Comedy TV Shows

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About Comedy

The unifying characteristic of TV comedy programs is, of course, humor. Humor has been an important part of television programming since the beginning of the medium, when early variety shows pulled performers and types of performances from popular theater and vaudeville shows. The comedy genre has remained a staple of TV programming as it has evolved into a variety of different forms, including situation comedies, sketch comedy shows and comedic talk shows.

The situation comedy, or sitcom, was the most popular and influential type of TV comedy during the last half of the twentieth century. Unlike variety shows, which featured a series of stand-alone, unconnected comedy vignettes, sitcoms feature recurring characters in settings and contexts that remained constant from episode to episode; in some sitcoms, ongoing story arcs span multiple episodes. A common format was developed for sitcoms-multiple cameras, a standard half-hour length, often filmed in front of a live audience-and that format is still commonly used in current sitcoms.

The comedy-drama form was pioneered in the later part of the twentieth century. These shows combine comedic elements with more serious situations that are not played for laughs. The format of comedy-drama programs typically differs from that of a sitcom-no live audience or laugh track, an hour in length, more complex editing-and the situations in comedy-drama shows tend to be more realistic and less absurd than those in sitcoms.

The variety show evolved into a number of other comedic program forms. Sketch comedy shows, in which a series of unrelated vignettes are presented, were especially popular in the 1970s and 1980s; series such as "Saturday Night Live" draw on current events and popular culture for their satiric sketches. The comedic current-events talk show rose in popularity at the beginning of this century; shows led by hosts such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert use comedy as a forum for discussion of political issues and events in the news.

About This Genre