By Andrew Stott
What's comedy? Andrew Stott tackles this query via an research of comedian kinds, theories and methods, tracing the old definitions of comedy from Aristotle to Chris Morris's Brass Eye through Wilde and Hancock. instead of trying to produce a totalising definition of 'the comic', this quantity makes a speciality of the importance of comedian 'events' via research of assorted theoretical methodologies, together with deconstruction, psychoanalysis and gender conception, and offers case stories of a few issues, starting from the drag act to the simplicity of slipping on a banana epidermis.
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Extra info for Comedy (The New Critical Idiom)
Such holidays provide the basis for the staged folly, disguise, and masquerade of any number of Shakespeare’s plays. For Barber, comedy is essentially ‘saturnalian’, an experience of pleasurable merrymaking and social inversion named after the revels devoted to the Roman god Saturn. Saturnalian comedy is neither satirical nor political, but devoted to a process Barber calls ‘release and clarification’. ‘Release’ refers to the loosening of social controls during holidays, and leads Barber, like Freud, to ascribe comic COMEDY IN THE ACADEMY 31 pleasure to the redistribution of mental energy normally devoted to social conformity, so that ‘the energy normally occupied in maintaining inhibitions is freed for celebration’ (Barber, 1963:7).
New Comedy is derived from the work of the Greek dramatist Menander, whose plays, up until the discovery of papyrus fragments in 1905, were known only through the adaptations and embellishments of the Roman comic authors Plautus and Terence. Considering the enormous impact Menander has had on comedy, very little is known about him. He was an Athenian, who according to one account, wrote 108 plays, but had only modest success during his lifetime, and was eclipsed by other authors of New Comedy, of whom even less is known.
The origins of commedia dell’arte are obscure, but various types of performance appear to have contributed to its development: the stereotypes of New Comedy, of course, as well as the Roman fabula (various types of comic interlude), mime and buffoon shows, mountebanks, carnival processions, and medieval stage devils. The main characters of commedia appear to have emerged from four principal types, two infuriating vecchi, or old men, usually parents or guardians, and two zanni, or clowns, principally responsible for the comedy.