Lazzi (//; from the Italian lazzo, a joke or witticism) is an improvised comic dialogue or action commonly used in the Commedia dell'arte. Most English-speaking troupes use the Italian "lazzi" as the singular and "lazzis" for the plural. The Harlequin or Zanni in Commedia dell'arte would have had very many of these lazzis at their disposal.
During improvised performances lazzis may be used to fill time or to ensure a certain frequency of laughs in a show. In practice a lazzi amounts to any bit of business that can be easily recalled and performed in another situation, somewhat in the manner of a catch phrase. Such lazzi movements are normally very exaggerated. In any given troupe, the senior player could have well over one hundred lazzis at his or her disposal. The performer would not only have these well rehearsed but would also pass them on to future generations within the troupe. As soon as a lazzi is initiated by one player, all of the other players must fall in, so that performing a lazzi requires every member of the troupe to know the routine as well as great teamwork.
- Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
- Duchartre, Pierre Louis. 1929. The Italian Comedy. Unabridged republication. New York: Dover, 1966. ISBN 0-486-21679-9.
- Gordon, Mel. 1983. Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications. ISBN 0-933826-69-9.