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Laura Diaz
Mrs. Abbadessa
12 November 2014
Comedy: What is Funny?
Performances with the intention of inducing laughter from the audience, or otherwise
known as comedies, have been around for many centuries. In Ancient Greece, comedies were
widely popular throughout society. Now, thousands of years later, and nothing has changed since
comedies are still as popular as they were back then, maybe more so. This is because of one
reason: everyone, no matter who he is or where he is, appreciates a good laugh. But why dont
comedy writers of today just retell ancient comedic plays? Well, because most jokes, if not all,
would simply not carry over. Jokes that made people topple over their seat from laughter during
ancient times would in all likelihood get a meh from someone born in this time period. Over
time, what people from around the world found funny changed, adapting to the changes of his
own society, because after all, comedy is constantly evolving.
Not all comedy is the same. There are many different types, or genres, of comedy within
the genre of comedy itself. For example, many enjoy physical comedy, or slapstick. This kind of
comedy involves clumsy behavior, like tripping or falling, along with humiliating situations, like
getting a pie, or several pies, thrown in your face. Famous slapstick comedies include Home
Alone, along with the Home Alone sequels, and Dumb and Dumber. Others enjoy deadpan
comedy. This particular genre of comedy involves staying expressionless and showing no signs

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of emotion while saying a joke, or anything else thats humorous. A good example of a tv
character known for her deadpan sense of humor is April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation.
Another popular genre of comedy is satire. Satire is the use of humor or exaggeration to
deride or ridicule a person or a specific group of people. Satire is most commonly used in late
night talk shows to mock well-known public figures, like celebrities and politicians. Shows that
are known for its use of satire are The Simpsons and South Park.
There are even more genres of comedy than the three mentioned , and none of which are
completely the same. Everyone can find at least one kind of genre that will cater to his sense of
humor. One might prefer deadpan comedy and enjoy watching The Office while another person
might love slapstick comedies, like The Three Stooges, and get a kick out of watching a friend
fall. But, as comedy preferences can change between two individuals, comedy preferences of
societies can change over time as well. But why is it that comedy preferences of people and of
society never stay the same?
Picture this: There is a ten year old boy named Bobby and Bobby's favorite show is Ned's
Declassified School Survival Guide. He enjoys the constant falls and slaps that occur in every
episode between characters. Yet, fast forward several years and Bobby, now a college freshman,
loves the show Parks and Recreation. However, every now and then , he'll watch his old favorite,
Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, but won't find the falls or jokes as entertaining as they
once as were. Why did his preference in comedy change?
Comedy and what makes someone laugh is surely age-dependent. Jokes that were funny
as an adolescent will most likely just sound silly and immature as a thirty year-old. Maturity of
ones age and comedy preference is definitely a factor in why what we find funny changes with

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age, but getting older can only explain how an individuals taste in humor evolves, not how an
entire country or societys preferences become different.
Imagine John: John is 34 years old and lives in London during the Elizabethan era. John
loves watching live performances of comedic plays because he finds the witty banter between
characters during the play humorous. Now picture this: Andrew is also 34 year old and also lives
in London but instead of it being the 1500s, the year is 2010. Andrews favorite shows include
The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, and other shows that involve satire. If somehow exposed
to modern television, do you think 16th century John would enjoy watching The Daily Show or
Saturday Night Live or vice versa?
Its a pretty good assumption that John would not like The Daily Show or Saturday Night
Live and that Andrew wouldnt enjoy the 14th century play either since time in history can
account for the change in comedic tastes of a civilization, or society. Over the years, comedy has
had to evolve to meet the needs of a changing society. For example, during the twentieth
century, most sitcoms were family-based; focusing on the faults within a family, while also
poking fun at its members. This can be due to the fact that adapting to family life was a
significant facet of life back then since this was around the time soldiers were returning from war
and beginning to raise a family. Now, in the 21st century, most sitcoms have strayed from the
conventional family storyline and have mainly focused on two themes: either the workplace,
like The Office and 30 Rock, or the relationships between a close group of friends, like Friends
and How I Met Your Mother. There are still family-oriented sitcoms today, however, they arent
as prevalent as they were in the 50s and 60's.
Weve discussed how age and time period can affect what a person may find funny, but
these arent the only reasons why an individual can have their comedy preferences change in

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their lifetime, or how two people with several similarities can have such different tastes in
humor. Location, where a person lives, also plays a role on someone having a different sense of
humor compared to someone else. An individual, or a group of people, can be exposed to a kind
of humor and develop a liking towards it throughout his life.
For example, the Brits pride themselves for their sarcasm and wit, yet, at times, that
same sarcasm and wit wont translate as well in America as it would in the United Kingdom
because these two countries have developed different comedic tendencies throughout their
history. The same can be said the other way around. Americans are more used to seeing physical
comedies on their television screens, such as I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show. Yet, these
types of shows wouldnt have been as popular in England or in other parts of the country as they
were in America because physical comedy, or slapstick comedy, is not what the people are used
to watching..
Like many other aspects in society and life, comedy and what makes people laugh is
supposed to change over time. If a societys comedy preferences dont evolve, the same jokes
will be told over and over again until that same joke reaches the point of exhaustion and
becomes unfunny and dull to everyone in the audience. A joke is supposed to be relevant to the
society of the time that it was created, so century old jokes dont really exist. After all, a joke is
never funny after the hundredth time. No one expects technology to remain the same forever, so
why would anyone expect comedy would?