Comedy films are typically designed to make an audience laugh. They’re often lighthearted, except in the case of black comedy, which often has an eerie or even sadistic edge. In general, comedy films exaggerate certain elements, such as the language or situations that the characters find themselves in. There are a few different types of comedy movies, such as slapstick comedies, situational comedies and farces.
Some comedies feature comedians as the main character or main characters. The comedians tell jokes and can entertain by acting in a sketch format, as you may see on a comic variety show. In comedian-driven films, the main characters practically carry the entire movies thanks to their hilarious dialogue. One-liners delivered by a single comedian, or a volley between two comedians, round out these types of movies.
One of the most important elements of comedy movies is timing. Without great timing, jokes and stunts fall flat. In order to ensure that actors will be used to timing their jokes perfectly, a director may decide to hire professional comedians, even if they don’t have a lot of acting experience. Knowing exactly when to deliver a joke is the basis for a good comedy.
Slapstick comedies rely on performers who use exaggerated actions to get a laugh from the audience, including slipping, falling and funny faces. There may also be a series of jokes, all in a row, between multiple characters. At these moments the plot stands still, and the audience focuses just on the jokes. Slapstick originated in silent films by performers such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Situational comedies are narrative-driven. Often, the main character in a comedy will find himself in unfamiliar surroundings, feeling like a “fish out of water.” While dealing with a new environment, the protagonist will come across several problems that provide amusement for the audience. Sometimes these situational comedies drop a group of people into an unfamiliar or difficult situation and follow them as they attempt to get out of it -- and hit several roadblocks along the way, which make them react in new ways.
Several comedy movies include the element of farce. Farcical elements can include wacky plots and situations, overly fast-paced action sequences, mistaken identities, secrets that are kept under wraps, misunderstandings and some slapstick. Farcical comedies are different from situational comedies in that they are outlandish and sometimes complete fantasy. They also sometimes make fun of other movies. For example, the movie “Spaceballs” is a farce and a spoof on “Star Wars.”
As a full-time writer in New York's Hudson Valley, Lindsay Pietroluongo's nightlife column and photos have appeared regularly in the "Poughkeepsie Journal" since 2007. Additional publications include "Chronogram," the "New Paltz Sojourn," "About Town" newspaper and "Outsider" magazine. Pietroluongo graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in English.