satires. Comics and actors were summoned in Athens to perform and entertain the audience through powerful stage mechanisms, choral dances but most importantly speak about the class systems, popular public figures, and popular disliked objects and ridicule them. However, the majority who were peasants might have not found comic reliefs in such practises since reforms were supposed to be made to their situations of oppression which the comics presented as humorous matters. The middle comedy was closely linked to the old comedy except comics were not allowed to ridicule public figures and impersonate them but to please them. The new comedy still with the Greek Empire and parts of Rome grew a new type of comedy, the era of love and the beginning of the romantic comedy. This was the era dominated by the infamous Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Congreve and Wycherley. Some of the famous works of this era are still rein-acted like Shakespeare's ''Comedy of Errors''. The middle comedy saw the rise of a form of censorship to comedy since the comics were only allowed to focus on particular topics.

Comedy has changed from its origins and its dynamic, that is the reason why new forms of comedy started rising, Slapstick comedy was brought to light in the time of silent comedy around the 18th century were there was no dialogue or speech, It featured comical energetic chases, collisions and practical jokes being played.’ Watering the Gardener'' 1895 by the Lunuire brothers is one of the first Slapstick movies. It showed a boy stepping over a hose and as the water stopped flowing, the gardener put his eye on the hose as the boy jumped off, the gardener got splashed on and the chase began. Malenga gets a job is another movie that depicted slapstick, like how Malenga's friend cut the wire for hanging clothes such that whoever touched it, the clothes would fall on one side and this happened to Malenga at work and he started chasing after him. Deadpan is an example of slapstick was comic load expression-less faces of stone like Buster Keaton is quite popular. Comedians such as Rowan Atkinson a.k.a ''Mr Bean'' are influenced by the silent comedy era in his works the Adventures of Mr Bean where he did the series without saying a single word. He became a very rich man from saying nothing in terms of dialogue, but with people laughing. He was once quoted saying ''Whilst you were laughing, I was making money''. Regardless of the fact that there was no dialogue, actions still evoked laughter in the audience. However, in today's comedy dialogue is essential because it is able to capture comic moments such as mimic.

Black comedy on the other hand deals and depends upon a modern and post modern way of thinking about reality. The stories cover issues of death, war and illness. In black comedy, surprises and anomalies keep the audience interested. This is witnessed in the movie Death at a funeral which dealt with the loss of a loved one, but the ceremony itself was funny from how it even starts with the wrong body being delivered to the house and the discovery by the deceased sons, that their father was having an affair with a white guy. It tried to put death in a very light form. Be it may, issues like death and illness may have a negative effect on the viewers who might have loved ones who died or even start thinking about friends or family who are ill and instead of laughing they might actually start crying or to be sad.

Grindon (2011) shows us that in 2008 the American Film Institute defined romantic comedy as a genre in which the development of romance leads to comic situations. The romantic comedy as Grindon (2011) further explains that it expresses social implications of difference between generations. This can be seen in a film like Meet the Parents(2000) where the young generation will be trying to overthrow the old and not liking each other at first but end up reconciling and reconnecting. They are also characterized by lovers facing obstacles, grotesque and parody which are an evolution of romance. There will be a conflict and a cynical belief that love which is genuine does not exist but also with a desire to see it triumph, since romantic comedies have a happy ending. Romance in films sometimes do not really show real life situations since happy endings sometimes do not exist and hence they give hope to hopeless romantic viewers.

Comedy can also be characterized by its ability to be combined with other major genres. This can be termed as comedy hybrid. This can include musical comedy like the 3 idiots, horror comedy like Jeepers Creepers, comedy thriller like Jonny English starring Mr Bean as a secret agent for British Investigation Unit. The humor is brought out through the lunacy of the main character, Bean. This characteristic of comedy allows other major genres to be appealing and exciting to the audience. Hybrids themselves however, might make it very difficult to classify the genres which the films will belongs to, as an individual might decide to classify or familiarize the film with a particular genre that interested them the most. Some film critics dislike the aspect of borrowing the work of art from different genres.

Screwball comedy was defined by film historians to have started or rather was born in 1934, Renzi (2012) states, it is a hybrid of romantic comedy, meeting slapstick, farce and even drama. Such films could be ''The proposal’ as it also targets battle of sexes and discrepancies in roles of men and women in society. In The proposal the girl (Sandra Bullock) is the one who proposes to the guy (Ryan Reynolds) as she was over-achieved but could not face her family again without a man in her life. This is also evident in the movie Mr and Mrs. Smith when husband and wife worked for different secret agencies without knowing each other’s jobs yet they lived in the same house and the agencies were against each other.

Standup comedy is the most popular in the 21st century especially in the black community. Names such as Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, Katt Williams, Trevor Noah, Eddie Murphy, and Russel Peters simply entertain people when they go on stage and talk about life in their different states. They take on religion, race, social classes and even political powers using satire. Comedy even branched to animated cartoons for example Felix the cat and Popeye. Cartoons are generally intended for kids but with the growing world of technology even grown people sit down to watch an animation like how people went to watch ''The Smurfs'' in 3D with a popular actor Neil -Patrick Harris a.k.a Barney in howI met your mother.

Another type of comedy is the burlesque which takes on any subject or idea behind a skit portrayed humorously absent from seriousness, thereby mocking real life characters and portray them or parody them in spoofs like scary movie were Oprah, Dr Phil and a famous basketball player Shaqueil O’Neal were parodied in the movie. Meet the Spartans was a spoof movie of the movie 300. Meet the Spartans also had a musical songs being played.

Comedy in Zimbabwe is characterized by what is called situational comedy a.k.a Sitcom. This is when a series of episodes are centered around the main actor like Mukadota, Gringo, Mutiriwafanza, Paraffin. In Mukadota's plays they showed him as someone who had travelled and whose life was a bit better but it was not reality. This became very funny as the guy was poor. Gringo had a bit of slapstick now and again as he was in constant fights with John Banda. Paraffin was famous for his nasty habits which made people laugh during the time to eat as he would disgust everyone then end up eating alone.

However, comedy has its unlike places of laughter as Gamber argues (2009) saying some humour went for jokes in racial places and differences which have been a source of pain and violence. This in regards to a standup comedian Dave Chapelle who is one of the others who tell jokes of racism, stereotyped countries like Afghanistan, India, China. A scholar was quoted ''Are we still sensitive as the past about what is being said or are we getting closer to the point where we are able to a sit back and relax and laugh at ourselves''

Comedy of today has changed as it is likened to sex, drugs and stereotypes. This is seen by one of the actors of Two and a half men, Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper who made his lifestyle about the role that he played and having American males envy his drug abuse and alcohol intake as funny. On the contrary that series had the most viewership and racked the most money in terms of box office numbers for series. In terms of stereotyping, comedians such as Russell Peters attack specific races or groups of people like hoe he attacks Indians though he is an Indian himself which some would argue to be ok since he is attacking his race.

Conclusively, comedy being the oldest film genre has proven that it is the most favoured genre. King (2002) says that in 1982 comedy was the most popular genre with both sexes irrespective of age. Some critics say comedy is good for health as humour is infectious more than sound of laughter, more contagious than any cough, it’s psychotherapeutic and hence laughter strengthens ones immune system, diminish pain and protects from stress. This provides an escapist ideal which is the deliberate disconnection of an individual or reality. Major film industries such as Hollywood promote this escapism through films and most of them are funded by the American Government for people to forget about important national issues like racism and other political problems which is a negative effect to such movies. Comedy is also a source of unifying communities, ethnic groups and creating bonds amongst them. It could also work as a source of division if it is centered on the ridicule of different ethnic groups. Also noting is that comedy can be used to laugh at problems reducing the effect of looking at a problem subjectively as an emotional distance is created between the problem and the individuals and also creates looking at the problem objectively and thinking in a balanced way. However, it may minimize the magnitude of a problem leading to it not receiving the due seriousness. Comedy has made people laugh for centuries and is still doing that regardless of the material used or which audience it is intended for.

MIDLANDS STATE UNIVERSITY

FACULTY OF ARTS

CHIGWENHEMBE BLESSING R124198B

MUNENGAMI TANAKA R123862P

MHLANGA RACHEL R123817M

JONAS RUTENDO R124453Z

PROGRAMME FILM AND THEATRE ARTS

LEVEL 1:1

MODULE TITLE GENRES OF FILM AND THEATRE

MODULE CODE HTFA 104

LECTURER MR GWARINDA

QUESTION: ROLES AND CHARACTERISTICS COMEDY

DUE DATE : 14 SEPTEMBER 2012

REFERENCES

Bates, A. (1906) The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization Vol.1.,

London: Athenian Society.

Gamber, F. (2009) ''White people run for cover'', in Wisniewski, K.A. (ed) The Comedy

of Dave Chapelle: Critical Essays, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. Inc.

Grindon, L. (2011) The Hollywood Romantic Comedy: Conventions, History and



Controversies, West Sussex: Blackwell Publishers.

King, G. (2002) Film Comedy, London: Wall Flower Press.



Renzi, T. (2012) Screwball Comedy and Film Noir: Unexpected Commentaries, North

Carolina: McFarland & Co. Inc.

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