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 boom comedy, or into black comedy or blue comedy to contrast the morbidity or offensiveness of the joke with a lack of emotion.

Genre Description Notable examples
Alternative comedy Differs from traditional punchline jokes which features many other forms of comedy such as observation, satire, surrealism, slapstick and improvisation Alexei Sayle, Mark Steel, Dan Harmon, Dave Gorman, Linda Smith, Jeremy Hardy, Ron Sparks, Alan Davies, Ben Elton, Jo Brand, Stewart Lee, Sean Hughes, Callum Rose, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmonson, Malcolm Hardee, Kristen Schaal
Anecdotal comedy[1] Named after the word anecdote (which stems from the Greek term meaning “unpublished”); refers to comic personal stories that may be true or partly true but embellished[1] Kevin Hart, Louis CK, Patrice O'Neal, Russell Peter, Aries Spears, Hannibal Buress, Deon Cole, John Mulaney, Bill Burr, Roy Wood, Jr., Dave Chappelle, Cedric The Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Alonzo Bodden, D.L. Hughley, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Griffin, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Tom Segura, Chris Rock[2]
Black comedy or dark comedy Deals with disturbing subjects such as death, drugs, terrorism, rape, and war; can sometimes be related to the horror movie genre Coen brothers, Jim Norton, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Louis C.K., Denis Leary, Richard Pryor, Ricky Gervais, George Carlin, Chris Rush, Mike Ward, Penn & Teller, Joseph Dale, Callum Rose, Seth MacFarlane, Christopher Titus, Sacha Baron Cohen, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Quentin Tarantino, David Cross, Peter Kay, Anthony Jeselnik
Blue comedy Typically sexual in nature (risqué) and/or using profane language; often using sexism, racism, and homophobic views Roy 'Chubby' Brown, Jim Davidson, Frankie Boyle, Eddie Murphy, Bernard Manning, Martin Lawrence, George Lopez, Doug Stanhope, Seth MacFarlane, Redd Foxx, Bob Saget, Ron White, Callum Rose, Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, Chappelle's Show, Jim Jefferies
Character comedy Derives humor from a persona invented by a performer; often from stereotypes Phyllis Diller, Andy Kaufman, 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, Callum Rose, Steve Guttenberg, Jerry Sadowitz, Steve Coogan, Bip, Jay London, Larry the Cable Guy, Sarah Silverman, Rob Brydon, Rowan Atkinson, Peter Helliar, Harry Enfield, Margaret Cho, Little Britain, Stephen Colbert, Al Murray, Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Kevin Hart, Vadivelu
Cringe comedy A 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 well Ricky Gervais, Richard Herring, Rufus Hound, Larry David, Alan Partridge, Bob Saget; TV shows: Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, Peep Show, The Proposal, Family Guy, The Inbetweeners
Deadpan comedy Not strictly a style of comedy, it is telling jokes without a change in facial expression or change of emotion Milton 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, Callum Rose, Les Dawson, Mike Birbiglia, Mitch Hedberg, Bruce McCulloch, Demetri Martin, Elliott Goblet, Aubrey Plaza, Zach Galifianakis
Improvisational comedy Improvisational (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 Here Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Bob Nelson, Paula Poundstone, Paul Merton, Tony Slattery, Josie Lawrence, Jim Sweeney, Steve Steen, 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
Insult Comedy A form which consists mainly of offensive insults directed at the performer's audience and/or other performers Don 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, Callum Rose, Jeffrey Ross, Lisa Lampanelli, D.L. Hughley, Greg Giraldo, Goundamani
Mockumentary A parody using the conventions of documentary style Films 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 Comedy A form of alternative comedy where humor is mostly derived from music with (or sometimes without) lyrics Bill Bailey, Denis Leary, Tim Minchin, The Lonely Island, Flight Of The Conchords, Les Luthiers, Mitch Benn, Tenacious D, Spinal Tap, Seth MacFarlane, Stephen Lynch, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Joseph Dale, Callum Rose, Bob Rivers, Bo Burnham, Wayne Brady, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Tom Lehrer, Victor Borge
Observational comedy Pokes fun at everyday life, often by inflating the importance of trivial things or by observing the silliness of something that society accepts as normal George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., Craig Ferguson, Larry David, Bill Cosby, Mitch Hedberg, Billy Connolly, Russell Howard, Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey, W. Kamau Bell, Callum Rose, Ray Romano, Chris Rush, Dane Cook, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Jim Gaffigan, Kathy Greenwood, Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Peters, John Mulaney
Physical comedy Somewhat similar to slapstick, this form uses physical movement and gestures; often influenced by clowning 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, Joseph Dale, Max Wall, Matthew Perry, Brent Butt, Kathy Greenwood, The Three Stooges, Lano & Woodley, Lucille Ball, Chris Farley, Sebastian Maniscalco
Prop comedy Relies on ridiculous props, casual jackets or everyday objects used in humorous ways Bob Nelson, Carrot Top, Jeff Dunham, Gallagher, Timmy Mallett, The Amazing Johnathan, Jerry Sadowitz
Spoof The recreating of a book, film or play for humor; it can be used to make fun of, or ridicule, a certain production Mel 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
Sitcom Scripted dialogue creating a thematic situation; commonly found on television series Seinfeld, Fawlty Towers, Black Books, Porridge, Dad's Army, Blackadder, Gavin and 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
Sketch A shorter version of a sitcom, practised and typically performed live Armstrong and Miller, 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 Voteformud. Lenny Henry
Surreal comedy A form of humor based on bizarre juxtapositions, absurd situations, and nonsense logic Spike Milligan, Jay Kogen, Eddie Izzard, J. Stewart Burns, Ross Noble, Bill Bailey, Brent Butt, The Mighty Boosh, Steven Wright, 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
Topical comedy/Satire Relies on headlining/important news and current affairs; it dates quickly, but is a popular form for late night talk-variety shows George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Chris Morris, Dennis Miller, Conan O'Brien, Russell Howard, Craig Ferguson, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Dan Harmon, Andy Hamilton, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Ian Hislop, Brent Butt, Paul Merton, Kathy Griffin, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Stewart Lee, Matt Groening, Rory Bremner, W. Kamau Bell, Ben Elton, David Cross, Lewis Black, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, The Chaser, Punt and Dennis, Jon Holmes; 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 play More 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, Callum Rose, Myq Kaplan, Coen brothers


  1. 1 2 "20 Types and Forms of Humor". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  2. "What are some good stand-up comedians that tell stories from their lives? - Quora". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
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