One of the discussions that came up with Dave Chapelle’s recent stand-up specials on Netflix is that we have become too politically correct to enjoy jokes that would have generally made us laugh in the 2000s. You have to remember Chapelle’s first sketch had him as a racist blind Black man. Granted one of his big jokes is extremelyoffensive, the joke line in Chapelle’s special oddly had several people, including women laughing. As such, it’s odd that one has to wonder is it the delivery, your trust in Chapelle or something else altogether that made people laugh at that joke considering how many people, myself included, are vehemently opposed to that action.
That being said, I have to wonder what people find funny these days. Thus, I want to explore some various forms of comedy and comedians that follow their style. I’m hoping that people will be able to share what forms of humor they enjoy and which ones they don’t.
Sketch Comedy – I think this is one of the most consistent forms of comedy in existence as it has lasted since the early days of vaudeville shows to now. Sketch comedy is generally a self-contained short story played out by one or more actors that follow a hilarious premise or theme for about five minutes. When this works well you have a sketch that you enjoy going back to for humor or possibly can extend into longer segments or movies. When it fails you have a played out sketch that people know are a one-trick pony.
Successful Examples: Borat, Rick James
Unsuccessful Examples: Malibu’s Most Wanted, Adam Sandler’s characters
Anecdotal Humor – This humor is the bread and butter of stand-up outside of being able to relate to people. Anecdotal humor says stories and experiences that end up being funny due to the comedians delivery or simply because it’s a story people can relate to. When this comedy works it is a twist on a story that most people think will go one way but then it heads in directions you never even fathomed. When it does notproduce laughs is when the audience or people have difficulty not only believing the story but being able to relate to the story.
Successful Examples: Louis CK and his show, Richard Pryor’s stand-up
Unsuccessful Examples: Sarah Silverman, many amateur comedians
Slapstick/Physical Comedy – One of the oldest forms of humor that started where sketch started in vaudeville shows. This humor has undergone more transformations than the other humor on this list. Early slapstick often has Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to thank for making forays in films without sound. However, with sound Harpo Marx and the Three Stooges paved the way for much humor until the 60s/70s when stand-up began to change the vaudeville nature of slapstick. However, physical humor was not done as Jackass* revived it as people enjoyed laughing at a group of guys doing the dumbest actions to injure themselves or look ridiculous for fun. At current, it is hard to see where this humor will go as ithas more changing trends than anecdotal or sketch.
*Jackass was hard to place as it has gross out humor, which veers into absurdist humor, but it also has some unbelievable physical comedy that puts it into this category primarily and absurdist secondary.
Successful Examples: Buster Keaton, Jackass
Unsuccessful Examples: Carrot Top, “Make ‘Em Laugh” routine in Singin’ in the Rain
Absurdist Humor – A newer phenomenon of humor that lends itself to animation because of the bounds you can push its ideas. Absurdist humor relies on far more chance than the other humor because the creators are hoping at some point you’ll be so shocked or surprised that a joke is going there to laugh because it’s inconceivable. Conversely, it is easy to turn off someone who doesn’t want to take that journey from the get go as someone avoids the politically incorrect and taboo directions absurdist humor often goes. Still, it seems to be one of the highest humor draws of modern and younger audiences that older generations cannot even begin to access.
Successful Examples: Superjail, Bob’s Burgers
Unsuccessful Examples: Squidbillies, Tom and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
Parody/Pastiche Humor – Another transformative style of comedy that has went through several mediums. A great deal of parody humor took place in the mid-20th century thanks in part to a great deal of Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks movies that not only made fun of movie classics – Young Frankenstein, movie themes – Blazing Saddles, and even historical events – History of the World Part 1. These would continue for years until a set of rivaling animated TV shows would take this to new heights. Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy regularly battle it out for parodies or allusions to set ideas for humor. Sometimes being a small part of the episode or show to being an entire episodic arc. When this is done well it gives a new way of looking at an art form that is not only humorous but also thought-provoking; when done wrong the parody goes over audiences heads or becomes laborious and played out.
Successful Examples: Imaginationland Arc of South Park, Venture Bros.
Unsuccessful Examples: Family Guy’s drawn out parodies, later Police Academy films
Thematic Comedy – Thematic comedy can be a part or include any of the above ideas, but the main point of thematic comedy is to run with an idea longer than a sketch as it becomes a large part of the humor or one of the largest premises of a stand-up comedians approach. While this humor can encompass a variety of ideas and doesn’t have an age or transformation like many of the other forms of comedy on this list. Sometimes these themes are timeless and other times these themes are specific trends that may fade out.
Successful Examples: Chris Rock – Black issues of living in America, Margaret Cho – Asian parents/grandparents
Unsuccessful Examples: Dane Cook – bro humor, Kevin Hart – Fuckboy humor
*Gross-Out Humor – quick line on this humor, as I don’t think it deserves its own section, but at the same time it doesn’t always fit into one humor specifically (thematic or absurdist are the most likely). However, it is completely hit or miss as it is hard to tell what person or what age of a person genuinely thinks toilet humor is comedic gold.
What’s your favorite style of comedy? Did I miss an idea? Feel free to discuss