Comedic genres

Comedy may be divided into multiple genres based on the source of humor, the method of delivery, and the context in which it is delivered.

These classifications overlap, and most comedians can fit into multiple genres. For example, deadpan comics often fall into observational comedy, or into black comedy or blue comedy to contrast the morbidity, or offensiveness of the joke with a lack of emotion.

GenreDescriptionNotable examples
Alternative comedyDiffers from traditional punchline jokes which features many other forms of comedy such as observation, satire, surrealism, slapstick and improvisation. In its content, Alternative Comedy emerged as a counter to the establishment entertainment figures from the previous generation: It was often cited for its disregard to established comedic movements and ranged from the surreal to slapstick, usually with a combination of both.Tony Allen, Alexei Sayle, Mark Steel, Dan Harmon, Dave Gorman, Linda Smith, Jeremy Hardy, Ron Sparks, Alan Davies, Ben Elton, Jo Brand, Stewart Lee, Sean Hughes, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmonson, Malcolm Hardee, Kristen Schaal, Kevin McAleer, Simon Munnery, Arthur Smith, Arnold Brown, Robert Newman, Kenny Sebastian
Anecdotal comedy[1] Named after the word anecdote (which stems from the Greek term meaning “unpublished”); refers to comic personal stories that may be true or partly true but embellished[1] Kevin Hart, Louis CK, Patrice O'Neal, Russell Peters, Norm Macdonald, Aries Spears, Hannibal Buress, Deon Cole, John Mulaney, Bill Burr, Roy Wood, Jr., Dave Chappelle, Cedric The Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Gabriel Iglesias, Alonzo Bodden, D.L. Hughley, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Griffin, Hasan Minhaj, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Tom Segura, Trevor Noah, Daniel Kitson, Chris Rock, Zakir Khan
Anti-humorA type of indirect humor that involves the joke-teller delivering something which is intentionally not funny, or lacking in intrinsic meaningAndy Kaufman, Norm Macdonald, Ted Chippington, John Thomson, Andy Milonakis, Neil Hamburger, Tim & Eric, Eric Andre, Edward Aczel, Paul Putner, Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Martin Mull, Bill Bailey, Bo Burnham. TV shows: The Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, The Inbetweeners.
Black comedy or dark comedyDeals with disturbing subjects such as death, drugs, terrorism, rape, and war; can sometimes be related to the horror movie genreCoen brothers, Jim Norton, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Dave Chappelle, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Louis C.K., Denis Leary, Monty Python, Richard Pryor, Ricky Gervais, George Carlin, Chris Rush, Mike Ward, Penn & Teller, Joseph Dale, Seth MacFarlane, Christopher Titus, Sacha Baron Cohen, Trey Parker/Matt Stone, Quentin Tarantino, David Cross, Peter Kay, Anthony Jeselnik, Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg, Bobcat Goldthwait, Brendon Burns, Mark Normand
Blue comedyTypically sexual in nature (risqué) and/or using profane language; sometimes using gender or race based humor.Dave Attell, Roy 'Chubby' Brown, Frankie Boyle, Chappelle's Show, Cheech & Chong, Jim Davidson, Derek and Clive, Jenny Eclair, The Firesign Theatre, Redd Foxx, Jim Jefferies, Lisa Lampanelli, Martin Lawrence, George Lopez, Seth MacFarlane, Bernard Manning, Monty Python, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Joe Rogan, Bob Saget, Sarah Silverman, Frank Skinner, Doug Stanhope, Robert Schimmel, Amy Schumer, John Valby, Ron White
Character comedyDerives humor from a persona invented by a performer; often from stereotypesPhyllis Diller, Andy Kaufman, Jim Carrey, Bob Nelson, Catherine Tate, Paul Eddington, Andrew Dice Clay, Rich Hall, Tim Allen, John Gordon Sinclair, Lenny Henry, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Ryan, Joseph Dale, Steve Guttenberg, Jerry Sadowitz, Steve Coogan, Bip, Jay London, Larry the Cable Guy, Sarah Silverman, Paul Reubens, Rob Brydon, Rowan Atkinson, Peter Helliar, Harry Enfield, Margaret Cho, Little Britain, Stephen Colbert, Al Murray, Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Kevin Hart, Alex Borstein, Vadivelu, Barry Humphries, Paul O'Grady, Caroline Aherne, Mary Tyler Moore, Kate McKinnon, Mo Collins, Chris Lilley, Michael McDonald (comedian), Kristen Wiig
Cringe comedyA comedy of embarrassment, in which the humor comes from inappropriate actions or words; usually popular in television shows and film, but occasionally in stand-up as wellRicky Gervais, Richard Herring, Rufus Hound, Larry David, Alan Partridge, Bob Saget; TV shows: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Peep Show, The Proposal, The Larry Sanders Show
Deadpan comedyNot strictly a style of comedy, it is telling jokes without a change in facial expression or change of emotionMilton Jones, Jack Dee, Bob Newhart, Jimmy Carr, Steven Wright, Peter Cook, Craig Ferguson, Dylan Moran, Christopher Walken, W. Kamau Bell, Buster Keaton, Bill Murray, Jim Gaffigan, Les Dawson, Mike Birbiglia, Mitch Hedberg, Bruce McCulloch, Demetri Martin, Todd Barry, Elliott Goblet, Aubrey Plaza, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Redmond, Judah Friedlander, James Acaster
Heritage comedyA method or genre in which a comedian discuss humorous traits or stereotypes about their own culture or heritage.Pat Cooper, Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Gabriel Iglesias, George Lopez, Jackie Mason, Russell Peters, Richard Pryor, Yakov Smirnoff, Henning Wehn
Improvisational comedyImprovisational (sometimes shortened to improv) comics rarely plan out their routines; television show examples: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Thank God You're HereRobin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Eddie Izzard, Bob Nelson, Paula Poundstone, Paul Merton, Tony Slattery, Josie Lawrence, Jim Sweeney, Steve Steen, Lily Tomlin, Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Drew Carey, Greg Proops, John Sessions, Neil Mullarkey, Kathy Greenwood, Brad Sherwood, Chip Esten, Jeff Davis, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jonathan Mangum, Mark Meer, Larry David, David Lawrence, Paul Spence, John Valby, Kaneez Surka
Insult ComedyA form which consists mainly of offensive insults directed at the performer's audience and/or other performersDon Rickles, Andrew Dice Clay, Ricky Gervais, Bob Saget, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Jerry Sadowitz, Sam Kinison, Seth MacFarlane, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Roy 'Chubby' Brown, Marcus Valerius Martialis, Jeffrey Ross, Dave Attell, Lisa Lampanelli, D.L. Hughley, Greg Giraldo, Goundamani, Kathy Griffin, John Valby, Gilbert Gottfried, Joan Rivers, Jeremy Clarkson
MockumentaryA parody using the conventions of documentary styleFilms and TV shows: Fubar & Fubar 2, Borat, This is Spinal Tap, The Monkees, The Rutles, Summer Heights High, Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo, The Office, Brüno, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, Come Fly with Me, Angry Boys, The Compleat Al, "Trailer Park Boys"
Musical ComedyA form of alternative comedy where humor is mostly derived from music with (or sometimes without) lyricsBill Bailey, Denis Leary, Tim Minchin, Ninja Sex Party, The Lonely Island, Flight Of The Conchords, Les Luthiers, Mitch Benn, Tenacious D, Spinal Tap, Stephen Lynch, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Joseph Dale, Bob Rivers, Bo Burnham, Wayne Brady, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Tiny Meat Gang, Tom Lehrer, Victor Borge, John Valby, Jasper Carrott, Boothby Graffoe, David O'Doherty, Rachel Bloom, Adam Sandler, Victoria Wood, Allan Sherman.
Observational comedyPokes fun at everyday life, often by inflating the importance of trivial things or by observing the silliness of something that society accepts as normalGeorge Carlin, Cheech & Chong, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., Craig Ferguson, Larry David, Mitch Hedberg, Billy Connolly, Michael McIntyre, Russell Howard, Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey, Gabriel Iglesias, W. Kamau Bell, Ray Romano, Chris Rush, Dane Cook, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Jim Gaffigan, Kathy Greenwood, Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Peters, John Mulaney, Peter Kay, Victoria Wood, Sapan Verma
One-line jokeA joke that is delivered in a single line. A good one-liner is said to be pithy - concise and meaningfulTommy Cooper, Rodney Dangerfield, Ken Dodd, Stewart Francis, Milton Jones, Tim Vine, Henny Youngman, Mitch Hedberg, Jimmy Carr, Steven Wright, Demetri Martin, Anthony Jeselnik, Doug Benson, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifianakis, Shappi Khorsandi, Dan Mintz, Groucho Marx, Jay London
Physical comedy Somewhat similar to slapstick, this form uses physical movement and gestures; often influenced by clowningMichael Richards, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, Jim Carrey, Bob Nelson, Norman Wisdom, Jerry Lewis, Robin Williams, Chevy Chase, John Ritter, Conan O'Brien, Kunal Nayyar, Mr. Bean, Michael Mcintyre, Lee Evans, Bill Irwin, David Shiner, Joseph Dale, Max Wall, Matthew Perry, Brent Butt, Kathy Greenwood, The Three Stooges, Lano & Woodley, Lucille Ball, Chris Farley, Sebastian Maniscalco, The Dangerous Brothers, Danny Kaye
Prop comedyRelies on ridiculous props, casual jackets or everyday objects used in humorous waysBob Nelson, Carrot Top, Jeff Dunham, Gallagher, Timmy Mallett, The Amazing Johnathan, Jerry Sadowitz, Red Skelton, Tape Face, Howie Mandel, Tommy Cooper, Harpo Marx, Bruce Baum
Shock humour A style of comedy that uses Shock value to invoke a strong negative emotion as well as a comedic Howard Stern, Eric Andre
SitcomScripted dialogue creating a thematic situation; commonly found on television series"The Big Bang Theory", Seinfeld, Fawlty Towers, Black Books, Porridge, Dad's Army, Blackadder, Gavin & Stacey, My Wife and Kids, I Love Lucy, Friends, Corner Gas, That '70s Show, Laff Riot, The Office, The Cosby Show, The Simpsons, Open All Hours, Only Fools and Horses, Dinner Ladies, Modern Family, Melissa & Joey, All in the Family," The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"

The Kapil Sharma show.

SketchA shorter version of a sitcom, practised and typically performed liveArmstrong and Miller, Cheech & Chong, Jennifer Saunders, Lorne Michaels, Dawn French, Craig Ferguson, Catherine Tate; TV shows: Monty Python, Armstrong and Miller, Saturday Night Live, Chappelle's Show, Firesign Theatre, In Living Color, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, Mad TV, Key & Peele Lenny Henry
SpoofThe recreating of a book, film or play for humor; it can be used to make fun of, or ridicule, a certain productionMel Brooks, French and Saunders, Mitchell and Webb, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Peter Serafinowicz, Weird Al Yankovic, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker; Films and TV shows: Hot Shots, Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights, Shriek, Look Around You C. S. Amudhan
Surreal comedyA form of humor based on bizarre juxtapositions, absurd situations, and nonsense logicSpike Milligan, Jay Kogen, Eddie Izzard, J. Stewart Burns, Ross Noble, Bill Bailey, Brent Butt, The Mighty Boosh, Steven Wright, Eric Andre, Trey Parker, Monty Python, Seth MacFarlane, David X. Cohen, Vic and Bob, The Goodies, Jack Handey, Derek Drymon, Wallace Wolodarsky, Harry Hill, The Kids in the Hall, Conan O'Brien, Tim and Eric, Paul Merton, Mitch Hedberg, Firesign Theatre, Shaun Micallef, Emo Philips, Hans Teeuwen, Tony Law, Chic Murray
Topical comedy/SatireRelies on headlining/important news and current affairs; it dates quickly, but is a popular form for late night talk-variety showsGeorge Carlin, Cheech & Chong, Bill Hicks, Dick Gregory, Chris Morris, Dennis Miller, Norm Macdonald, Conan O'Brien, Russell Howard, Craig Ferguson, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Dan Harmon, Andy Hamilton, Dave Allen, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Ian Hislop, Brent Butt, Paul Merton, Mort Sahl, Kathy Griffin, Stephen Colbert, Stewart Lee, Mark Thomas, Matt Groening, Rory Bremner, W. Kamau Bell, Ben Elton, David Cross, Lewis Black, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, The Chaser, Punt and Dennis, Jon Holmes, Tanmay Bhat, Hari Kondabolu; TV shows: The Daily Show, Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, The News Quiz, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, The Tonight Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, South Park
Wit/Word playMore intellectual forms based on clever, often subtle manipulation of language (though puns can be crude and farcical)Groucho Marx, William Shakespeare, Harry Hill, Jay Jason, Oscar Wilde, Woody Allen, George Carlin, Tim Vine, Stephen Fry, Demetri Martin, Bo Burnham, Firesign Theatre, Myq Kaplan, Crazy Mohan, Coen brothers, Ronnie Barker, Stanley Unwin


  1. "20 Types and Forms of Humor". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
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