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Unit 16 Comedy and Humor

Objectives
Students will be able to:
1. share opinions and knowledge about various types of humor;
2. be familiar with some kinds of comedy ;
3. appreciate brief movie reviews.

16 A What a scream!

Work in groups of three. One of you should look at Task 14 (Page 79), one at Task 29 (Page
85), and one at Task 36(Page 88). Read these jokes and make sure you understand them.
Then take turns telling them. Question: Which joke interests you the most?

With the reference words, Teacher helps Students identify different kinds of humor. After telling
the jokes in the textbooks, the Students are expected to tell some jokes to their parterners.

types of humor description examples


①adviser 似是而 The comic adviser is a type of I. Advice to persons about to marry: Don't.
非的建议 epigram that originated with
the most famous witticism in II. Advice to motorists: Never park with
the history of Punch. your back wheels on a pedestrian.
②antonymism 利 An antonymism is humor I. The girl with a future avoids a man with a
用反义词 which derives its effect from past.
contrasting two words or
phrases of opposite meaning. II. Mark Twain said, "There is no end to the
laws and no beginning to the execution of
them".
③blunder 说 错 The blunder is wit based on a I. One fellow turned to his neighbor at a
话,错话的弥补 person who makes a mistake large party and said, "I made a terrible
which in turn makes them look mistake just now. I told one of the men here
foolish. There are a number of that the host must be a cheap tightwad, and
types of blunders. Some are he turned out to be the host". His neighbor
based on mistaken identities of replied, "Oh, you mean my husband".
people and derive their punch
from the failure to observe II. At a social gathering a musician was
distinctions between people conversing with an aging dowager who had
due to surrounding been assisting him financially. Without
circumstances. Some blunders
are based on situations where thinking he asked his backer how old she
an individual rescues was. "Why do you wish to know?" she
themselves with wit after doing countered. "My dear", the musician
something stupid.
answered without a moments hesitation, " I
merely wanted to know at what age a
woman is most fascinating."
③blunting 小事 Blunting is an ancient device Little Bobbie asked his mother to put some
件引出大灾难 that was commonly employed iodine 碘 酒 on his bleeding knee. "How
in the classic dramas of did you cut yourself?" she asked. "Oh, it

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Greece, its histrionic effects was nothing," he said. "I was climbing on
were studied and exploited. As the kitchen ladder and I fell down."
a technique in modern humor it "Kitchen ladder? What were you doing on
pretends to dull the edge of the kitchen ladder?" "I was trying to get the
dire news while really glue." "Glue? What did you want the glue
sharpening it. for?" "So I could fix the vase in the living
room." "The vase? Did you break the
vase?" "No, the ball broke it." "The ball?"
"Yes. After it broke the mirror, it bounced
off and hit the vase." "Were you playing
ball in the living room?" "Oh, No. We were
playing in the yard and the ball broke
through the big bay window. Now, Mother,
will you please hurry and put some iodine
on my knee. The boys are waiting for me."
③boner 校 园 幽 The boner is a humorous I. Teacher to pupil: Tell me two
默 device and a category of the pronouns.
slip. Boners are short and
pointed mistakes that have an Pupil: Who!? Me!?
amusing effect. They are the
replies made by school II. A science graduate asks, “Why
children or college students to does it work?” An engineering
an oral or written question. graduate asks, “How does it
work?” A business graduate asks,
“How much will it cost?” A media
studies graduate asks, “Do you
want fries with that?”
③catch tale 抖包 The Catch tale is a funny story She laid the still white form beside those
袱 whose name derives from its that had gone before. No groan, no sob
essential catch nature, the forced its way from her heart. Then
deception of the reader suddenly she let forth a cry that pierced the
constituting the basis of its stillness of the place, making the air vibrate
humor. The descriptive catch with a thousand echoes. It seemed to come
tale usually misleads the reader from her very soul. Twice the cry was
by implying something repeated, then all was quiet again. She
dreadful ending with a sudden would lay another egg tomorrow.
trivial denouement.
③epigram 文 字 An epigram is a short & clever I. "The world should make peace first and
游戏 saying referring to a general then make it last".
group of persons or things.
Epigrams are mostly satire and
deal with evils and follies of
II. When you are right, no one remembers;
mankind. There are two basic
types of epigrams, wordplay when you are wrong, no one forgets.
and thoughtplay. All epigrams
contain both, but generally one
or the other dominates.
③exaggerism This type of comic saying I. The kitchen was so small the mice had to
amusingly overstates the walk on their hind legs.
special features, defects or
peculiarities of a person or
II. She is so industrious, when she has
thing.
nothing to do she sits and knits her brows.
③extended Of all twisted proverbs the I. Money talks, but it has few intimates. II.
proverb 巧 改 谚 most extensive class is the Talk is cheap, except when you hire a

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语 extended proverb. This is the lawyer.
proverb to which a clever tag is
added, thereby changing a
serious saying into an amusing
one.
③irony Irony is the use of words to The tired store clerk had pulled down
express something other than blanket after blanket until only one was left
and especially the opposite of on the shelf. Then the customer remarked,
the literal meaning. The most "I don't really want to buy today, I am only
common form of irony is the looking for a friend." "Well, Madam," said
expression by which a person the clerk, "I'll take down the last one if you
says the opposite of what they think he's in it."
mean and the listener believes
the opposite of what is said.
③recovery The comic recovery is a There's the story about the grocery shopper
combination of blunder and who was making a scene because he
wit. A person commits a slip in wanted to buy a half head of lettuce. The
speech but rescues himself by a cashier, frustrated, ran back to the manager,
quick correction or not knowing that the customer was right
explanation. behind. "Some idiot wants to buy this half
head of lettuce" he said, then noticing the
customer. "And this gentleman wants to
buy the other half."

1. Teacher introduces proper nouns of comedy category.


There are many types of comedy. Main forms include black comedy, which has comedy as a
defense in a horrifying situation, satirical comedy, which basically mocks social, moral, and
political problems, romantic comedy, which, of course, has romance, farce 滑稽戏,闹剧 , which
has stupid topics, exaggerated characters, craziness, and lastly, the comedy of manners, which
shows the passionate plots of the high upper class. As you can see, comedy varies, however, most
comedy that is seen on TV is situational comedy, where the comedy is in whatever situation the
stars are in. Another type of comedy seen on TV is standup. Many famous comedians such as Jim
Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show), got their
start as stand-up comedians, who brought their talent to the small screen.

2. Students do Exercise A. Teacher encourages them to discuss the questions.


What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?
What’s the funniest movie you’ve seen recently? What was your favorite funny scene?

Types of Comedies:

Comedies usually come in two general formats: comedian-led (with well-timed gags, jokes, or
sketches) and situation-comedies that are told within a narrative. Both comedy elements may
appear together and/or overlap. Comedy hybrids commonly exist with other major genres, such as
musical-comedy, horror-comedy, and comedy-thriller. Comedies have also been classified in
various subgenres, such as romantic comedy, crime/caper comedy, sports comedy, teen or coming-

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of-age comedy, social-class comedy, military comedy, fish-out-of-water comedy, and gross-out
comedy. There are also many different kinds, types, or forms of comedy, including:

(1) Slapstick 打闹剧

Slapstick was predominant in the earliest silent films, since they didn't need sound to be effective,
and they were popular with non-English speaking audiences in metropolitan areas. The term
slapstick was taken from the wooden sticks that clowns slapped together to promote audience
applause.

This is primitive and universal comedy with broad, aggressive, physical, and visual action,
including harmless or painless cruelty and violence, horseplay, and often vulgar sight gags (e.g., a
custard pie in the face, collapsing houses, a fall in the ocean, a loss of trousers
or skirts, runaway crashing cars, people chases, etc). Slapstick often required
exquisite timing and well-honed performance skills. It was typical of the films
of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, W. C. Fields, The Three Stooges, the
stunts of Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923), and Mack Sennett's silent era
shorts (for example, the Keystone Kops). Slapstick evolved and was reborn in
the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s (see further below).

More recent feature film examples include the comedic mad chase for treasure film
by many top comedy stars in Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
(1963), French actor/director Jacques Tati's mostly dialogue-free Mr. Hulot's
Holiday (1953, Fr.), the Blake Edwards series of Pink Panther films with Peter
Sellers as bumbling Inspector Clouseau (especially in the second film of the series,
A Shot in the Dark (1964) with Herbert Lom as Clouseau's slow-burning boss and
Burt Kwouk as his valet and martial arts judo-specialist), and Jim Carrey in Ace
Ventura, Pet Detective (1993) and The Mask (1994). Cartoons are the quintessential
form of slapstick, i.e., the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, and others.

(2) Screwball 浪漫喜剧

Screwball comedies, a kind of romantic comedy films, was predominant from the mid-1930s to
the mid-1940s. The word 'screwball' denotes craziness, eccentricity, ridiculousness, and erratic 古
怪的 behavior.

These films combine farce, slapstick, and the witty dialogue of more
sophisticated films. In general, they are light-hearted, frothy, often
sophisticated, romantic stories, commonly focusing on a battle of the sexes in
which both co-protagonists try to outwit or outmaneuver each other. They
usually include visual gags (with some slapstick), wacky characters, identity
reversals (or cross-dressing), a fast-paced improbable plot, and rapid-fire, wise-
cracking dialogue and one-liners reflecting sexual tensions and conflicts in the
blossoming of a relationship (or the patching up of a marriage) for an attractive

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couple with on-going, antagonistic differences (such as in The Awful Truth (1937)). Some of the
stars often present in screwball comedies included Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck,
Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, William
Powell, and Carole Lombard.

The couple is often a fairly eccentric, but well-to-do female interested in romance and a generally
passive, emasculated, or weak male who resists romance, such as in Bringing Up Baby (1938),
or a sexually-frustrated, humiliated male who is thwarted in romance, as in Howard Hawks' farce I
Was a Male War Bride (1949). The zany but glamorous characters often have contradictory desires
for individual identity and for union in a romance under the most unorthodox, insane or
implausible circumstances (such as in Preston Sturges' classic screwball comedy and battle of the
sexes The Lady Eve (1941)). However, after a twisting and turning plot, romantic love usually
triumphs in the end. (See more discussion later in this section.)

(3) Black or Dark Comedy


These are dark, sarcastic, humorous, or sardonic 讥讽的 stories that help us examine otherwise
ignored darker serious, pessimistic subjects such as war, death, or illness. Two of the greatest
black comedies ever made include the following: Stanley Kubrick's Cold War classic satire from a
script by co-writer Terry Southern, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop
Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) that spoofed the insanity of political and military
institutions with Peter Sellers in a triple role (as a Nazi scientist, a British major, and
the US President), and Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1970), an irreverent, anti-war
black comedy set during the Korean War. Another more recent classic black comedy
was the Coen Brothers' violent and quirky story Fargo (1996) about a pregnant
Midwestern police chief (Oscar-winning Frances McDormand) who solves a 'perfect
crime' that went seriously wrong.

(4) Farce 闹剧 or Parody 滑稽模仿 - also Satire and Spoof 嘲讽

Farce. The identifying features of farce are zaniness, slapstick humor, and

hilarious improbability. The characters of farce are typically fantastic or absurd and usually far
more ridiculous than those in other forms of comedy. At the same time, farcical plots are often full
of wild coincidences and seemingly endless twists and complications. Elaborate comic intrigues
involving deception, disguise, and mistaken identity are the rule. Examples of the genre include
Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, the "Pink Panther" movies, and the films of the Marx Brothers
and Three Stooges, including:

• the Marx Brothers' satiric anti-war masterpiece Duck Soup


(1933) with anarchic humor
• the western spoof Cat Ballou (1965)
• Woody Allen's Japanese monster film parody What's Up, Tiger
Lily? (1966)

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• the 'genre' films of Mel Brooks (the quasi-western Blazing Saddles (1974), the quasi-
horror film Young Frankenstein (1974), the inventive Hitchcock spoof/rip-off High
Anxiety (1977), the Star Wars (1977) spoof Spaceballs (1987), and his swashbuckler
send-up Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993))
• Herbert Ross' Play It Again, Sam (1972) poked fun at Woody Allen as an insecure
nebbish-hero who worshipped an imaginary, trench-coated, archetypal tough-guy
detective (a la Humphrey Bogart)
• Silver Streak (1976) - a comic thriller parody of Alfred Hitchcock's 'train' pictures, with
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor (their best film together) onboard the Silver Streak from
LA to Chicago
• Neil Simon's scripts for The Cheap Detective (1978) and Murder By Death (1978)
spoofed Agatha Christie detective films
• Jim Abrahams' and the Zuckers' revolutionary comedy Airplane! (1980) - a sophomoric
parody of the earlier disaster series of Airport (1970) films and the original Zero Hour
(1957); their The Naked Gun (1988) series parodied TV cop shows, and Top Secret!
(1984) ridiculed Cold War agents and espionage spy films (and Elvis Presley films);
Abrahams' military comedy Hot Shots! (1991) was a genre parody/spoof of Top Gun
(1986), while Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993) parodied Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
• in The Freshman (1990), Marlon Brando (as Carmine Sabatini) poked fun - with brilliant
parody - at his own characterization of Don Corleone in The Godfather (1972)
• Carl Reiner's Fatal Instinct (1993) spoofed suspense thrillers and murder mysteries such
as Basic Instinct (1992)
• Gene Quintano's Loaded Weapon I (1993) made fun of Lethal Weapon (1987) as well as
The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Basic Instinct (1992), and Wayne's World (1992)
• the Austin Powers films (1997, 1999, 2002) - parodies of the James Bond 007 films
• the Scream films (1996, 1997, 2000) - spoofs of slasher horror films
• Barry Sonnenfeld's Men in Black (1997) - a sci-fi comedy farce based on a comic book
series that poked fun at alien invasion films, with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as
government agents (with camaraderie similar to Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the
Lethal Weapon series) battling about 1500 Earth-dwelling, other-worldly extra-terrestrials
in the New York area; a sequel appeared in 2002
• Galaxy Quest (1999), about the cast (including Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, and Sigourney
Weaver) of a 70s sci-fi TV series in reruns, this was a parody of sci-fi TV, Star Trek itself,
and cultish "Trekkie" activities
• director Nora Ephron's romantic comedy You've Got Mail (1998) updated and paid
homage to Ernst Lubitsch's classic The Shop Around the Corner (1940), with leads Tom
Hanks and Meg Ryan in their third teaming (after their previous hit with Ephron -
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)), replacing James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding-
by-email Manhattan bookstore owners
• Last Action Hero (1993) - a spoof of action films

3. Individual Work: Which comedy are you interested in? Please describe it to us. Is it slapstick
or screwball? Black comedy or farce?

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Information about some famous comedians:

James Eugene "Jim" Carrey (born January 17, 1962) is a double Golden Globe-winning
Canadian-American actor and comedian. He is known for his manic, slapstick performances in
comedy films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls; The Mask;
Dumb and Dumber; Me, Myself & Irene; Fun with Dick and Jane; The Cable Guy; Liar Liar; and
Bruce Almighty. Carrey has also achieved critical success in dramatic roles in films such as The
Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He also provides
the voice for Horton in the animated feature film Horton Hears a Who!, released March 14, 2008.
The film was his first animated feature role.

Whoopi Goldberg (born November 13, 1955) is an American actress, comedian, radio host, TV
personality, game show host, and author. She is one of only ten individuals who have won an
Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award, counting Daytime Emmy Awards. She is the
second African American female performer to win an Academy Award for acting (the first being
Hattie McDaniel). She has won two Golden Globe Awards and two Saturn Awards for her
performances in Star Trek Generations and Ghost.

Michael John Myers was born in 1963 in Scarborough, Ontario. His television career really
started in 1988, when he joined "Saturday Night Live" (1975), where he spent six seasons. He
brought to life many memorable characters, such as Dieter and Wayne Cambell. His major movies
include Wayne's World (1992), Wayne's World 2 (1993), So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993),
the Austin Powers movies and The Cat in the Hat (2003).

Rowan Sebastian Atkinson (born 6 January 1955) is an English comedian, actor and writer,
famous for his title roles in the British television comedies Blackadder and Mr. Bean. He has been
listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy, and amongst the top 50
comedy acts ever in a 2005 poll of fellow comedians.

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