AskDefine | Define comedy

Dictionary Definition



1 light and humorous drama with a happy ending [ant: tragedy]
2 a comic incident or series of incidents [syn: drollery, clowning, funniness]

User Contributed Dictionary



First attested in 1374. From comédie < comoedia < κωμῳδία < κῶμος + either ᾠδή or ἀοιδός, both from ἀείδω.


  1. archaic Greece. a choric song of celebration or revel
  2. ancient Greece. a light, amusing play with a happy ending
  3. medieval Europe. a narrative poem with an agreeable ending (e.g., The Divine Comedy)
  4. A dramatic work that is light and humorous or satirical in tone
  5. The genre of such works
  6. entertainment composed of jokes, satire, or humorous performance
  7. the art of composing comedy
  8. a humorous event


Related terms


Extensive Definition

"Comedy" has a popular meaning (any discourse generally intended to amuse, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy). This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in Ancient Greece. In the Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was remarkably influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theaters.
The theatrical genre can be simply described as a dramatic performance which pits two societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye famously depicted these two opposing sides as a "Society of Youth" and a "Society of the Old" (The Anatomy of Criticism, 1957), but this dichotomy is seldom described as an entirely satisfactory explanation.
A later view characterizes the essential agon of comedy as a struggle between a relatively powerless youth and the societal conventions that pose obstacles to his hopes; in this sense, the youth is understood to be constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to take recourse to ruses which engender very dramatic irony which provokes laughter (Marteinson, 2006).
Much comedy contains variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations, but there are many recognized genres of comedy. Satire and political satire use ironic comedy to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt, thus alienating their audience from the object of humor.
Parody borrows the form of some popular genre, artwork, or text but uses certain ironic changes to critique that form from within (though not necessarily in a condemning way). Screwball comedy derives its humor largely from bizarre, surprising (and improbable) situations or characters. Black comedy is defined by dark humor that makes light of so called dark or evil elements in human nature. Similarly scatological humor, sexual humor, and race humor create comedy by violating social conventions or taboos in comedic ways.
A comedy of manners typically takes as its subject a particular part of society (usually upper class society) and uses humor to parody or satirize the behavior and mannerisms of its members. Romantic comedy is a popular genre that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms, and focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love.


The word "comedy" is derived from the Classical Greek κωμῳδία, which is a compound either of κῶμος (revel) or κώμη (village) and ᾠδή (singing): it is possible that κῶμος itself is derived from κώμη, and originally meant a village revel. The adjective "comic" (Greek κωμικός), which strictly means that which relates to comedy is, in modern usage, generally confined to the sense of "laughter-provoking". Of this, the word came into modern usage through the Latin comoedia and Italian commedia and has, over time, passed through various shades of meaning.
Greeks and Romans confined the word "comedy" to descriptions of stage-plays with happy endings. In the middle ages, the term expanded to include narrative poems with happy endings and a lighter tone. In this sense Dante used the term in the title of his poem, La Divina Commedia. As time progressed, the word came more and more to be associated with any sort of performance intended to cause laughter.
The phenomena connected with laughter and that which provokes it has been carefully investigated by psychologists and agreed upon the predominating characteristics are incongruity or contrast in the object, and shock or emotional seizure on the part of the subject. It has also been held that the feeling of superiority is an essential, if not the essential, factor: thus Thomas Hobbes speaks of laughter as a "sudden glory." Modern investigators have paid much attention to the origin both of laughter and of smiling, as well as the development of the "play instinct" and its emotional expression.

Performing arts


Kaitlyn mcneill

Plays (theater)

Musical comedy plays

Improvisational comedy


Stand-up comedy events and awards
Lists of stand-up comedy performers


The First Couple of Comedy

This is a common nickname for comedienne Lucille Ball and her one-time husband Desi Arnaz. This nickname is based on the eight year success of their show I Love Lucy. Their co-stars Vivian Vance and William Frawley are known as the most famous second bananas in comedy and television.

Lists of comedy television programs



  • Aristotle, Poetics.
  • Buckham, Philip Wentworth, Theatre of the Greeks, 1827.
  • Marteinson, Peter (2006). On the Problem of the Comic: A Philosophical Study on the Origins of Laughter, Legas Press, Ottawa, 2006.
  • Pickard-Cambridge, Sir Arthur Wallace
    • Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy , 1927.
    • The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens, 1946.
    • The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, 1953.
  • Raskin, Victor, The Semantic Mechanisms of Humor, 1985.
  • Riu, Xavier, Dionysism and Comedy, 1999.
  • Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane, Tragedy and Athenian Religion, Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Wiles, David, The Masked Menander: Sign and Meaning in Greek and Roman Performance, 1991.

External links

comedy in Afrikaans: Komedie
comedy in Arabic: كوميديا
comedy in Bosnian: Komedija
comedy in Bulgarian: Комедия
comedy in Catalan: Comèdia
comedy in Czech: Komedie
comedy in Danish: Komedie
comedy in German: Komödie
comedy in Estonian: Komöödia
comedy in Spanish: Comedia
comedy in Esperanto: Komedio
comedy in Basque: Komedia
comedy in French: Comédie
comedy in Galician: Comedia
comedy in Croatian: Komedija
comedy in Indonesian: Melawak
comedy in Ossetian: Комеди
comedy in Italian: Commedia
comedy in Hebrew: קומדיה
comedy in Georgian: კომედია
comedy in Latin: Comoedia
comedy in Latvian: Komēdija
comedy in Lithuanian: Komedija
comedy in Hungarian: Komédia
comedy in Malay (macrolanguage): Komedi
comedy in Dutch: Komedie
comedy in Japanese: 喜劇
comedy in Norwegian: Komedie
comedy in Norwegian Nynorsk: Komedie
comedy in Polish: Komedia
comedy in Portuguese: Comédia
comedy in Romanian: Comedie
comedy in Russian: Комедия
comedy in Simple English: Comedy
comedy in Slovak: Komédia
comedy in Slovenian: Komedija
comedy in Serbian: Комедија
comedy in Serbo-Croatian: Komedija
comedy in Finnish: Komedia
comedy in Swedish: Komedi
comedy in Tagalog: Komedya
comedy in Thai: ตลก
comedy in Tajik: Кинокамедия
comedy in Turkish: Komedi
comedy in Ukrainian: Комедія
comedy in Walloon: Comedeye
comedy in Yiddish: קאמעדיע
comedy in Chinese: 喜劇

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Atticism, Thalia, agile wit, arlequinade, black comedy, black humor, bladder, broad comedy, burlesque, burletta, camp, cap and bells, caricature, comedie bouffe, comedie larmoyante, comedie rosse, comedietta, comedy ballet, comedy of humors, comedy of ideas, comedy of intrigue, comedy of manners, comedy of situation, comedy relief, comic muse, comic opera, comic relief, comicality, comicalness, coxcomb, dark comedy, domestic comedy, drollery, drollness, dry wit, esprit, exode, farce, farce comedy, funniness, genteel comedy, harlequinade, high camp, humor, humorousness, irony, lampoon, light comedy, low camp, low comedy, mime, motley, musical, musical comedy, nimble wit, opera buffa, parody, pleasantry, pretty wit, quick wit, raw comedy, ready wit, realistic comedy, romantic comedy, salt, sarcasm, satire, satyr play, savor of wit, sentimental comedy, situation comedy, slapstick, slapstick comedy, slapstick humor, sock, squib, subtle wit, tragicomedy, travesty, visual humor, wit, wittiness
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