Let’s dive into the diverse world of stand up comedy! From observational humor to dark comedy, slapstick to storytelling, comedy is a diverse and broad genre with various subgenres that cater to different tastes and styles of humor.
Join us as we unravel the genres that keep audiences in stitches while highlighting womxn+ and underrepresented performers who exemplify these genres.
Note: Comedians may blend elements from multiple genres and you will see similarities between different genres as well. It's important to remember that comedy is subjective.
Slapstick involves physical comedy, exaggerated facial expressions, and stunts. This style of humor was popularized in the early twentieth century by comedians like Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges. Slapstick comedy often involves practical jokes, visual gags, and over-the-top actions. Some of our favorite comedians who use slapstick humor are Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson from Broad City and the great Lucille Ball.
Also known as black comedy, this sub genre focuses on the incongruity of comedic elements and morbid subjects like war, death, and crime. The style of dark humor is seen in the works of writers like Kurt Vonnegut and filmmakers like the Coen brothers. Dark comedy often challenges societal norms and comics like Sarah Silverman and Michelle Wolf excel in this style!
Self-deprecating humor focuses on the shortcomings of a particular character or performer. Stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield used self-deprecating humor in many of his routines. We love how comedians Jessica Kirson and Mae Martin use self deprication in their acts!
Parody comedies imitate the style of a particular genre, work of art, or a specific piece of popular culture with the intention of humorously exaggerating or mocking its elements. Saturday Night Live excels in the parody department and comics like Kate McKinnon and Melissa McCarthy are parody queens.
This is a style of comedy in which a performer creates and portrays a distinct and often exaggerated character as the centerpiece of their comedic act. The humor in character comedy arises from the quirks, traits, and behaviors of the fictional persona rather than directly from the performer's own personality or experiences. Moms Mabley was known for adopting a character on stage—a wise, older woman with a distinctive, toothless grin. This persona became central to her comedic identity and added a layer of charm to her performances.
While parody primarily aims to entertain by mimicking and exaggerating elements of a specific work, SATIRE has a broader goal of critiquing and provoking thought about societal issues, often using humor as a means to achieve its satirical purpose. This genre uses humor, irony, and exaggeration to criticize and mock people, politics, society, or any other subject. Check out: Margaret Cho & Samantha Bee
SURREAL / ABSURD
This form of humor focuses on absurd situations that defy logic and reason. The British comedy troupe Monty Python developed a unique brand of surreal humor in their shows and films. Julio Torres and Maria Bamford take their acts to surreal places.
Tragicomedies combine comedic elements with serious subjects to explore different aspects of the human experience. Tragicomedy allows creators to explore the complexities of life, human nature, and societal issues by embracing a range of emotions and tones. It provides a nuanced and thought-provoking experience for the audience. Hannah Gadsby uses tragicomedy beautifully in her special Nanette.
A form of comedy characterized by exaggerated and improbable situations, rapid-paced and chaotic events, and physical humor. Farce often involves mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and door-slamming antics! Eddie Izzard is known for including farcical elements in his comedy and has a unique way of weaving elaborate and whimsical narratives.
Performers use this style of comedy to entertain audiences by using witty wordplay. Examples of wordplay include puns, double entendre, alliteration, and rhymes. Nicole Byer delights audiences with word play in her Netflix special 'Big Beautiful Weirdo'!
Comedians in this genre derive humor from observations of everyday life, human behavior, and common situations. The humor often comes from the relatability of the observations and can sometimes be confessional. Comics use observational comedy to draw attention to the unnoticed humor within everyday life. Think Taylor Tomlinson, Michelle Buteau, and Wanda Sykes.
Insult comedy, also known as roast comedy, is a form of humor in which the comedian uses offensive or mocking language to make fun of someone, usually a specific individual or a group of people. The humor in insult comedy often comes from sharp, cutting remarks, sarcasm, and clever wordplay. The intention is not to cause genuine harm but to entertain through the shock value and wit of the insults Joan Rivers is a trailblazing comedian famous for her acerbic wit and fearless approach to insulting both herself and others. Lisa Lampanelli is often referred to as the "Queen of Mean,"known for her raunchy and insult-heavy comedy.
Focuses on humor related to politics, politicians, and current events. Comedians in this genre often use satire to comment on political issues and societal trends. Radhika Vaz is an Indian comedian known for her stand-up specials and her one-woman show, "Older. Angrier. Hairier.," where she addresses topics like feminism, marriage, and societal expectations. Franchesca Ramsey is a comedian, writer, and activist who uses her platform to address social issues, including race, gender, and online activism. She gained recognition for her YouTube series "Decoded."
Integrates music, songs, and dance into the comedic narrative. Musical comedies use these elements to enhance humor and storytelling. Garfunkel and Oates (Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci) create humorous songs that touch on a range of topics, including relationships, societal expectations, and women's experiences.
What's your favorite genre of stand up comedy?! Let us know in the comments!