There are various types of comedy used in comedy films, ranging from slapstick comedy to satire. When you’re writing a comedy, it’s important to use various elements of comedy, so I’ve combined a list of the top 7 types of comedy used in comedy films.
1: Slapstick Comedy
Slapstick comedy has been around for a long time, and still used in todays films. Slapstick, or physical humor, is where a character gets hurt, but in a comedic way. For example, the Three Stooges would be an example of slapstick comedy because they’re always getting hurt in some comedic way.
Whether the person trips and hurts themselves or is getting their chest waxed like in the movie, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, audiences can’t resist laughing at someone else’s pain. So if you’re planning on incorporating physical humor into your script, make sure it serves a purpose and moves the plot forward.
2: Bathroom Humor
Who doesn’t like a nice bathroom joke once in a while? Some types of bathroom humor might include farting, toilet, or even urine humor. Yes, not everyone finds bathroom humor funny, but if you use it wisely, it could be humorous, and audiences will get a good laugh out of it.
For example, in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”, the scene where Harold and Kumar are hiding in the women’s restroom stall is a classic use of bathroom humor. What makes the scene funny is not only seeing the two girls play a farting game while they’re in their stalls, but it’s Harold and Kumar’s reactions that make the scene humorous!
3: Using Parody
Parodies are great in comedies because they poke fun at a film that has already been made and put their own twist on it. For example, the movie “Spaceballs” is a direct parody of Star Wars. What makes the movie humorous is those who have seen Star Wars can easily catch the references made and quote the classic comedic lines from the film.
For example, the line “May the Schwartz be with you” is a parody to the famous Star Wars quote “May the force be with you” which is used throughout the franchise. So, when you’re writing a parody, make sure you put your own spin on the movie you’re referencing.
4: Spoof Comedy
Unlike parodies, a spoof is a slight nod to a scene from a film. When you’re writing a spoof, it has to make sense and drive the plot of the story forward. For example, “Back to the Future III” spoofs a western movies. A good example is the shootout scene between Marty McFly and Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen.
Marty called himself Clint Eastwood. And in one scene, Marty wears a boiler plate underneath his outfit as a bulletproof vest. This parodies the scene from Clint Eastwood’s movie “A Fistful of Dollars”.
5: Deadpan Comedy
Deadpan comedy is mainly dialogue based where a character says a line expressing no emotion, but the line is funny. In most cases, characters are put in serious situations. From there, they will either say something funny while giving a serious expression… Or do something humorous while giving a serious look on.
In “Airplane” for example, Leslie Nielson plays a doctor on board the flight. When both pilots fall ill due to the dinner served, he explains to the stewardess in a serious manner of the symptoms of the illness as the third pilot falls ill, but in a comedic way.
6: Wit And Wordplay
Going back to the early years of cinema, wit/wordplay was a common type of comedy used in film. For example Groucho Marx could deliver an insult in a comedic way. For example, in his movie, “A Night in Casablanca”, Mr. Smythe, played by Paul Harvey says to Kornblow, played by Marx, “Sir this lady is my wife. You should be ashamed” to which Marx replies “If this lady is your wife, you should be ashamed.”
Wordplay, on the other hand, is kind of like a pun. Going back to “Airplane” the line “Surely you can’t be serious” is a pun itself because Leslie Nielson’s character responds with, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”
7: Observational Humor
Although it’s mainly used in stand-up comedy, observational humor are jokes that the audience can relate to. For example, the beginning of “Annie Hall” starts with observational humor. Although the protagonist isn’t on stage talking to the audience. As the film starts with him telling a joke to the audience in what appears to be a dating service video.
Another example of observational humor is “Funny People.” The film features comedians, telling jokes on stage. At the same time, the film tells an original story that pushes the plot forward. By incorporating different types of comedy, you’ll be able to better plan your unique film.
David Schwartz is a freelance script consultant and screenwriter. As a script consultant, he has provided coverage to screenwriters who wanted additional feedback to their script. His goal is to help writers improve their script before they send their scripts off to the industry. If you are a writer and are interested in having feedback on your script, please visit his website: www.davidschwartzconsulting.com