com·edy [comedy comedies] BrE [ˈkɒmədi] NAmE [ˈkɑːmədi] noun (pl. com·edies)
1. countable, uncountable a play or film/movie that is intended to be funny, usually with a happy ending; plays and films/movies of this type
• a romantic comedy
• slapstick comedy
see also black adj. (9), situation comedy
2. uncountable an amusing aspect of sth
• He didn't appreciate the comedy of the situation.
late Middle English (as a genre of drama, also denoting a narrative poem with a happy ending, as in Dante's Divine Comedy): from Old French comedie, via Latin from Greek kōmōidia, from kōmōidos ‘comic poet’, from kōmos ‘revel’ + aoidos ‘singer’.
A sense of humour (AmE humor), an ability to see the funny side of life, is considered essential by most British and American people. Everyone needs to be able to laugh at themselves sometimes, and to recognize that the situation they are in may look funny to others. It is considered a serious criticism of somebody to say that they have no sense of humour.
Some people have a dry sense of humour, and can keep a straight face (= not smile) and let their voice sound as though they are being serious when they are joking. Other people are said to be witty (= show a very clever type of humour). A person’s sense of humour is influenced by many things, including family and social background and age.
British and American humour on stage have some important differences, although the fact that some comedy television programmes are popular in both countries shows that there is some common ground. American sitcoms (= shows in which the humour comes from situations that the characters get into) such as Frasier, Friends and Seinfeld are as popular in Britain as Britain’s own Vicar of Dibley and Office. Sitcoms often have a laugh track (= a recording of people laughing) so that the audience at home will laugh in the right places. In many sitcoms gentle fun is made of ordinary life without the risk of causing anyone serious offence.
American stage humour is more direct than British comedy. In the American series Cheers, for instance, the humour comes from characters like Coach and Woody being more stupid than any real person could possibly be. But in the British comedy Fawlty Towers Basil Fawlty’s funny characteristics are exaggerated versions of those found in the type of Englishman he represents. Slapstick comedy, which is based on people falling over, bumping into each other, etc. is now less popular in Britain.
British comedy makes frequent use of irony, humour which depends on a writer or performer suggesting the opposite of what is actually expressed. Many novels, films, stage plays, etc. use irony, even when discussing serious subjects such as death. Popular humour may sometimes rely on double entendre (= using a phrase that can be understood in two ways, one of which is usually sexual) or on innuendo (= making an indirect suggestion of something rude). These were both used a lot in the popular series of Carry On films that began in the 1960s.
Satire (= making people or institutions appear ridiculous to show how foolish or bad they are) is an important element of popular British political comedy programmes such as Yes, Minister and Spitting Image. One of the most successful British comedy series, which also became popular in the US, was Monty Python's Flying Circus. It had a zany (= odd and silly) and satirical humour which appealed especially to young people.
Comic strips and cartoons, whether printed in newspapers, shown on television or the Internet or made into films, are popular in both the US and Britain. The most famous include Peanuts, Tom and Jerry and Simpsons.
Stand-up comedians like Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld in the US and in Britain Peter Kay, Eddie Izzard and Jo Brand, perform on television or in clubs, telling gags (= jokes) and funny stories which end with a punch line, the part where the audience is supposed to laugh. Many comedians tell jokes that are funny because of some racial or sexual innuendo, and this may be considered unacceptable for family audiences. In Britain, common targets of comedians include mothers-in-law, foreigners and people from particular parts of Britain, especially Scotsmen (who are supposed to hate spending money) and Irishmen (who are supposed to be stupid). Many people find such jokes offensive, and the new generation of comedians has avoided making fun of people’s race. Another form of comedy is for people from minority groups to make fun of their own customs and attitudes.
Many people tell jokes at school, at home and at the office. People may start a speech with a joke or funny story to help break the ice (= make people feel more relaxed).
Children tell jokes that involve a play on words, such as knock-knock jokes or ‘What do you call...’ jokes e.g. ‘What do you call a man with a seagull on his head?’ ‘Cliff’.
Adults sometimes tell what in the US are called Polish jokes because they are about a particular national or racial group. There are also jokes about blondes (= women with fair hair) being stupid, and lawyers having bad characters. For instance, ‘Why do they do lab experiments on lawyers?’ ‘Because there are some things that even a rat won’t do.’ On the whole this type of humour is considered dated and in bad taste. Light bulb jokes make fun of the worst characteristic of any group of people, by suggesting mistakes they would make in trying to change a light bulb: ‘How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?’ - ‘Just one, but it has to really want to change.’
Practical jokes involve tricking people, and are not usually very popular, but on April Fool's Day (1 April) people traditionally play practical jokes on each other. Newspapers often include a story that is not true hoping that some readers will believe it and then feel silly.
comedy noun C, U
• a romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks
farce • • play • • drama • • sketch •
a comedy/farce/play/drama/sketch by sb
a television/radio/Shakespearean comedy/play/drama
write a comedy/farce/play/drama/sketch
• He didn't see the comedy of the situation.
funny side • |BrE humour • |AmE humor •
see/appreciate the comedy/funny side/humour of sth
• Does he play comedy?
• The case quickly became a comedy of errors.
• The show contains some wonderful slapstick comedy.
• a popular romantic comedy
• He didn't appreciate the comedy of the situation.
• It's a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
• The visual comedy of this scene is obvious.
• They spent hours watching comedy on television.
1. light and humorous drama with a happy ending
Syn: drollery, clowning, funniness
Webster's 1913 Dictionary:
|n.||1.||A dramatic composition, or representation of a bright and amusing character, based upon the foibles of individuals, the manners of society, or the ludicrous events or accidents of life; a play in which mirth predominates and the termination of the plot is happy; - opposed to tragedy.|
With all the vivacity of comedy.
Are come to play a pleasant comedy.
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