Slapstick - a type of low comedy involving physical action

A Humorous Vocabulary
Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are
interested and the frog dies of it. – E.B. White
Sarcasm and Irony: If you’ve ever said to someone, “I love what you’re wearing” when you actually
think it looks awful, there are three possibilities:
1. You want that person to believe you, in which case you are lying, but probably out of a kindly
2. You don’t want to be believed. You want to upset the other person. In this case, you are being
3. You don’t want to be believed. You want the other person to share a feeling of amusement. In
this case, you are being ironic.
In classical Greek comedy, there was sometimes a character called the eiron. He was a dissembler,
someone who deliberately pretended to be less intelligent than he really was, and often spoke using
understatement. (Incidentally, the eiron often came out on top.) The word irony is now used in several
slightly different ways, but they all retain the idea of a discrepancy between what is said and what is
really the case, or between what is expected and what really happens.
Types of Irony:
1. Verbal Irony - A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used in a sense contrary to its
conventional meaning for ironic or humorous effect. For example, consider the following; “I was
awakened by the dulcet tones of Frank, the morning doorman, alternately yelling my name,
ringing my doorbell, and pounding on my apartment door." Frank’s yelling is hardly going
“dulcet” or pleasing to the ear.
2. Situational Irony - An occasion in which the outcome is significantly different from what was
expected or considered appropriate. An example would be a man who takes a step aside in order
to avoid getting sprinkled by a wet dog, and falls into a swimming pool.
3. Dramatic Irony - an effect produced by a narrative in which the audience knows more about
present or future circumstances than a character in the story. "In There's Something About Mary
(1998), [when] Ted thinks he's been arrested for picking up a hitchhiker while the audience
knows he's being questioned by police about a murder, otherwise innocuous lines he delivers,
such as 'I've done it several times before' and 'It's no big deal,' generate laughter." (Paul Gulino,
Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach.)
Satire is a form of humor where the writer or speaker tries to make the reader or listener have a negative
opinion about someone, by laughing at them, making them seem ridiculous or foolish, etc. If someone is
being satirical, his aim is not just to amuse, but to affect the person he dislikes; to hurt them, ruin them,
correct them, point out the flaws to others, etc. The ultimate aim of satire is to point out a problem and
encourage other to fix it.
Parody - an imitation of a person, subject, or style that, by ridiculous exaggeration or distortion, aims to
amuse. The quality which characterizes this technique is a discrepancy between the subject matter and
the style in which it is treated. For example, a frivolous subject may be treated with mock dignity, or a
weighty subject might be handled in trivial style. Think Weird Al Yankovic’s “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi” or
“White and Nerdy.”
Slapstick - a type of low comedy involving physical action. One classic piece of slapstick is the hapless
slip on a banana peel. Slapstick frequently involves violence, often exaggerated violence that has little to
no permanent effect on the characters, such as that displayed in television shows like the Three Stooges,
and cartoons such as Tom and Jerry or the Roadrunner.
Pun - A play on words, either on different senses of the same word or on the similar sense or sound of
different words. For example, a joke based on a pun reads like this; a vulture boards a plane, carrying two
dead possums. The attendant looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per
Bawdy - sexual humor. This type of comedy is frequently associated with farce, but also, in its more
witty form, with the comedy of manners. Innuendo, double entendre, burlesque, and vaudeville all use
bawdy humor.
Innuendo - a hint or insinuation, usually critical and often improper and/or sexual in nature. For
example, Mae West's famous line, "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?" or the
popular use of "it" with an unclear referent, as in "Comedians do it standing up."
Double Entendre - a figure of speech in which a word or phrase can be understood in two ways,
especially when one meaning is risqué. For example, a female news anchor who, the day after it was
supposed to have snowed, turned to the weatherman and asked, "So Bob, where's that eight inches you
promised me last night?" The double entendre can be particularly awkward if unintentional, as when a
US PGA commentator said, "One of the reasons Arnie (Arnold Palmer) is playing so well is that, before
each tee shot, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them...Oh my god, what have I just said?!"
Black Humor - differs from most other types of comedy because it is often as disturbing as it is funny.
Black humor violates sacred and secular taboos alike without restraint or compunction. It discovers cause
for laughter in what has generally been regarded as too serious for frivolity: the death of men, the
disintegration or social institutions, mental and physical disease, deformity, suffering, anguish, privation
and terror. For example, Stanley Kubrick's film Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying
and Love the Bomb (1963) is a terrifying comic treatment of the circumstances surrounding the dropping
of an atom bomb. Dead baby jokes are a very low form of black humor.
Absurdism- also sometimes called nonsense or surrealist humor. This type of comedy relies on some
sort of violation of causal reasoning, or presents illogical events or reactions. Non sequitur responses,
where someone says something, and then the other person says something that does not logically follow,
are often part of absurdist humor.
Caricature - Visual art or descriptive writing that greatly exaggerates certain features of a subject to
create a comic or absurd effect.
Malapropism - Absurd or humorous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar
sound. For example, when saying grace, Homer Simpson once said, “Dear Lord, thank you for this
microwave bounty, even though we don’t deserve it. I mean…our kids are hellions! Did you see them at
the picnic? Oh, of course you did. You’re everywhere. You’re omnivorous.” Obviously Homer means
to say “omniscient,” not that God eats both meat and vegetables.