Comedy: it ain’t for sissies. Genre Wheel by Dr. Louise Cowan

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Transcript of Comedy: it ain’t for sissies. Genre Wheel by Dr. Louise Cowan

Comedy Notes

Comedy: it aint for sissies

Genre Wheelby Dr. Louise Cowan

Epic: Beowulf, Odyssey

Lyric: Araby, A&P

Tragedy: Antigone, Hamlet

Comedy: Dantes Commedia

Where do we put: Canterbury, HOD, Murder in the Catherdral, Faustus, Wuthering Heights, Stranger.2The Three Modes of Comedy:Dr. Louise Cowans The Terrain of Comedy Infernal



INFERNAL The community has accepted its fallen condition and cynically attributes its corruption to the way of the world (11).

[. . . ] a state where grace is utterly absent and where selfishness and malice prevail. The community has accepted its fallen condition and cynically attributes its corruption to the way of the world. Love cannot dwell in such a society; everyone is fundamentally alone, though hypocrisy and self-serving may give the appearance of friendship (11).4PURGATORIALIts mood is pathos: in it the community hopes and waits, powerless to save itself (13).

Time, in this realm, stretches out its lengthy wait; but time is benevolent and will eventually permit things to be healed. In the realm of space too, this middle region has greater largesse. This is the stage in which the second world of comedy accomplishes its effects most beneficently a community may locate itself in a place where things can work out according to laws other than those that have gone astray in civilization (13).

5PARADISAL Man is lifted up into a realm beyond himself, one that he has not gained by his own effort (14).

[. . .] here grace and forgiveness supplant even mercy. Man is lifted up into a realm beyond himself, one that he has not gained by his own effort (14).universal love6Timing is Everything

Tragic Time: The world is already set in motion, and time is locked. The tragic action is inevitable because results are not a matter of time but of cause.

Comic Time: There is room for play and possibility; delay for the deeply desired.

The idea of tragedy is its inevitability

Comedy is often surprising7MovementTragedy: Gravity [moving toward the grave]Comedy: Levity [ rising upward]

Dante gives you this upward movement literally!8Tragedy gives us ultimate knowledge.Comedy gives us a way around things, through lifeComedy is concerned with new possibilities as shown through inclusive communities (often with a feast) and marriage.Comedy appeals to deepest social chords.Where tragedy goes below earth, comedy goes above it providing a comic thrust, a hopeful vision.

Canterbury Tales fits this description well Wife of Bath, Millers Tale9Comedy makes men lesser than tragedy.Where tragedy operates in a philosophical (intellectual/individual) realm concerned with sight and sound, comedy operates in a physical (democratic) realm. Comedy plays with taste, touch, and smell.

Comedy reduces things to the most rudimentary threads of humanity where everyone can be invited to join, participate, and understand.

Stereotypes tragic figures such as Medea break the expected stereotype, where comedy embraces stereotypes.Big Bang Theory is full of stereotypes!10TricksterTrickster, sometimes called Poneros (little rascal), goes against the norms.

He does not allow himself to be victimized, always sees a possibility where a victim cannot.

Bart SimpsonJack SparrowThe JokerThe doctor doctor who

11The Green WorldThe Green World is a pastoral dimension a place of exit from the city a place of achievement/discovery and IMAGINATION

Unlike the tragic abyss from which one cannot really return, discovery from the Green World can be brought back into the city

Tragedy is a world of If only . . .

Comedy is a world of What if . . .

The forrest serves this purpose in The Scarlet Letter. More comic options? How about the road trip starting with Canterbury Tales and moving on to Dumb and Dumber.12FormulaicFormula comedy, although predictable, is not limited in creativity.

It appeals to our predisposed patterns (archetypes)

Typical plot - young man wants woman, thwarted by opposition, twist of fate, and finally satisfaction

Puppy dogs and rosesOften in comedy, everyone ends up being loved.

Those who are not loved are the figures that must leave the inclusive community.

The History of Comedy

Comic LadderComedy of Ideas (high comedy)

Comedy of Manners (high comedy)

Farce (can be combination of high/low comedy)

Low Comedy

The Comic ParadigmThe comic problemThe comic climaxThe comic catastropheComic education and changeComic charactersComic languageProblem

Comic Problem:Romantic: (Shakespeare)focus is young couple trying to overcome blocking agent and get togetherSatiric: (Ben Jonson)the blocking agent itself is the focus, not what is wrong with it* Term: blocking agent - A person, circumstance, or mentality that prevents two potential lovers from being together romantically. The blocking agent was a common generic trait for classical Roman comedies and for many of Shakespeare's plays. It remains a feature even in modern genres such as Harlequin romances.


When things fall apart.Comes when confusion is at a peak, decisions must be made, solutions must be found


Comic Catastrophe:Resolves the problems from the beginning and sets things right on all levelsIndividual and relationships are reconciled, married, fixed, made healthy, social order reestablished.

20Education and Change

Comic Education and Change:At least some characters learn something about themselves, society, the way to live, the way to love.Education improves them and their worldOr audience is educated and that will change the world

21Comic Characters

Italians create stock characters; their masks identify which stock character they are.

Comic Characters:They are usually not as deep as tragic characters, usually stock characters.

22LanguageMonty Python determined that vibraphone larch wankel rotary engine

had humor embedded in them.

Comic Language:These words are naturally funny, Doesnt matter what they mean.

Comic language is one of the most important elements in humor and extends from elegant and witty language to puns to bawdy humor.Comic language is used in showing a character either to be the master of comic language or to be mastered by itWhen a character is master of comic language, we admire his skillful use of satiric language, slicing things apart.When a character is mastered by comic language, we laugh loud and hard at his accidental puns and misuse of language.

23COMEDY THEORY from Richard F. Taflinger, Ph.D.It must appeal to the intellect rather than the emotions It must be mechanical (unadaptable, inflexible) It must be inherently human, with the capability or reminding us of humanity There must be a set of established societal norms familiar to the audience The situation, actions, and dialogue must be inconsistent or unsuitable to the surroundingsIt must be perceived by the observer as harmless or painless to the participants

Appeal to the IntellectSatire is tragedy plus time. You give it enoughtime, the public, the reviewers will allow youto satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, whenyou think about it. - Lenny Bruce

He used comedy as an educational tool. He broke the boundaries.

obvious when ethnic humor is used. Polish (Irish, whitey, gay, fraternity, sorority, etc.)Lenny Bruce counted on the intellectual basis of comedy when, in one of his routines, he identified all the races and ethnic groups in his audience with insulting labels: "I see we have three niggers in the audience. And over there I see two wogs, and five spics, and four kikes," etc.. As he started the routine there were gasps of incredulity and even anger: the audience couldn't believe that Bruce would be so insulting and insensitive. But as Bruce continued and the list grew longer, and it became clear that he was listing everything he could think of, the words lost their connotative, emotional meaning as insulting terms and turned into just noises. In other words, they lost their emotive content and became an intellectual exercise in how words lose their meanings outside of context. At this point, the audience, all of whom had been appalled and angry at exactly the same words, started laughing at them: the audience was reacting intellectually, not emotionally.


It must be mechanical (unadaptable, inflexible) -. It's humorous when a person acts in a manner that is inappropriate to a stimulus or situation, as in any slapstick comedy routine. It is funny when a chair is pulled out from under someone who is sitting down, because he doesn't adapt to the change in situation and continues to sit in a mechanical fashion. Dogberry, in Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, is funny because he continues blithely along, thinking he's in charge of the situation when in actuality he has no idea what's happening. Lucy on I LOVE LUCY is funny because she mechanically reacts to events without thinking about how events have changed the situation.

26Inherently Human

It must be inherently human, with the capability or reminding us of humanity; An extension of Bergson's theory is his idea that comedy is inherently human. Something is funny only insofar as it is or reminds the audience of humanity. The audience may laugh at the antics of an animal, such as chimpanzees or horses or bears, but only in direct proportion to the animal's capability of reminding the audience of something human. Thus, animals such as chimps and orangutans are often dressed in human clothing to heighten the reminder, and horses, such as Mr. Ed and Francis the Talking