There’s nothing like having a good giggle, and it seems that our ancient counterparts felt the same way. Comedy in its various forms has been around for thousands of years. The first comic playwright of note was Aristophanes, who lived in Greece from about 445 to 385 B.C and wrote comedies that dealt with social issues. Similarly, the ancient Roman playwrights Plautus (c. 254–184 BC), and Terence (195/185–159 BC), wrote situation comedies based on events from everyday life.
During the 1700’s sentimental comedies featuring middle class characters with good morals became popular. Later in the same century witty comedies were written by Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, both of England, and by Pierre de Beaumarchais of France. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote comedies of manners, as did Noel Coward. These comedies usually focused on the upper class of society and used humour to parody or satirize the behaviour of its members.
Nowadays comedy is still very much alive. There are many forms of comedy fiction, though it is difficult to divide them into neat groups or subgenres, as comedy so often blends with other genres. Terry Pratchett, for example, could be said to be a writer of both comedy and fantasy. Similarly, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsey is undoubtedly a crime novel, but it also humorous- in a very dark way. And Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams remains a firm comic favourite- while at the same time remaining science fiction. Nevertheless, we have endeavoured to make life easier for you by forcibly stuffing some of the better known types of comedy fiction into convenient little categorised boxes; whether or not they explode right back out again with a shower of confetti and party whistles remains to be seen.
Satiric Comedy (or Satire): Satire is a mode of writing in which the writer mocks individuals or society as a whole, with the purpose of exposing their negative aspects to readers as a means of bringing about change. Social affectation, corruption, stupidity and vice are commonly ridiculed and held up to contempt in works of satire. Irony (where what is meant is contrary to what the words appear to say) is very often the satirical writer’s weapon of choice. To swallow a satiric pill, try: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Generation X by Douglas Coupland or The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
Parody: Parody borrows the subject and form of a novel but contains certain changes which poke fun at the original. The characteristic style (or other elements of the novel) may be imitated in a satirical way, or applied to an inappropriate subject, thus creating humour.
For spasms of parodic giggles try : Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, You Don’t Have to be Evil to Work Here, But It Helps by Tom Holt or Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.
Black Comedy makes light of the darker elements of human nature. It may be sardonically humorous, and feature a mordant wit or plotlines based on morbid or grotesque situations.
To take a stroll on the dark side of funny, try: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, High Society by Ben Elton or Kill Your Friends by John Niven.
Romantic Comedy is a popular genre that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms and focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love. Love and its effect on the central characters is the driving force of the story, although, like all forms of comedy, elements of other genres may also take centre stage. Jane Austen has long been considered the queen of romantic comedy.
Love is a laugh. Seriously. Try: Emma by Jane Austen, the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding or High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.