While it might not appear to be on the face of it, comedy is an art form – especially stand-up comedy; think about it – the hours of writing material, practising jokes, and perfecting the right timing and body language that goes with it. And if your favourite comedian doesn’t exactly appear to be performing when they’re on-stage, it’s just that they’re incredibly good at their job!
And much like any art form, there isn’t just one type of stand up comedy; in the same way that the art of filmmaking encompasses drama, horror, romance and slapstick, so too does comedy include everything from observational humour to storytelling comedy. So, what are the different types of stand up comedy, and what makes them stand out? Let’s take a look.
In its truest form, observational comedy is like holding up a mirror to the quirks of everyday life, and finding humour in the mundane; whether it be the struggles of assembling flat-pack furniture to the oddities of British weather. Comedians like Michael McIntyre, Lee Evans and Peter Kay are maestros of this genre, but observational comedy is about more than just finding relatability and humour in the everyday. It’s also about the perfect timing; anyone who’s seen Rhod Gilbert’s “Airport Luggage Story” will know what we’re talking about! It’s not just about universal truths we’ve all noticed but never really talked about; it’s about making you go, “Oh, that’s so true!” while you’re uncontrollably belly laughing.
Ever sat around a pub table, hanging on to every word of a friend’s hilarious anecdote? That’s the essence of storytelling comedy. Storytelling comedy is all about weaving humour into narratives, which are often drawn from absurd personal experiences or sometimes entirely fabricated. Billy Connolly, a legend in his own right, is a prime example of a storytelling comedian; it’s not just his ability to turn even the most mundane incidents funny, but it’s about keeping the audience in a stand up comedy club engaged in the tale – whether it be a 10-minute, 20-minute, or 30-minute bit.
Satirical and Political Comedy
Satirical and political comedy is increasingly popular in our polarised political culture, and is ideal for those who like their laughs with a side of insight. This style often involves poking fun at political figures, current events, and societal norms, but most importantly, is often employed as a means of social change. In some ways, it’s a form of political subversion, using the immense power of ridicule to ruin someone’s political credibility. Consider all the Sarah Palin jokes made in the 2008 US election, or all of the Trump-themed comedy you’ve likely seen since 2015; political comedy is often about undermining an opponent, whether it be a political figure or government policy.
In the UK, comedians like Nish Kumar and Frankie Boyle are known for their sharp, incisive wit that cuts right to the core of contemporary issues, as are comedians like Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan.
Surreal and Absurdist Comedy
When it comes to surreal and absurdist comedy, the British have a particular knack for performing it; think about John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in his hit sitcom Fawlty Towers, or the eclectic Noel Fielding and his signature TV show “The Mighty Boosh”. While these refer to TV shows and not exactly stand-up, they’re great ways to illustrate how surreal and absurdist comedy works. And for a more direct example, think of Tommy Cooper and his “magic” slapstick; in fact, Cooper’s act was so absurd that when the star suffered a real-life heart attack on live television, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was simply testing out a new bit.
If you’re a fan of TV shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and “Outnumbered”, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of improv comedy – which basically means lines are improvised on the spot, rather than rehearsed and performed. And while improv comedy is quite niche, it’s actually incredibly important for comedians to master; after all, most comedians spend their off-days doing panel shows, and often talk to audience members during their live performances. With the gift of improv, these interactions can often end up being funnier than rehearsed material.
Finally, let’s take a look at musical comedy. While the idea of musical comedy might turn you off, maestros in the genre – like Bill Bailey and Bo Burnham – make it so that you barely even notice the music; what’s important is the humorous lyrics, the engaging body language, and the feeling that you’ve really experienced a unique and thought-provoking show once the curtains fall.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it – a whirlwind tour of the wonderful world of stand-up comedy. From the observational to the absurd, the satirical to the musical, we don’t discriminate – at Comedy Carnival, we celebrate them all! So whether you’re a fan of the classic one-liner or love a bit of comedic storytelling, why not join us for a night of laughter? Who knows – you might just discover your new favourite comedian!