Recently in Drama, we have been studying comedy and how they work. Comedy has started far far back in time, and has a very interesting history behind it. Heres the timeline of Comedy and clowns.
It is believed that comedy all started in Ancient Greek (5th centuries), commonly known with the Aristophanes as he was well known as the master of old comedy. Many of the comedies had a very weak plot line and had a very loose storyline, yet the comedy he wrote were simple, easy to understand jokes such as scatological humour (toilet jokes) and sexual jokes. He also made fun of the politicians, philosophers that existed during at that age, as in few of his plays he mocked the Peloponnesian Wars and the governors who were fighting against. Even after Aristophanes died, Menander has taken upon his place to create new comedy. In the new comedy, stereotypes were born as part of the humour. People used less sexual jokes and political jokes, but based on their comedy off of everyday situations.
In the medieval ages, the churches tried to keep comedy and joyous aspects of a comedy to the minimum, which lead to danger of extinction of comedy. Yet comedy survived through medieval folk plays and festivals.
Renaissance comedy is one of the well known comedy period. One of the famous scriptwriter known at this age was Shakespeare. Not only he created the famous scripts such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and more, he have also written different comedy scripts. In this age, comedy was known to be something different than we know it today. Today, we all think comedy is something funny and something we’ll be able to laugh at, but comedy in the Renaissance period was known to be something that had a good ending. One of the famous comedy during this time was the ‘commedia dell’arte’ in Italy, where people acted out wearing a mask.
Melodramatic comedy was more focused on exaggeration. Melodramatic comedy started to appear present in the 18th centuries to until today, through movies, television shows, and even in radio formats.Because melodramatic comedy existed in a long time period and still exists in comedy today, it is difficult to exactly justify and define what melodrama is. Usually in Melodrama, the plots and characters are over exaggerated, so they would be able to strongly show their emotions and their stereotypes. The term ‘melodrama’ were used negatively, as it meant unsophisticated or lack of delicacy. In melodrama, there was 6 stock characters that usually existed. A hero: who acts upon justice and moral, yet sometimes doesn’t follow the rules. A heroine: who is innocent and moral, usually a damsel in distress. A villain: who is evil, greedy, selfish and immoral. The villain’s accompany: a goofy dumb sidekick who serves as the comic relief. A faithful servant: a maid is loyal to the hero and helps him save the heroine, but also serves as comic relief yet not as goofy as the villains accompany. A maid servant: Unlike the faithful servant the maid servant is flirty, funny and is very loyal to the heroine.
Circus comedy was one of the important style of comedy in the timeline. The most famous one are the clowns. The clown comedy started around in the late Middle Ages. Court jesters and fools were a good example of a clown in the middle age. Arlecchino (Harlequin) is one of the famous clown actor that best represented this style. Harlequin started off as a comic valet, or zanni (types of character in dell’arte), but soon began to form his own style of comedy which was the soon to be known slapsitck. There are 3 major clown types. One of them is the White-face clown. They are the most well known, oldest clown. They are usually associated with the circus, and the White-faces had a high status among other clowns with intelligence. Auguste clown were the ones who had the lowest status among the other clowns, and was the most zaniest and unintelligent clown. The Auguste clowns wear mismatched and over sized clothes, with big noses. They appeared together with the White-face clowns and was usually the one messing things up. Character Clown is the third clown type. The hobo or The Tramp is one of the well known character clowns. Character clowns are clowns that have a specific character such as the police officers, women, babies, anything at all.
Cinematic comedy can be considered as the ‘oldest film genre’ as this comedy style mainly appeared in silent films, televisions and movies. Comedy was very suitable for silent films, as it required more of a visual action and audio. Slapstick was also another type of comedy used in cinematic comedy, as it portrayed the hilarity of ridiculous situations of physical mishap and indignity. Charlie Chaplin was the most famous comedy star known in this age and even today. He was a silent actor and pantomimist and was recruited at 1913 as a comedy actor. Kid Auto Races in Venice (1914), is the first silent film that he appeared in as ‘The Tramp’ character we all know.
As you can see, comedy has a very interesting history, and we are able to see how humour changes over time.