Comedic device

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List of comedic devices[edit]

Repetition[edit]

Repetition is the essential comedic device and is often used in combination with other devices to reinforce them. The "callback" in comedy writing -- in which a statement or theme is recalled as the punchline or close of a scene -- is a classic example of the tension and release that are possible using repetition. It is also the basis for "Englishman, Irishman, and Scotsman" jokes, where repetition is used to set up a modus operandi and build tension before the Irishman (usually assumed to be the stupid one) provides the resolving juxtaposition.

Hyperbole, or Overstatement[edit]

Main article: Hyperbole

Hyperbole, an overstatement, is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated or extravagant. It may be used to reflect or affect strong feelings or a strong impression.

Understatement[edit]

Main article: Understatement

An understatement is a figure of speech in which statements are purposely understated. It may be used to indicate the speaker's nonchalance (or obliviousness) regarding an often important or otherwise remarkable situation. It often results in irony where, for instance, the speaker's response to an event does not match how the viewer expects the speaker to react.

Double entendre[edit]

Main article: Double entendre

A double entendre is a spoken phrase that can be understood in either of two ways. The first, literal meaning is an innocent one, while the second, figurative meaning is often ironic or risqué and requires the hearer to have some additional knowledge to understand the joke.

Pun[edit]

Main article: Pun

A pun consists of a deliberate confusion of similar words or phrases for humorous effect, whether humorous or serious. A pun can rely on the assumed equivalency of multiple similar words (homonymy), of different shades of meaning of one word (polysemy), or of a literal meaning with a metaphor.

Juxtaposition[edit]

Juxtaposition is a literary technique which causes the audience to compare two elements simply because they are placed next to each other. When the comparison is unexpected, it creates irony. In some cases, this can be created through grammatical ambiguity. For example "My wife.. it's the same every night. 'when are you going to paint the kitchen?' 'When are you going to paint the kitchen?', every bloody night. 'When are you going to paint the kitchen?'. I've told her about 10 times now, and she still hasn't done it". In this case, until the punch-line, the audience generally assumes that the woman is giving the orders to the man.

Mistaken identity[edit]

The mistaken identity (often of one twin for another) is a centuries old comedic device used by Shakespeare in several of his works. The mistake can be either an intended act of deception or an accident. Modern examples include The Parent Trap, The Truth About Cats and Dogs', Sister, Sister', and the films of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Taboo[edit]

Main article: Taboo

There is a liberating element to saying something that nobody else would say in a civilised environment. Being disgusting or politically wrong in front of an audience can surprise and shock an audience. e.g. jokes about paedophiles.

Slapstick[edit]

Main article: Slapstick

Slapstick is a type of comedy involving exaggerated physical violence. Slapstick was heavily used by Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the Keystone Kops, the Three Stooges. Slapstick is also common in animated cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes.

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