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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Film Comedy

Introduction, comic theory/criticism.

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  • Comedian Comedy
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Film Comedy by Lucy Fischer LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2022 LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0199

Film comedy is a ubiquitous form of cinema, present from the medium’s earliest days with little “mischief joke” movies such as the Lumière brothers’ L’arroseur arrosé (1895) in which the “hoser gets hosed.” Comedies were popular not only in turn-of-the- century France but also in the United States, with Thomas Alva Edison producing shorts such as A Wringing Good Joke (1899) in which a boy ties his grandfather’s chair to the wringer of a washer and mayhem ensues. While some consider comedy a film genre, it is such a broad category that others liken it to a mode (e.g., melodrama) that itself is divided into various genres: romantic comedy, satire, parody, and the like. Comic movies were popular throughout the silent era, with the first major stars being comedians (for instance, Charlie Chaplin or Max Linder). While much of the humor was physical and slapstick (pies in the face, people falling down, and machines run amuck), more sophisticated works were soon produced by directors such as Ernst Lubtisch and Cecil B. Demille—who adapted comedies of manners (about high society, romance, marriage, and divorce) to the screen. Parodies were also soon produced as when Buster Keaton made Three Ages (1923), a send up of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916). With the coming of sound, the nexus of comedy shifted to the vocal register with performers imported from Broadway, radio, or the vaudeville circuit. Hence, cinema saw the appearance of fast-talking performers such as the Marx Brothers, mumbling comics such as W. C. Fields, and sexually suggestive dames such as Mae West. With sound came the expansion of romantic comedy (in which sexual repartee substituted for lovemaking) as well as the development of other genres more consonant with dialogue: screwball, satire, and parody. With comedy’s coming of age in the cinema, new themes and perspectives emerged: although in the early days, women were frequently butts of the joke (for instance, the characters played by Margaret Dumont in the Marx Brothers films), in more contemporary times they became forceful comediennes (for instance Roseanne). While at the 20th century’s dawn ethnic minority characters were often maliciously stereotyped, beginning in the later 20th century, they would become comic heroes in their own right (as Eddie Murphy or Woody Allen did). All the genres pioneered in the first days of film history remain vibrant today (including slapstick) and the range of comic forms remains emphatically international.

These works (either monographs or anthologies) attempt to present a wide range of information about the comic film mode. Horton 1991 and Rickman 2001 are anthologies with critical essays on film comedy that cover a broad spectrum. Mast 1979 and King 2002 , on the other hand, attempt to offer their own theories and paradigms of film comedy. Neale and Krutnik 1990 considers not only film but also television comedy, a related field. Two special issues of Velvet Light Trap are devoted to film comedy. Sound Comedy focuses on sound-era comedy, while Comedy and Humor explores comedic forms across eras, cultures, and media.

Horton, Andrew, ed. Comedy/Cinema/Theory . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

A scholarly anthology of essays of comic theory and criticism. Topics include comedy and matricide, “penis size” jokes, and cartoon comedy. Performers mentioned range from Charlie Chaplin to Woody Allen to The Three Stooges. Contributors include Lucy Fischer, Noel Carroll, Dana Polan, Peter Brunette, and William Paul among others.

Horton, Andrew, and Joanna E. Rapf. A Companion to Film Comedy . Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

DOI: 10.1002/9781118327821

A wide-ranging survey of comedy which includes twenty-four essays by major multidisciplinary scholars that explore international cinema to consider various subgenres of comedy (slapstick, romantic, satirical, ironic) as well as diverse theories of humor. Included are articles that consider Native American, African American, European, Middle Eastern, and Korean comedy as well as mainstream US film.

King, Geoff. Film Comedy . New York: Wallflower, 2002.

Utilizing formal, sociohistorical, and industrial perspectives to “take comedy seriously,” this broad study examines such topics as “gross-out” comedy, the relationship between comedy and narrative, the slapstick tradition, romantic comedy and darker forms such as political satire. It also examines changes in comedy over time and in different national contexts.

Mast, Gerald. The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies . 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

A broad introduction to film comedy with chapters on such topics as comic structures, comic thought, categories and definitions of comedies, the clown versus the dialogue traditions. The volume also surveys comic film history from silence to sound—focusing on such performers as Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Langdon and such directors as Sennett, Lubitsch, Clair and Renoir.

Neale, Steve, and Frank Krutnik. Popular Film and Television . New York: Routledge, 1990.

An investigation of film and TV comedy that examines genres and forms (e.g., slapstick, the comedy of the sexes, the television sitcom), humor and narrative, gags and jokes, comic events, and questions of comedy and realism.

Rickman, Gregg, ed. The Film Comedy Reader . New York: Limelight Editions, 2001.

A wide-ranging anthology on silent and sound comedy with articles by practitioners (e.g., director Leo McCarey or performer Buster Keaton), as well as analytical pieces by noted theorists and critics (e.g., Paul Willemen, James Agee, Richard Schickel). Topics covered include gag structure, humor and male desire, comic stereotypes, romantic comedy, comic auteurs (e.g., Charles Chaplin, Jerry Lewis, W. C. Fields).

Special Issue: Comedy and Humor . Velvet Light Trap 68 (2011).

Explores comedy across periods, media, and cultures. Subjects range from gender in silent-era comedies to comedy on the web. Not entirely focused on film comedy, one essay deals with television comedy. The essays here assert that it is important for comedy to be studied seriously. Articles available online by subscription.

Special Issue: Sound Comedy . Velvet Light Trap 26 (1990).

This issue concentrates on an examination of the comic subjects that somehow do not fit the usual categories. The essays either shed new light on old auteurs or turn attention to traditions that have been unmentioned or slighted in other histories. Articles by Henry Jenkins, John Groch, Michael Selig, Frank Krutnik, and William Paul.

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How to Write Comedy — Tips Techniques Script Examples Featured

  • Scriptwriting

How to Write Comedy — Tips, Techniques & Script Examples

A sk any creative writer what the hardest genre to write is and they’ll probably tell you that it’s comedy. That’s because story structure can only bring you so far in comedy writing – the fact of the matter is that if you aren’t funny, you aren’t funny. So how do you become funny? Do you read joke books? No! Like everything else, you practice until you become perfect – well, not perfect per se – most comedy writers would be happy with just okay. We’re going to show you how to write comedy, with script examples from 21 Jump Street and Curb Your Enthusiasm , but first, let’s define comedy writing.

Guide to Comedic Writing

What is comedy writing.

In simplest terms, comedy writing is a genre of writing that is intended to be funny. There’s much more to it than that, but first and foremost, the chief goal is to make the audience laugh. Let’s watch a quick video to hear one of the most successful comedy writers of all-time, Jerry Seinfeld, explain the basics of comedy writing.

Writing Comedy  •  Jerry Seinfeld on How to Write a Joke With The New York Times

Jerry Seinfeld Headshot StudioBinder

Comedy writing is something you don’t see people doing. It’s a secretive thing.

— Jerry Seinfeld

As Seinfeld suggests, comedy writing is a very secretive thing. One reason why is because most comedy writers feel like their material has to be perfect before it’s presented. 

Think about it this way: let’s say you write a dramatic stage play. There’s no way to tell if the audience hated it – except if they fell asleep, then I’d say it’s fair to say they hated it. Now let’s say you write a comedic play. If the audience doesn’t laugh at the jokes, then you know they hated it.

You know, they know, everybody knows – a joke that doesn’t land is a special type of shame . It’s for this reason that comedy writing can feel so personal. The most important thing to remember is that nobody is funny 100% of the time, but by taking inspiration from some of the best, we can improve our craft.

Comedy writing doesn’t have to be a solitary craft. Due to the advent of the internet, comedy is more collaborative now more than ever. This next video explains how the Lonely Island sketch “Dear Sister” helped to usher in a new era of comedy.

How to Write Comedy  •  How ‘Dear Sister’ Changed Comedy by Karsten Runquist

The difference between Seinfeld’s traditionalist advice on comedy writing and Karsten Runquist’s new-age analysis is that one says that comedy is achieved by plot ; the other says that plot is achieved by comedy. Think of memes for example: what makes a meme funny? Well, I’d say memes are funny because somebody doesn’t “get it.”

A meme is like an inside joke between millions of people – but once it breaks out of that “inside” bubble, then it ceases to be funny. This teaches us something essential about comedy writing; almost always, somebody has to be the butt of the joke. No matter how big or small, somebody has to be made fun of. It’s this very notion that makes comedy writing so difficult. 

Rules of Comedy, Explained

Tips and tricks for writing comedy.

One of the most difficult aspects of comedy script writing is finding the right person to perform it. You could write something really clever, but if it’s performed in a tone that’s incongruent to what you mean, then it’s not going to sound funny.

So when writing any sort of comedy, don’t be afraid to add emphasis. That’s true in more ways than one – emphasize the punch-lines to your jokes, emphasize specificity, and emphasize contradictions. 

Like any type of writing, comedy writing relies on conflict . In this scene from Meet the Parents , the family patriarch Jack interrogates his daughter’s boyfriend Greg. Pay attention to how screenwriters Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg entice us with character conflict.

How to Write Comedy  •  Watch the Meet the Parents Lie Detector Test Scene

I wanted to look at this scene for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s a great structural example of how to put together a comedic scene. The mean dad, clueless boyfriend trope is just that... a trope. So how do the writers make it feel refreshing and new?

Well, it starts with emphasis and exaggeration. Jack isn’t just any dad, he’s a former CIA operative. And Greg’s not just a clueless boyfriend, he’s a walking bad-luck charm. So in a structural sense, this relationship is primed for comedic conflict.

Here are five great tips for writing a comedy scene:

  • Take a typical situation and exaggerate it
  • Let tension build
  • Use specificity
  • Embarrass someone
  • Finish with a bang

Now let’s see how Meet the Parents  utilizes these five strategies.

  • Greg is visiting his girlfriend’s family. This is a typical situation – and at some level, it’s something we can all relate to. But it’s exaggerated by Jack’s CIA background.
  • Say you’re the writer of a story like  Meet the Parents  and you have a great structural conflict between two characters (Jack and Greg) – how do you take that tension and build it? Well, start by putting the two characters in close proximity.
  • Specificity is a double-edged sword in comedy writing. Notice how Greg is wearing Jack’s pajamas with the little JB insignia on the chest-pocket? That’s funny. Notice how there are a bunch of pictures of Jack undercover in the CIA? That’s funny. And it’s funny because it’s not forced on us.
  • Jack embarrasses Greg by asking him uncomfortable questions. Situationally, this is funny, and it’s elevated by Robert De Niro’s great deadpan delivery. 
  • Like Jerry Seinfeld said, always save the best joke for last. It’s an expectation in comedy writing that you’re going to end with a bang. In this scene from  Meet the Parents , it’s when Jack asks Greg if he watches porn.


How to make your script funny.

Would you believe me when I say there’s a secret technique you can use to instantly make any scene funnier? No, that sounds too good to be true! But alas, it is.

The technique known as irony  – which is defined as being the opposite of what we expect – can turn any scene on its head.

How to Write Comedy Jump Street Irony Example StudioBinder Screenwriting Software

How to Write Comedy  •  21 Jump Street Screenplay

21 Jump Street went through a lengthy rewrite process. In this revision of the script, undercover cops Jenko and Schmidt arrive at a scene somewhat akin to what we see in the original tv show. There’s nothing wrong with the scene as it was originally written – but the final version of the scene shows just how much a difference irony can make.

Here, Jenko takes the lead, expecting to command the crowd like he did in high school. But as Bob Dylan famously said, the times are a-changin’. 

How to Write Comedy  •  Watch 21 Jump Street 

We expect Jenko to be considered “cool.” But instead, he’s condemned. Conversely, we expect Schmidt to be considered “lame.” But instead, he’s celebrated. This is irony . This character dynamic makes 21 Jump Street feel refreshing. If you’re considering writing a comedy script, think about how contrived character stereotypes can be subverted with irony. 

Writing Comedy Taboos

Things to avoid in comedy writing.

Most comedians will tell you that no topic is off-limits in comedy writing. And although that may be true, just remember that it’s really hard to make certain things funny – and you’re not going to win audiences over making jokes about taboo subject matter. 

We’ve all heard the saying “read the room” before, but how do we “read the room” when we’re writing alone? Well, one way is to take notes when you’re out in public, then transcribe them into a routine, sketch, or scene later. If you know Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm , then this process may sound familiar.

This next video explains Larry David’s writing process for Curb in further detail.

Comedy Writing Techniques  •  How to Write Comedy Like Larry David by StoryDive

The reason I bring up Curb in regards to “what to avoid in comedy writing” is because Larry David is a master of navigating that ever-so-delicate line. Take this clip from Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Nine, Ep. 8 for example.

How to Write Humor  •  Study Perspective in this Curb Your Enthusiasm Clip

In this montage scene, a Muslim investigator looks into Larry’s past to see if he deserves a fatwa. In each part of the montage, a delicate subject matter is addressed. Why is it funny? Well, it’s all about perspective. In Curb Your Enthusiasm , Larry is consistently made out to be the bad guy. By framing him as the good guy, we see the ludicrousy of the show’s situations in a new light.

Don’t be afraid to play with perspective. Sometimes, the comedy of a scene is found in a perspective you would’ve never guessed. Consider framing your comedic situations in different ways.

This experimentation will often help you find the best angle to present your jokes.

Comedy lessons from Gene Wilder

We touched on a lot of the foundational aspects of comedy writing, but there’s so much more to it than what we went over here. In this next article, we break down how to direct actors, with special emphasis on how Gene Wilder changed comedy. By studying Wilder’s comedic style, we can learn a lot about how to be a better comedy writer.

Up Next: Directing Comedy Actors →

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The Use of Satire in Comedy Films

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Comedy Movie Reviews Samples For Students

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While studying in college, you will inevitably have to craft a lot of Movie Reviews on Comedy. Lucky you if linking words together and transforming them into meaningful text comes easy to you; if it's not the case, you can save the day by finding a previously written Comedy Movie Review example and using it as a model to follow.

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The Off-Broadway production of Cactus Flower directed by Michael Bush at the Westside Theatre provides a lovely, bright look at the Sixties while still carrying the more whimsical themes of the farce. There are plenty of laughs to be had as misunderstandings and situations get out of control, and the characters scramble desperately to deal with each new circumstance that arises. In this paper, we will go over the play as a whole and how this particular production conveyed the messages present in the text.

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The Art of Comedy Films

The Art of Comedy Films

Among the most common elements of a film is comedy. In essence, like almost any other element, comedy plays a unique role in enabling film as a form of art to meet its objectives, particularly that of entertainment. In this regard, comedy as both an artistic and cinematic element mainly functions to attract the attention of the audience to the film. This is further enabled by the ability for comedy to appear in different forms such as satire, farce, slapstick or cringe comedy, a fact makes suitable for almost every film depending on the form that is chosen. For instance, in the film “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s 40 Thieves,” one realizes an increased use of comedy as a cinematic element to make the film effective. This is also seen in the film “The Great Train Robbery” where comedy, for instance, slapstick comedy, is employed to make it entertaining. Considering this, this paper will compare and contrast the use of comedy as a cinematic element in the two films in the bid to determine how they employ it to achieve effectiveness.

To achieve the above, it is first important to have a comprehensive overview of what comedy entails, especially as a cinematic element. Comedy can be explained as the cinematic element that employs humor as its driving force (Charney, 2005). Even more, it is an art that is used to elicit laughter or make one excited. The art in comedy, like in almost any other genre in cinema or film, is enabled by particular special effects geared at creating a certain illusion that invokes laughter or excitement (Sikov, 2010). To a great extent, because of its nature, comedy validates the argument that cinema arguably remains the greatest and most significant of the industrialized art forms that have dominated and remain prominent in the twentieth century cultural life (Well-Smith, 1996). Thus, when employed in a film, the main aim of comedy is to elicit laughter among the audience, thereby, making the movie effective in achieving its objective, especially if it was meant to be a comedy film. This means that even when the storyline is of a different form when it employs comedy it does so to make the film entertaining to a certain degree.

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What makes comedy this flexible as a cinematic element is such that it can be employed in almost every other film to evoke feelings of excitement, of laughter in its multiple forms. In retrospect, there are different forms of the element that allows it to be applicable in different situations (Charney, 2005). Some of these forms include slapstick, cringe, dark, anecdotal, satire, parody, musical and insult comedy. Slapstick comedy, for instance, includes comedy that is based on deliberate clumsiness that is humorously embarrassing while, while anecdotal comedy refers to funny personal stories which may be true or even partly true though embellished (Dirks, 2015). It is also worth pointing out that comedy itself mainly emerged in the field of film to enable the delivery of certain feelings and emotions. At its inception, the importance of film was attached to the novelty of witnessing real-time scenarios from the daily life, deviating from the telling of stories. However, with time, there arose the need to invoke and deliver certain feelings and reactions. It is here that comedy joined with films in the bid to invoke the feelings of excitement and laughter.

Looking at the two films, one realizes that they both rely on comedy to fulfill their purpose. This is despite one being a cartoon and the other being a story of actual people that focuses on a robbery. Humor is a significant element in both films as it is employed in almost every scene. It is as if the primary intention of the two films was to excite their audience. For one, the film “The Great Train Robbery” significantly relies on comedy to excite the audience despite the storyline being about a robbery. There is the realization that comedy may have been employed here to help tell a story that may have been dull to tell otherwise, too realistic to the day to day to excite the audience. Unlike the film “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s 40 Thieves” where the characters are cartoons, the former, as suggested earlier, focuses on actual people, which makes comedy an important tool in making it an interesting work. Through comedy, it is able to make a serious occurrence funny, while also finding it easy to animate real people.

One of the most common things about the two films with regards to how they both employ comedy is their use of physical comedy. Physical comedy regards the manipulation of the body to achieve a particular humorous effect and can include other forms of comedy that include slapstick, physical stunts, clowning, making funny faces or even mime (Dirks, 2015). The two films both employ and increasingly rely on physical comedy to make characters and scenes funny in the bid to create funny storylines and consequently attract the audience. While this is true, it is important to focus on how the two films employ this form of comedy, particularly its various forms.

Among the highlighted forms of physical comedy that the two films employ is slapstick humor. As earlier pointed, slapstick comedy refers to engaging in deliberately clumsy actions that are also humorously embarrassing in the bid to invoke the feelings of excitement among the audience (Dirks, 2015). The use of slapstick humor is increasingly evident in “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s 40 Thieves”. Looking at the film, there appear to be multiple scenes where clumsy actions are deliberately made so as to excite the audience. For instance, at the beginning of the film, precisely from minute 1.07, one recognizes the clumsy portrayals of the horses in their running to make the action comic enough to entertain the audience. Considering that this film is primarily a cartoon, it warrants suggesting that making the horse portray such a weird run aligns with the basis of the existence of cartoons, especially in this context. Cartoons can be described as drawings, symbols or representations that make witty, satirical or humorous point. A cartoon film, as such, is that which is developed using animation rather than live actors, especially when it is a humorous film meant for children (Rai, Waskel, Sakalle, Dixit & Mahore, 2017). While there are different types of cartoons, they all share a common denominator that is humor. Thus, the application of slapstick humor in the Popeye film as a cartoon, especially at its beginning, foremost helps to announce the concept of humor. To an extent, it helps prepare the audience that humor is what drives the film.

The above conclusion is validated as the film continues. Still at the beginning, at minute 1.22, the man on top of the horse, who appears to be Ali Baba, can also be seen acting clumsy yet humorously. The scarf that was initially around his neck suddenly jumps to his face covering it as he continues to sing. Even more, while covering his face, the scarf aligns with it forming another humorous one with a weirdly protruded mouth. This appears to be an effort to not only paint the man as clumsy but also as funny while giving the film its comic feel. On his side, as can be seen from minute 2.02, Popeye is presented as having a funny walk that is deliberately clumsy. This walk, one realizes, is primarily geared as presenting him as entertaining, hence, worth watching. The more oddities a character possesses, the more the audience’s attention is captured, regardless of storyline. The other sailor waiting for Popeye in the boat also makes significant use of slapstick humor. He is presented as having a weird and clumsy eating style that is purposefully meant to be funny. The next scene where Popeye, the other sailor, and a woman venture into the air is similarly replete with slapstick humor. Both the characters act clumsily, while the boat, which has now somewhat turned into a plane, is also animated and similarly appears to be acting in a weird manner, primarily to invoke the subconsciousness of the audience into noting the strangeness and therefore better holding their attention. From these examples, it is evident that slapstick humor is the backbone of the film. It is employed in almost every seen and consequently allows the film to execute humor in the most effective means possible.

Similarly, the film “The Great Train Robbery” also employs significant amounts of slapstick humor in its narration of the story. For one, it takes the form of silent films where characters do not speak and the audience has only to rely on visual actions. What else accompanies the story is music, which helps in the telling of the story by not only keeping the audience entertained but also highlighting certain actions and emphasis in the film. Considering that the film is a silent one, it borrows significantly from physical humor, especially slapstick comedy to make up for the lack of speech (Cousins, 2015). However, slapstick humor is employed to achieve much more; to draw the audience to the film, keep them entertained and to tell what would have otherwise been a boring story without some excitement to it. Slapstick humor is first mainly encountered in the movie in minute 2.07 going on to minute 2.10. In this scene, the robbers enter and a shootout between them and a third individual who appears to be a train attendant ensues. However, the attendant is shot and then deliberately falls down in a clumsy manner with the clear intention to invoke some feelings of laughter. Even when he falls down, he still has his arms weirdly stiff straight, a completely obscure act that would most likely never occur in the real world, which essentially is the reason the audience is there. If it wasn’t innovative in its creation there would be really no good reason for someone to stick around when they could go about their daily lives and see similar stories take place all around them. Similarly, in the scene where one of the passengers tries to run away from the robbers, the film also employs slapstick humor to not only dramatize his falling down when he is shot but to also invoke laughter among the viewers. He falls down puposefully clumsily with the intention of entertaining the viewers. Additionally, the use of slapstick humor can be seen in the last scene where the robbers are eventually caught and shot. While being shot at, they fall down weirdly and deliberately so, with the sole purpose of exciting the viewers. This similarly evidences the significance of comedy, of offbeat, not normally encounterable behavior to grasp attention.

However, while both films employ slapstick humor as a form of physical comedy, it is the film on Popeye that significantly depends on it to achieve effectiveness. It uses slapstick humor in almost every scene with the characters acting clumsy and embarrassingly humorous. Popeye himself keeps on presenting slapstick tendencies in order to maintain his character as a funny act. On the other side, the film “The Great Train Robbery” while it also depends on slapstick humor employs it a lower degree compared to the latter. Basically, unlike the first film, it only employs this form of humor in certain scenes. Regardless, despite the difference in the degree to which both films employ or rely on this form of humor, it still remains effective in enabling the films to emerge humorous as intended. Even more, this form of humor successfully allows both films to effectively tell their story. However, one realizes that while it was used sparingly in the second film, it is this that significantly benefited from it. In hindsight, without this form of humor, the film would have most probably remained dull, leaving the audience uninterested. However, considering that the first film was basically a cartoon, it is difficult to determine the effect of slapstick humor in it. As a cartoon film, it would have still found other ways to remain funny. Nonetheless, cartoons are generally deliberately clumsy, a fact that makes comedy instrumental in their beings.

Another form of comedy that is prominent in both films is black comedy. This form of humor generally relies on making viewers uncomfortable, while evoking laughter and excitement from taboo subjects like murder, politics and sex (Foote, 2017). The use of black humor in the first film is first encountered in minute 9.25 in the scene where Popeye meets Ali Baba’s 40 thieves. Here, black humor is employed to sanitize the concept of danger and also to make it comic. For instance, one of the thieves of Ali Baba dangerously attacks Popeye but the danger remains subtle and removed from the scene with only the comical aspect left for the viewers to laugh at and grasp onto. Even when Popeye is left hanging upside down, the scene still remains comical with the help of black comedy. Perhaps, this form of humor is perfectly applied to the act of stealing, which is commonly a taboo. More elaborately, while the act of stealing exercised by the 40 thieves of Ali Baba probably makes the audience uncomfortable, the viewer is left laughing by the manner in which it is done. Thus, it is increasingly recognizable that like slapstick humor, black comedy similarly aids in the execution and delivery of the film.

In the second film, black humor takes center stage especially in a film that is about robbery. For instance, while murder and death are often taboo topics, the film in more than one occasion employs black humor to remove the sensitivity to them and instead qualifies them as comic acts and scenes that consequently invoke laughter and excitement. For instance, earlier on the in its beginning where the robbers and the train attendant engage in a shootout, the film uses black humor to sanitize the situation. This is further witnessed when the attendant is eventually shot and instead of the act being unacceptable and sorrowful, it turns out to be comic. This is also seen at the end of the film where the robbers are eventually shot to their death but instead of the scene being purely uncomfortable; it also draws laughter because of the manner in which death is achieved.

From the above, one realizes that like slapstick humor, black comedy also plays a significant role in the two films. It enables them to maintain their intention to entertain even when focusing on serious issues that are commonly seen as taboo. However, compared to the first film, this form of humor may have been more effective in the second movie. Once again, this may have been because the second film was based on real people and sanitizing issues such as death can be challenging in such circumstances. Nonetheless, with the use of black humor, the film eventually managed to achieve this and even remain exciting.

Considering the revelations above, it is safe to conclude that like almost any other cinematic or film element, comedy was instrumental in enabling the two films above to remain effective in their delivery. The films particularly made significant use of physical comedy to evoke excitement and laughter among the audience, while also maintaining their focus. For instance, using slapstick humor, they were both able to invoke laughter in the simplest means possible, thereby, doing away with boredom and keeping the viewer glued and guessing what humor is coming next. However, cartoons are naturally entertaining, it is safe to suggest that the second film benefited more from the use of comedy compared to the first. Regardless, comedy as a cinematic element was increasingly instrumental in the delivery of the two films.

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Mastering the Comedy Genre in Movies and TV [w/ Examples]

Everyone needs a good laugh, and the comedy genre is one of the best ways to get there. what makes a great comedy .

Comedy Genre the hangover

Comedy is one of the most malleable genres in film and television. Comedy can brighten a scene, tell us a lot about a character's mood, and even help sustain long expository explanations and speeches.

Still, there are lots of tropes and characteristics of comedies that people expect when they're reading your screenplay or pilot. Comedy might be the hardest thing to pull off, and it's certainly one of the riskiest things to pitch or develop. A comedy that doesn't work is super cringe-y. 

But take the risk! Because we NEED more comedy! When the world around us gets shrouded in hate and darkness, comedy is the bright light that shows us the way back to joy. Back to our humanity. 

If you ever need proof of the POWER of the comedy, consider Cinema's first great artist and one of the world's first true global celebrities. Charlie Chaplin. 

Chaplin didn't just make people laugh, he made them laugh and cry in the very next beat. Some might even say he's never been matched. 

So let's get into the weeds of the comedy genre. We'll go over what audiences expect out of it, how you can be effective writing it, and we'll look at some of the finest examples movie and tv history have to offer. 

Comedy genre definition

The comedy genre covers any work in film or television whose general purpose is to create humor and intentional laughs for the audience. It has its origins in ancient Greek plays and oral tradition. 

Way back when it was just Comedy or Tragedy. There was no in-between! If everyone didn't die at the end it was a comedy!

The definitions these days have become a bit finer. Let's talk about specifics. 

Comedy Characteristics and Tropes 

Comedies usually feature pratfalls, wordplay, uncomfortable situations, and sometimes lean the opposite way of realism. Their stakes are usually personal and violence is almost always done for laughs and not serious consequences. 

Here is a nice compilation of various examples:

Types of comedy in Film and TV shows 

So this is where comedy sort of breaks apart into uber-specific subgenres. These types of comedy help narrow down the tone and tenor of the joke as well as the story within the screenplay. Let's examine them. 

Raunchy/Blue comedy 

Movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and TV shows like You're the Worst live in the dirty comedy space. They love jokes about sex, relationships, and gross-out humor.

Part of how it works is that it makes us uncomfortable. Part of how it works is that bodily functions and desires are a great equalizer. The Farrelly brothers are masters of this type of thing, in this case combining sex and gross-out humor into one timeless gag.

Black or Dark Comedy 

Let's talk about death. And violence. And horrible situations. Dark comedy makes light of things you'd usually see in drama films and television. Movies like Death at a Funeral and tv shows like Bored to Death  make light of the things we can't bear to face. 

Check out this classic (but pretty gross) scene from The Coen Brothers Fargo : 

This is a scene where a criminal is putting his partner's body into a woodchipper. But it's funny. Why? 

Well, look at how it's shot and framed. At a distance, allowing for some of the weirdness and absurdity of it all to play out. You've surely heard the cliche (that isn't entirely true but whatever) Tragedy + Distance = Comedy? Well, that is kind of what happens here. 

How else is Dark Comedy pulled off? 

Well instead of hearing the police-woman yelling at him, the criminal keeps going about his gross business. And it's also a little challenging for him. He needs a piece of wood to get a foot with a sock on it into the wood chipper. Those odd details make it feel human. And silly. 

Then what? 

He hears her and he stares dumbfounded. In case he doesn't understand, she gestures to the badge on her hat. Then he clumsily tosses the piece of wood at her, and runs. 

It's a silly sequence. With a really gross dark thing going on. 

Cringe Comedy 

Schadenfreude is the German word for taking pleasure in other people's pain. One of my favorite iterations of cringe comedy is The Office . How fun is it to watch as Michael puts his foot in his mouth again and again? In features, you've got Bridesmaids, Meet the Parents, and King of Comedy as well.  

The cringe comedy also comes from something called dramatic irony. This is just where you might know what is going on with the character while they try to hide it. It's also germane to situational comedy (which is where we get the idea of the sitcom).

Watch this classic scene from The Simpsons : 

The scene is a play on the old sitcom trope of the boss coming over for dinner, and all things go haywire. We know what Skinner is trying to project, and we watch it breaking down as he fails. 

Deadpan Comedy

Deadpan humor often delivers us some of the funniest lines. Since this is more a style than anything else, think about Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec or even the movie Airplane!   All the lines are delivered with sincerity but all of them are funny. 

Check out this clip from Airplane!

Leslie Nielsen wasn't a comedic talent. At least, not for most of his life. He was an actor who starred in dramas. So were many in the Airplane! cast. 

What does this have to do with deadpan comedy? 

Just that by using actors who played every moment "straight" the silliness of what was happening in the script or onscreen was immediately contrasted by them. And hilarious. 

Very quickly Nielsen became known for being hilarious. But his deadpan is what made it work. 

The idea of deadpan also comes from the concept of a 'straight man' in a comedic duo. Go farther back to teams like Abbot and Costello, who started on the stage as a vaudeville act like so many great comedic talents. 

Lou Costello provided the over-the-top silliness. Bud Abbot was the 'straight man'. This is core to most comedy. Why? 

Because contrast and context are critical. If you make a movie where EVERYTHING onscreen is ridiculously silly, it's hard for the audience to ride the wave, to find the peaks and valleys. Plus ultimately they'll just get fatigued. 

It would be like watching an action movie where there was never a break in the fight scene. 

What are your favorite comedies ever? I bet if you look back you'll note that your favorite moments had some variance, some grounding, and probably a straight man (or woman). 


Nothing like a little mockumentary to poke fun at the seriousness of most documentaries. Maybe the all-time great mockumentary is This is Spinal Tap . On TV, shows like Modern Family  and What We do in the Shadows use mockumentary stylings to lampoon everyday life. 

But it does leave you wondering who is making the documentaries in some of these mockumentary style shows. 

In some sense it feels kind of like 'cheating' that the characters get a personal aside with the audience. On the other hand, it gets us closer to the 'family' of the series. 

It allows you and the characters to share a knowing glance. It connects audiences to characters in a powerful way. Maybe that's why millennials can't stop watching The Office on loop.

Wit/Wordplay comedy

There's a reason Shakespeare was so popular for comedy as well as tragedy. Wit and wordplay have always made audiences appreciate the complexities of language. Groucho Marx was an early cinema genius when it comes to puns. As do movies like Juno , O' Brother Where Art Thou, and The Big Lebowski.   

Now that you get different kinds of comedy. let's look at a few examples of comedic movies and TV shows. 

Examples of Comedy Genre Movies 

Since we've discussed why comedy is so hard to define in singular terms, I thought we'd look at a few titles that definitely stick out as comedy first movies. Stuff like Caddyshack , Kentucky Fried Movie , Spaceballs, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail  all put jokes forward. 

Still, comedy can be more nuanced than Monty Python style comedy. 

There are movies like Chasing Amy, Swiss Army Man, and Lady Bird that finagle their way between drama and comedy but still get called comedies. 

We'll get into other mashups later, but the real way to get labeled a comedy first is to have the stakes be low and personal. 

Examples of Comedy Genre TV Shows 

On television, there are lots of different comedy options. From late night comedy like Kimmel and Cordon to news-driven comedy like Samantha Bee. When I say "TV comedy" your mind probably travels immediately to modern sitcoms like Superstore and The Goldbergs . 

The thing is, TV isn't always on network TV anymore. Cable and streaming love the comedy space as well and let you flex your skills in different types of comedy as well. 

Look at shows like Dead to Me, Big Little Lie s, and Baskets . They all blur the lines between comedy and another genre as well as deliver laughs. 

As TV expands past the airwaves so will our access to different parts of humor. 

Comedy Genre Mash-up potential 

Comedy is a great genre because it can meld into any other genre out there. Levity can provide an interesting twist into anything. From the jokes and laughs in Rear Window to the horror-humor encapsulated in Shaun of the Dead . 

Action comedies traditionally do extremely well at the box office. take movies like Central Intelligence and Spy , they both were able to integrate comedy into their set pieces and were hits.  

On television, comedy is the backbone of sitcoms, but as TV expands its horizons, look at the successes of dark comedy like Barry , It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Fleabag, and End of the F*cking World to make you excited to pitch your next pilot .  

The word "dramedy" has also been used a lot. Shows like Casual and movies like Tully  still emphasize dramatic and realistic life events while couching them in humor to make the bitter pill taste sweeter. 

Hopefully, by now you can see that writing in the comedy space for TV and movies can allow you to access every genre across the board. Just make sure you nail the tone and the theme and everything will work out.  

What's next? Learn all the film and tv genres ! 

Film and TV genres affect who watches your work, how it's classified, and even how it's reviewed. So how do you decide what you're writing? And which genres to mash-up? The secret is in the tropes.  

Click the link to learn more! 

What is Chiaroscuro Lighting, And How Do Filmmakers Use It?

Chiaroscuro lighting technique is the undeniable king when it comes to crafting memorable images, let's break down how you can use it. .

In the realm of cinematic storytelling, light isn't just a tool to illuminate scenes; it's a powerful storytelling device that can shape the mood, tone, and narrative of a film.

One of the most visually striking and evocative lighting techniques in filmmaking is chiaroscuro lighting. Derived from the Italian words "chiaro" (light) and "scuro" (dark), chiaroscuro is a technique that explores the interplay of light and shadow to create dramatic and visually compelling images.

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of chiaroscuro lighting, uncovering its history, techniques, and its transformative role in cinema.

We work in a 2-dimensional medium, but we still want to create a three-dimensional look. Well, "look" no further than this time-tested method for accomplishing that goal. Chiaroscuro lighting.

Chiaroscuro Definition

Chiaroscuro is the use of contrast in light and shading across an entire image composition. It is a technique that creates a three-dimensional quality in images on a two-dimensional plane.

Chiaroscuro lighting was developed by Leonardo Davinci , Caravaggio, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. It is a signature quality in the works of their Renaissance art movement but is also well known today for its role in defining the film noir sub-genre of movies(among others) through low-key photography .

Chiaroscuro Lighting in Film and Art 

Chiaroscuro lighting finds its roots in the art world, particularly in the paintings of the Italian Renaissance. Artists like Caravaggio and Rembrandt were masters of this technique, using it to achieve a sense of depth, drama, and emotional resonance in their works.

In cinema, chiaroscuro lighting was popularized by film noir in the 1940s and has since become a staple in various film genres, from horror to drama.

Long after Rembrandt and co. defined it. But still, before it was used to create the pools of darkness that slowly enveloped Michael Corleone and his soul in The Godfather , Chiaroscuro lighting was pioneered in film during a movement called German Expressionism.

The sparse, harsh technique created a sense of literal darkness and would soon work it's way into American movies in prominent fashion with Orson Welles' Citizen Kane . Film noir was born shortly after that and the style became ingrained in our national psyche.

Why Use Chiaroscuro lighting

Chiaroscuro lighting is a potent tool for conveying emotion in film. The interplay of light and shadow can emphasize a character's inner turmoil, enhance the atmosphere of a scene, or even symbolize moral ambiguity.

By using chiaroscuro effectively, filmmakers can engage viewers on a subconscious level, drawing them deeper into the story.

Wo, why else do we use this kind of lighting?

  • Film Noir : Chiaroscuro lighting is synonymous with the film noir genre, known for its crime, intrigue, and moral ambiguity. The contrast between light and shadow in film noir is as much a character as the actors themselves.
  • Horror : In horror films, chiaroscuro lighting is employed to heighten tension and create terrifying visuals. Shadows hide the unknown, while light reveals the horrors lurking within.
  • Drama : Chiaroscuro can also be used in dramatic films to accentuate pivotal moments, heightening the emotional impact of key scenes.

​The Key Elements of Chiaroscuro Lighting

There are many different ways to approach recreating the Chiaroscuro look. The classic method is to light half of someone's face, and let the other half fall off into darkness.

But there are varying degrees beyond that.Do you want to set up a strong backlight, creating a sort of a low-key lighting halo effect? Obscuring the figures face in the process?

We referred to chiaroscuro as painting with light, but it's also a kind of writing with light. The image and frame itself become the story.

What part of the story do you wish to reveal with light in this moment of your story?

Let's take a look at some examples at using this in your own work.

  • High Contrast : At the heart of chiaroscuro lighting is a stark contrast between areas of light and shadow. This extreme contrast helps to create a sense of tension and intrigue in a scene.
  • Directional Light : Chiaroscuro lighting typically involves using a single, strong light source positioned at an angle to the subject. This directional light creates dramatic shadows and highlights.
  • Limited Fill Light : Fill light is minimal in chiaroscuro setups, allowing for deep shadows and areas of darkness that heighten the sense of mystery and suspense.
  • Light Placement : Experiment with the angle and position of your light source to achieve the desired level of contrast and shadow.
  • Modifiers : Use flags, diffusers, and gobos to shape and control the light, allowing you to craft intricate chiaroscuro effects.
  • Color Temperature : Consider the color temperature of your light source to add depth and dimension to your scenes.

How to Add Depth to Your Shots

The Taking of Christ (Caravaggio, c. 1602))

There are lots of ways you can add depth to your shot -- you can place objects in the foreground and background, use a shallow depth of field, or employ the parallax effect. But chiaroscuro is one method you should know and use every time your shoot involves lighting.

Let's look back, since we're on the topic of painting, at the chiaroscuro lighting technique as employed during the Baroque period (1600s) in which Vermeer, as well as my boy Caravaggio, were busy churning out the famed tronie Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Taking of Christ respectively.

Chiaroscuro Lighting Technique and How It Works

This video by Jordy Vandeput explains the details of this lighting technique (it's more of a tenet really): how it works, how to light it, and how artists such as the great Vermeer used it in his own paintings.

In essence, this lighting technique seems simple enough -- use dimmer and brighter lights in opposing succession to create contrast (light/dark), however you'll soon find out, when handling such unwieldy things as lights, that it's true what they say: cinematography is basically painting with light -- and painting ain't no easy task.

The reason I really enjoyed this video is because I'm a huge history nerd -- if you mix film techniques with any amount of art history, I'll go cuckoo bananas. (All Jordy had to do was mention Vermeer's name.)

Chiaroscuro lighting is a timeless and visually captivating technique that has left an indelible mark on the world of cinema. Whether you're a filmmaker aiming to evoke emotion, a cinematographer seeking to create striking visuals, or simply a film enthusiast interested in the art of storytelling, understanding chiaroscuro lighting is a valuable addition to your cinematic toolbox.

By mastering the interplay of light and shadow, you can elevate your filmmaking to new heights, crafting memorable and evocative stories that leave a lasting impact on your audience. Embrace the chiaroscuro, and let your creativity shine through the darkness.

How do you create depth in your compositions?

What's your favorite Vermeer/Caravaggio painting?

Let us know in the comments below.

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101 Hilarious (or Slightly Amusing) Comedic Story Prompts

comedy films essay

Do you need some help conjuring compelling comedy ideas? Sometimes reading simple comedic story prompts is the easiest way to find them.

Most writers are often asked,  “Where do you get your ideas from?”  A majority of the time, writers find it difficult to answer that question.

We get our ideas from a plethora of sources — news headlines, novels, television shows, movies, our lives, our fears, our phobias, etc. They can come from a scene or moment in a film that wasn’t fully explored. They can come from a single visual that entices the creative mind — a seed that continues to grow and grow until the writer is forced to finally put it to paper or screen.

In the spirit of helping writers find those seeds, here we offer 101 originally conceived and hilarious — or at the very least, slightly humorous — story prompts that you can use as inspiration for your next horror story.

They may inspire screenplays, novels, short stories, or even smaller moments that you can include in what stories you are already writing or what you will create in your upcoming projects.

Check our our other story prompt lists here!

1. Two opposing football coaches from rival schools fall in love with each other.

2. A man is afraid of everything.

3. A mom is obsessed with wanting to be popular amongst her teenage daughter's friends and peers.

4. A past arcade game champion from the 1980s quits his job to travel the country getting high scores on classic arcade game consoles.

5. A world where cats and dogs rule Earth.

6. Mark Twain is transferred into the future to experience what life is like now.

7. Someone believes that they are an amazing athlete, but nothing could be further from the truth.

8. A character desperate for a job accepts a position as an interpreter, but can't actually speak the native language.

9. A bigot's soul is transferred into a minority's body.

10. An egotistical genius is suddenly stripped of their intelligence.

11. An unethical CEO of a superstore is ordered by the court to work a month as a cashier.

12. A cowboy is forced to work in the corporate world.

13. A male mermaid falls in love with a female castaway.

14. Mrs. Claus is forced to deliver presents on Christmas after her husband runs off with a stripper.

15. A janitor enacts hilarious daily revenge on the students that mock him.

16. A man finds a loophole to enter the Miss Universe contest.

17. A disgraced angel who hates humans is forced to live amongst them.

18. A mother and her teenage son switch bodies.

19. The world's unluckiest man.

20. An Uber/taxi driver picks up a doppelganger.

comedy films essay

21. A world where everybody suddenly tells the truth no matter what the consequences.

22. A pastor is accidentally sent to Hell for a missionary trip.

23. A talented but laid-off chef is forced to take a job in a fast food joint.

24. A group of promiscuous high school friends decides to live like do-good virgins to win the heart of a new student.

25. What if Romeo and Juliet hated each other?

26. Someone dies, only to see that their childhood wish of returning to life as a dog comes true.

27. Someone that faints at the sight of blood becomes a vampire.

28. A man discovers that's he's actually a robot.

29. An alternate universe where adults are the children and kids run the world.

30. A man suffers from a strange mental disorder that forces him to communicate only through puns.

31. High school friends of the opposite sex vow to marry each other by 40 if they're still single — only to finally reunite at a high school reunion and discover they can't stand each other, but don't want to be alone.

32. A tone-deaf singer trying to make it as a performer.

33. An egotistical Dungeons & Dragons player wakes up within the world of their campaign.

34. Pranking gets out of hand in an office building.

35. A man finds any way he can to get his wife to divorce him — but none of it works.

36. A marriage counselor that has been married five times.

37. The world's worst beekeeper.

38. The world's worst soccer player that is only on the team because their father coaches.

39. An otherwise innocent priest is disenchanted with the church, quits, and decides to make up for lost time by sinning — but their conscience is making it very difficult.

40. The world's worst hunter.

41. The angel and devil on one's shoulders are actually real.

42. A man afraid of the water decides to confront his fear by visiting the world's biggest waterpark.

comedy films essay

43. A man afraid of clowns decides to confront his fear by attending clown school.

44. A woman is literally afraid of her own shadow.

45. The country's funniest comedian decides to run for president as a joke — and wins.

46. The world of enthusiastic parents and coaches during a week-long soccer tournament.

47. A group of childhood friends reunites for their 25th reunion only to learn that each of them has undergone drastic changes in their genders and sexualities.

48. A character obsessed with Tom and Jerry cartoons is thrust into that world.

49. The son of a secret agent is nothing like his father.

50. A princess from another country decides to go incognito and attend an American college.

51. A prince from a male-dominated society comes to America.

52. The opposite of vertigo — the fear of being too close to the ground.

53. A woman has Sinistrophobia — the fear of objects to your left.

54. A millennial who can't detach from technology is forced to go camping.

55. A romantic comedy about two dogs that fall in love against all the odds.

56. Someone that hates horror movies because the characters make stupid mistakes is thrust into a world where those scenarios play out.

57. Dogs and cats, living together.

58. The frog that was turned into a prince turns back into a frog after the princess divorces him.

59. A millennial who can't detach from technology is transported to 1980s.

60. A hipster who wishes they could live in the simpler times of the 1800s gets their wish and realizes how hard that life really was.

61. A Little House on the Prairie fan wishes they could live in that world and realizes how hard that life really was.

62. A TV personality is a fake Shark expert on a Shark Week show.

63. A popular TV Chef that can't really cook is hired by the White House to cook for the inaugural ball.

comedy films essay

64. An egotistical President of the United States decides to pull a publicity stunt for the upcoming election — he wants to be the first president in space.

65. A family wakes up to discover that their dog, two cats, and two frogs can now talk.

66. A family is transported to the land of Oz only to be mistaken as witches because of their smartphones.

67. Unappreciative twin brother and sister are transported into the bodies of their father (brother) and mother (sister) at their birth and get a taste of what it was like raising twins.

68. Unappreciative twin brother and sister are transported into the bodies of their father (sister) and mother (brother) at their birth and get a taste of what it was like raising twins.

69. Parents travel into the future to see what their children are like — and the results are not that great.

70. Grandparents welcome their six grandchildren for a week's vacation; only the parents never come back.

71. A group of children start an underground candy factory and run it like a drug cartel.

72. A group of soccer moms start an underground cupcake factory and run it like a drug cartel.

73. A bunch of bored fathers that binge The Sopranos decides to start a suburban mafia — but they are a far cry from gangsters.

74. A farmer decides to open a knock-off of Disneyland, complete with lackluster versions of Pirates of the Caribbean , The Jungle Cruise , It's a Small World , and many other iconic Disney rides.

75. The competitive world of belly flop competitions.

76. The competitive world of cannonball diving.

77. The competitive world of adult go-cart racing.

78. The competitive world of minigolf tournaments.

79. Neighbors living in Midwest suburbia decide to get into the lucrative world of internet couples pornography.

80. A white family wants to open up a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown.

81. A group of children obsessed with 1980s movies decides to remake the classics.

comedy films essay

82. A group of children playing hide and seek in their basement discover old VHS tapes and have no clue how to play them — leading to an adventurous journey of mystery and discovery.

83. A middle school decides to run school elections like the presidential race and prove to the world how childish adults in the political world really are.

84. A grownup butt dials their childhood phone number. Guess who answers?

85. A priest, a rabbi, and a monk walk into a bar.

86. The world's worst fistfight between two suburban dads goes viral.

87. A world where humans evolved from sloths.

88. A white-collar prisoner does everything he can to return to prison when he's released at an old age.

89. A spoof of The Shawshank Redemption where the protagonist is an idiot that makes the most stupid mistakes and gets caught at every escape attempt.

90. The world's easiest prison to escape.

91. A hardcore rapper that actually didn't grow up in the hood.

92. A mom that has had enough of her spoiled children and husband plans a vacation for herself.

93. A man and his best friend, his dog, switch bodies.

94. A woman and her best friend, a cat, switch bodies.

95. A movie buff that is sick of body switch movies actually switches bodies with someone.

96. The competitive world of the Summer Redneck Games —classic events include the toilet seat horseshoe toss, watermelon seed spitting, mud pit belly flop.

97. The competitive world of Quidditch.

98. The world of Renaissance fairs.

99. The world of cosplayers.

100. A 25th high school reunion committee decides to do an adult prom, leading to mirrored drama from twenty-five years ago.

101. A blogger trying to concoct a list of 101 hilarious (or slightly amusing) comedic story prompts runs out of ideas when he reaches the end of the list.

comedy films essay

Share this with your writing peers or anyone that loves a funny story. Have some prompts of your own? Share them through comments on Facebook posts or Twitter retweets!

Keep writing.

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries  Blackout , starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter  @KenMovies

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‘pirates of the caribbean’ reboot: ‘the last of us’ showrunner craig mazin thought disney would pass on script due to it being “too weird”, ‘the palace’ review: roman polanski’s dreadful hotel comedy makes the controversial director a laughing stock – venice film festival  .

By Damon Wise

Film Editor, Awards

More Stories By Damon

  • ‘Green Border’ Review: Agnieszka Holland’s Humanitarian Masterpiece Offers A Harrowing Vision Of The Refugee Crisis In Europe – Venice Film Festival
  • ‘The Killer’ Review: David Fincher’s Lean, Mean Hitman Drama Hits The Target – Venice Film Festival
  • ‘The Beast’ Review: Bertrand Bonello’s Trippy Sci-Fi Offers A Lynchian View Of The Past, Present And Future – Venice Film Festival

Roman Polanski movie The Palace

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Roman Polanski movie The Palace

Roman Polanski’s ‘The Palace’ Gets 3-Minute Ovation At Venice Film Festival

Venice Film Festival 2023

Venice Film Festival 2023: All Of Deadline’s Movie Reviews

The setting is The Palace, a plush Alpine hideaway where the jet set of Europe are gathering to see in the year 2000. There are fears that the Y2K bug will bring the world to a standstill, and perhaps even destroy it completely, but the unflappable maitre d’hôtel Hansueli Kopf (Oliver Masucci) insists everything will be fine. The aim is simply to satisfy the influx of rich and gaudy guests who will “stuff themselves with caviar to their hearts’ content” and drink champagne until it “gushes from their ears.”

He’s not wrong. His vulgar clientele includes a gaggle of ladies who lunch whose facelifted faces become grotesquely coquettish when vying for the attentions of a famous plastic surgeon. There’s a porn star called Bongo who once insured his cock for $5 million; a nymphomaniac French marquise whose dog Mr. Toby refuses to shit in the snowy outdoors; and a band of Russian gangsters who arrive with their entourage of hookers and bodyguards only to find that Boris Yeltsin has handed over their country to a young up-and-comer called Vladimir Putin.

None of this, however, can prepare you for the horror of the scenes involving John Cleese as 87-year-old U.S. tycoon Arthur William Dallas III, who is celebrating a year of marriage to his 22-year-old whiyaat-traaaash wife Magnolia. Spoiler alert: he will die while they’re having sex, which will leave Magnolia penniless if, as per the terms of their pre-nup, his death is reported before midnight strikes on their first anniversary. This leads to an excruciating sequence that makes Weekend at Berni e ’s look like the wittiest jape of the season, as Kopf and his staff bundle the corpse into a wheelchair, cigar in hand, while the other guests are distracted by a lavish firework display.

Nothing about it is remotely funny: Really, seriously, nothing at all. There’s toilet humor, bawdy innuendo, a tin-eared joke about Alzheimer’s, and some crass satire that plummets to such shameless depths that you know if won’t really be over until the drunk lady barfs (and she does). It beggars belief, but, at the age of 90, Polanski may have actually cancelled himself with a film that will probably never see the light of day in any English-speaking countries. Polanski completists are welcome to hunt it down — it has sold to a worrying number of international territories — and if they do, they deserve everything they get.

Title:  The Palace Festival: Venice (Out of Competition) Director: Roman Polanski Screenwriters: Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski, Ewa Piaskowska Cast: Oliver Masucci, Fanny Ardant , John Cleese, Mickey Rourke Running time:  1hr 40 min Sales agent: Goodfellas

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‘Office Race’ Producers on How ‘Caddyshack’ and ‘Dodgeball’ Inspired Joel McHale, Beck Bennett-Led Running Comedy

By Sophia Scorziello

Sophia Scorziello

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Joel McHale in "Office Race"

If you’ve ever been around a runner or went to high school pretty much anywhere, you’ve probably seen the cross country shirts with the message, “Your team’s punishment is our team’s sport.” It’s not untrue that runners are usually not shy to talk about running, whether they’re asking you to make a donation in support of them running a marathon or trying to get you to come on a run with them in a snow storm because the texture is just better that way.

“We started breaking down what categories target passionate, but kind of underserved audiences. And we literally started listing a bunch of them,” Hunt tells Variety . After a long list of options, Hunt and Lieberman landed on the subject of runners.

“Brian brought up sort of few different things and I remember seeing running. Back in the day, when I was much younger and in better shape, I used to run half marathons and triathlons and all my friends used to make fun of me for it,” says Lieberman.

Once that was settled, the producers moved on to wrangling a funny-enough ensemble cast. They brought on Above Average’s Ally Engelberg as a producer, who found it fairly easy to bring on talent that wanted strictly business for comedy.

Comedy Central, which previously put out TV movies like “Out of Office” and “Reno 911!: It’s a Wonderful Heist,” helped Engelberg bring on former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Beck Bennett and “Community’s” Joel McHale as leading men. Bennett plays Pat, an out-of-shape, average office Joe who vows to run a marathon against his smug, uber-fit boss Spencer, played by McHale.

The film also stars comedy vets and newcomers alike including Kelsey Grammer, Alyson Hannigan, J.B. Smoove, Erinn Hayes, Kylie Bunbury, Geoffrey Arend, Katlyn Carlson, Matt Richards and Karolena Theresa. They also got former “SNL” star Sasheer Zamata on board along with a cameo from retired NFL running back Reggie Bush (“He’s so dry, his unbelievable delivery,” Engleberg mentions.)

In addition to the parameters of a target audience they could punch up at and a solid ensemble cast, the producers had to work within a budget of $5 to $10 million and work in some sort of brand placement along the way. In comparison to this summer’s comedy films, “Office Race” shies far away from the Jennifer Lawrence-led “No Hard Feelings” which had a production budget of around $45 million and sits closer to Emma Seligman’s gym-class farce “Bottoms” which worked with a budget of just over $11 million.

“There was no Tom Cruise role to be the number one that gets it made,” says Lieberman. With a small budget in mind, the producers tapped numerous brands for placement advertisement. From conception to finish, the film ran (literally) from 2016 through 2023, and they were lucky enough to have one brand stick with them through the process: Google. Lieberman explains that they wanted a seamless brand integration, something tasteful that wouldn’t impede the comedy of it all.

“I remember Brian telling me that ‘Dodgeball’ actually ran out of money and sold sponsorships throughout all the games — which I didn’t even realize — and that’s how they completed the film,” says Lieberman. “But it was done in such a clever way that it actually enhanced the movie. And I think that’s really what we want to include in this.”

One other homage to classic ensemble comedies was bespoke theme songs, like Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” for “National Lampoon’s Vacation” or Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright” theme for “Caddyshack.” So, they called on singer Bryan Adams whose hits like “Heaven,” “All For Love,” “Everything I Do (I Do For You)” have appeared in a litany of films from “A Night in Heaven” to “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”

“As part of the throwback feel,” says Hunt, “[Adams] did two songs for the movie and it just fit the whole feeling of like those big comedies that everyone grew up on and loved.”

The film was directed by Jared Lapidus and written by Lapidus and James Kilmoon. See below for an exclusive clip from “Office Race,” which premieres Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. on Comedy Central.

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‘hit man’ review: richard linklater’s sexy comedy makes a star out of glen powell.

Playing out of competition in Venice, the film — co-starring Adria Arjona — centers on a geeky academic who also works undercover for the police posing as a hit man.

By Leslie Felperin

Leslie Felperin

Contributing Film Critic

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Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'

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Based on what the opening titles describe as a “somewhat true story,” the film casts Powell as a real guy named Gary Johnson who was profiled by Skip Hollandsworth for a Texas Monthly article in 2001. With the help of cheap-looking glasses, a listless hairdo and the trademark chinos of defeated masculinity, the naturally handsome Powell passes convincingly in the opening sequence as the sad-sack nudnik, a divorced professor who owns two cats, Id and Ego, and teaches psychology and philosophy. In fact, he’s first met giving a lecture on identity, a slightly on-the-nose gesture toward the film’s core theme: How much can people truly change? Does pretending to be someone long enough effectively make you that person in some way? It’s a question surely every actor, whether they’re deep into the Method or not, ponders at some point.

But this act of desperation turns out to be inspired casting when Gary proves to be a natural, good at thinking fast on his feet and adept at sinking into a character. He has to walk a fine line and get the prospective client, who contacted the imaginary hitman through various underworld contacts, to say they want Gary to kill someone in order to avoid the case being thrown out because of police entrapment. (It’s a good thing the script makes this clear, because some viewers may think from the start that this sure looks like textbook entrapment.)

Viewers well-versed in the conventions of erotic thrillers will sense immediately something is a bit off when Maddy manages to persuade Ron/Gary to come out dancing with her at a club where — what a coincidence! — Ray just happens to be arriving as they’re leaving. Angry words exchanged between him and Maddy compel Ron/Gary, introduced to Ray as her boyfriend, to defend his lady’s honor. But in the process, he realizes she’s not been entirely honest with him given it turns out she’s not divorced from Ray yet. Faster than you can say Double Indemnity , things take a dark turn.

But fascinatingly, there’s a dawn after the darkness, and the film really pays off on its commitment to questioning whether action really is character and vice versa. The final payoff is wonderfully subversive, and feels earned by a build-up where Ron/Gary has to decide how much to reveal about himself and how far he will go for Maddy, a much more complicated character than he first thought. If she turned out at first not to be the killer that the police, hoping for another booking, thought she would be, she also turns out to be no girl scout either.

Edited by Linklater’s regular collaborator Sandra Adair (who has been with him since Dazed and Confused in 1993), the film has a screwball zing to the pacing that seems grounded, like so many of Linklater’s movies, in a depthless affection for actors. The performances are framed so lovingly, from the leads right down to every petty criminal and background artist, that the craftsmanship becomes barely noticeable — just a delivery vehicle for a cracking tall(ish) tale.

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Icg to honor janusz kaminski, stephen lighthill at emerging cinematographers awards, annapurna animation expands with ‘nimona’ team; announces pair of upcoming features, ‘green border’ review: agnieszka holland’s knockout drama follows refugees stuck in limbo, ‘the monk and the gun’ review: from bhutan, a wry satirical comedy about democracy and violence, richard linklater’s comedy thriller ‘hit man’ draws killer reception in venice, ‘the nun ii’ director michael chaves takes the demon nun to 1950s france and teases conjuring universe impact.



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