Research Paper: Comedy Genre Study

Pages: 4 (1815 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Film  ·  Buy for $19.77

¶ … comedy, from the Greek komoidia, is a universal human emotion that has historical precedents from the time humans began to use language. Comedic texts and phrases have been found in Ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, and Babylonia texts; and of course, the Ancient Greeks took the art to a zenith using comedy and political satire as a way to influence public opinion on numerous issues (Henderson). Anthropological studies of modern hunter gatherers (the Kung! Of South Africa, for example), show that even a simple culture enjoys numerous types of humor, from sexual, manners, social, to dark -- all designed it seems to act as a psychological way to diffuse heightened emotions or make the group coalesce (Greig).

In film, comedy is a genre in which the major emphasis of plot, activity, and emotionality are emphasized by a humerous situation or situations, and, with the exception of black comedy, a typical happy ending. Comedic film tends to put emphasis on individual stars, a lighthearted plot, a more universal sociologic appeal based on the time period and social norms, and at times political or social commentary (Schatz 14-18). There are, of course, numerous types of comedy, each emphasizing something a bit different. The major types of the comedy genre are:

Type

Characteristic

Examples

Action

Blends action and comedic antics; usually combining wit, one-liners and repartee' with daring stunts and high action. Very popular in late 1980s with Eddie Murphy and some of the Jackie Chan films.

48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, Rush Hour, Hancock, The Incredibles.

Anarchic

More artistic, stream-of- consciousness with many elements of nonsensical humor that often pokes fun at authority or convention.

Animal House, Duck Soup.

Black Comedy

Typically deals with normally taboo subjects like death, murder, suicide or war, but with a pseudo-comedic bent.

Dr. Strangelove, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, The War of the Roses, Arsenic and Old Lace, Burn After Reading.

Comedy of Manners

Popular even in Shakespearian times, typically deals with manners of social class with archetypal representations

Much Ado About Nothing, Kiss Me Kate, most recently, Please Give

Fantasy Comedy

Uses the supernatural, magic of mythological characters for comedic or parody/satire; Royalty may be klutzy, the hero a real coward, etc.

Shrek franchise, The Princess Bride, Night at the Museum, Groundhog Day

Fish Out of Water

The main characters are placed in an unusual or uncomfortable situation. Gender roles might be swapped, rural to city, etc.

Tootsie, Big, Crocodile Dundee, The Big Lebowski.

Gross-Out

More recent genre designed to appeal to the teen crowd; relies on vulgar, sexual or toilet humor.

Porky's, Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, American Pie

Horror Comedy

Dark, horrific themes take on a comedic approach, or are cliche's of traditional horror films.

Scary movie, Little Shop of Horrors, Young Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead.

Military Comedy

Primary focus is on military and warfare situations. These can also have important social commentary.

MASH, Private Benjamin, Tropic Thunder, Stripes.

Parody/Spoof

Satire of other film genres or classic films.

Blazing Saddles, Airplane, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs, Mars Attacks, MacGruber

Romantic

Plot focuses on romantic relationship, but filled with faux pas and humor; typically boy gets girl, loses girl, gets girl.

Sabrina, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Four Weddings and a Funeral

Sci-Fi Comedy

Taking elements of science fiction and exaggerate plot and characters

Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Evolution, Galaxy Quest, Men in Black

Screwball

Particularly popular in the Great Depression and early War Years, we might also call slapstick. Sometimes takes elements of other genres and incorporates vaudevillian humor

Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, What's Up, Doc? Some Like It Hot, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

(Sources: Byrge; Dale' Engleking; King; Mast).

Film Analysis- Within the genre of film, we will review three eminal Hollywood comedies: Bringing Up Baby (1938), Some Like it Hot (1959), and The Graduate (1967).

Bringing Up Baby is a screwball comedy of the late 1930s staring typically serious actors -- Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It is the story of a scientist (Grant) who tried to be extremely logical and rational, but ends up involved in various humerous predicaments involving a woman (Hepburn) who has a free-spiritied and unique (for the time) sense of logic -- and a pet leopard named Baby (Brown 115). Some Like It Hot, directed by Billy Wilder, stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon as two struggling musicians, Joe and Jerry, who witness a crime and leave town, disguising themselves as women to play in an all-girl band. During the trip, they both fall for sexy "Sugar Kane" (Marilyn Monroe) and struggle for her affection while still remaining in drag. It is a combination of a Fish Out Of Water and Romantic comedy, with some elements of slapstick (Ebert). The Graduate, the most serious of the three under review, is a comedy-drama with some elements of social class included. It is iconic in American culture as the soon to be 21-year-old Benamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), just graduated from college but unsure of his career goals, flies home to his parent's home in Souther California. At his graduation party Benjamin's law partner's wife, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) begs Benjamin for a ride home, during which she attempts to seduce him. A few days later, semmingly obsessed, Benjamin clumisly organizes a hotel room tryst -- finding that the only possible commonality between them is sex. Meanwhile, Benjamin begins to date the Robinsons' daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). Elaine is sensible, and wants Benjamin to become serious about his career, Mr. Robinson finds out about the affair, Mrs. Robinson blames Benjamin, and Elaine becomes engaged to another man. The movie ends as Elaine and her new beau are about to wed; Benjamin swoops into the church to "rescue" her -- and as Mrs. Robinson yells "It's too late," Elaine replies, "Not for me," and the two run from the church, flagging down a bus, but not at all sure of their actions (Metz Chp. 6).

All three films are iconic in the American cinema as top notch comedies with enough social commentary to go around. Bringing Up Baby contrasts the stereotypical nature of a scientist with a woman who embraces feminist philosophy 20 years before it became popular. Using serious actors who engage in reparte' with numerous double entendre is very similar to the verbal sparring between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Roles and responsibilities are also parodied: in Some Like it Hot, like the later Tootsie, the beautiful girl is so tired of men paying her that she is relaxed and open when faced with two women who simply want to be friends (or so she thinks). In The Graduate, Mrs. Robinson shares that she had to drop out of college and become a corporate wife because she became pregnant with Elaine. She is clearly quite bored with her life, and seeks a dalliance with Benjamin simply because he is convenient, without really wanting to get to know much about him. Benjamin, of course, is expected to have finished college, settle down, marry and join the system. And, speaking of roles, many film critics believe that Bringing Up Baby, was the first serious work of fiction to use the word "gay" in a homosexual context (Censored Films and Television).

Bringing Up Baby and The Graduate tend to be more dead pan, relying on the dialog to provide the comedic relief; Some Like It Hot is funny simply because the audience knows the truth and enjoys the antics of the two men trying to be women (cannot walk in heels, are flirted with, and can't control their libidos). Of the three, The Graduate is far more serious -- the very ineptness of Benjamin in almost every situation provides the comedy; the drama is in the realization, particilarly part of the culture of the time, that it took real courage to break out of the stereotype and follow one's own dream. Esentially, though, each film has that element: Susan Vance does not intend to fall for David Huxley, and the two are not particularly alike -- but "Baby" brings them together; Mrs. Robinson is certainly not in love with Benjamin, and Benjamin clearly has no clue about life; but knows he is fond of Elaine, and thinks that might be love; Joe and Jerry certainly do not intend to be placed in a situation in which they must dress as women -- and then find they are in love with the same woman who, at the end of the film, decides she loves Joe regardless of whether he is a man or woman -- and Jerry becomes the target of Osgood Fielding, a millionaire who, when confronted with the truth of Jerry's gender deliveries the films memorable last line, "Well, nobody's perfect."

The dialog, repartee, twists and turns, and unexpected situations are the nature of comedy in these three films. The all have their moments of taboo subjects making them slightly risque for their time. Yet, within… [END OF PREVIEW]

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