translates as “comedy o skills”: an improvisationalstyle o theater which began in sixteenth-century Italy and ourished inEurope or 200 years.raveling companies o proessional actors perormed outdoors inpublic squares, using simple backdrops and props. Each member o thecompany played a particular stock character – the tricky servant, thegreedy old man, the young heroine – wearing masks and costumes thatdened the character’s personality.Te actors worked rom a basic outline, improvising the dialogueand incorporating jokes and physical comedy “bits” as they went. Teperormers always played the same characters, changing only their situ-ations (or example, in one scenario the greedy old man might be theyoung heroine’s ather, keeping her away rom her sweetheart; in another,he might be her elderly husband.)Te translation “comedy o skills” reers to the skills that the proes-sional comic actors developed: they each had a repertoire o jokes, unny speeches, comic insults, and physical stunts to draw rom in their per-ormances.Te great silent movie comedians Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton,and Harold Lloyd drew on the acrobatic physical comedy o
intheir lms. Te energetic, improvisatory humor o the
troupesis similar to the work done by contemporay improv comedy groups suchas Second City, the Groundlings, and the Upright Citizens Brigade.Te stock characters o
live on in modern sitcomcharacters (such as the lovable but dumb husband, the know-it-all nextdoor neighbor, the wisecracking best riend) who deal with changingsituations each week.
A theater mural eaturing