Various types of Comedy are used in comedy films, ranging from slapstick comedy to satire. When you’re writing a comedy, it’s essential to use multiple 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 is 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 permanently getting damaged in some comedic way.
Whether the person trips and hurts themselves or gets 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 plan 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 bathroom humor might include farting, toilet, or even urine humor. Not everyone finds bathroom humor funny, but if you use it wisely, it could be humorous, and audiences will get a good laugh.
For example, in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” the scene where Harold and Kumar hide in the women’s restroom stall is a classic use of bathroom humor. What makes the scene funny is seeing the two girls play a farting game while they’re in their stalls, and Harold and Kumar’s reactions make the scene humorous!
3: Using Parody
Parodies are great in comedies because they poke fun at a film already made and put their twist on it. For example, the movie “Spaceballs” is a direct parody of Star Wars. What makes the movie humorous is that those who have seen Star Wars can easily catch the references and quote the classic comedic lines from the film.
For example, “May the Schwartz be with you” is a parody of the famous Star Wars quote “May the force be with you” used throughout the franchise. So, when writing a satire, make sure you put your 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 joke, it has to make sense and drive the story’s plot forward. For example, “Back to the Future III” spoofs 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 boilerplate 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 difficult situations. From there, they will either say something funny while giving a serious expression… Or do something humorous while offering a serious look.
In “Airplane,” Leslie Nielson plays a doctor on the flight. When both pilots fall ill due to the dinner served, he explains to the stewardess seriously the symptoms of the illness as the third pilot falls sick, 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 the film. For example, Groucho Marx could deliver an insult in a comedic way. For instance, 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 is jokes that the audience can relate to. For example, “Annie Hall” begins with observational humor. Although the protagonist isn’t on stage talking to the audience. 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 can plan your unique movie better.
David Schwartz is a freelance script consultant and screenwriter. As a script consultant, he has provided coverage to screenwriters who wanted additional script feedback. He aims to help writers improve their scripts before sending them off to the industry. If you are a writer and are interested in having input on your script, please visit his website: www.davidschwartzconsulting.com