You don't want much, do you?
Comedy is an elusive and fast-moving target to define. There's an entire field for trying to discover "Humor Theory", trying to find out what makes funny tick. General public consensus is that humor comes from the unexpected, but this theory is still flawed and doesn't explain everything. One thing's for sure: comedy is funny.
Comedy, as something primarily happy, is directly opposed to Tragedy, but not so much Drama, and can never be perfectly combined with Horror. And has been since the day it was conceived as a term, albeit not like we know today; comedy was something that either had a happy ending or was written in the common tongue, i.e. Dante's The Divine Comedy, Tragedy was something that had a sad ending. Propelled off of Rule of Funny, comedy infects all art forms. Its hobbies include satires, parodies, pastiches, playing for laughs, snarking, breathless ranting, Irony, and hiding snickerdoodles in its knickerbockers.
A list of UK comedy writer jargon, which includes many familiar tropes, can be found here.
A really, really long list of Comedy Tropes can be found at Comedy Tropes.
Comedy of Note:
- The Marx Brothers
- Charlie Chaplin was arguably the first major film comedian.
- Buster Keaton: Silent film icon known for performing physical comedy and stunts while maintaining a stoic, deadpan expression which earned him the nickname "The Great Stone Face".
- Fatty Arbuckle: One of the biggest comedic stars in the silent age of film, specializing in slapstick comedy and introduced the Pie in the Face gag. He is also known for being tried 3 times for the rape and manslaughter of actress Virigina Rappe (which he ended up being acquitted) in amongst one of the earliest major Hollywood scandals.
- Mel Brooks
- Kind Hearts and Coronets
- Kids in America
- Swiss Army Man
- P. G. Wodehouse
- Douglas Adams
- Terry Pratchett
- Mark Twain; first "American" humorist.
- Along the same lines, Ambrose Bierce, writer of The Devil's Dictionary.
- William Shakespeare - Master of English tragedy though he was, he also wrote a lot of ridiculously funny (and often extremely dirty) comedies.
- The Canterbury Tales
- Monty Python's Flying Circus turned comedy on its head with surrealism.
- Saturday Night Live took all the comedy that came before it, and threw it into a blender, creating the foundation for modern humor. It does this once a decade.
- Abbott and Costello
- Britain's Got the Pop Factor
- The Daily Show and The Colbert Report
- Seinfeld puts Jerry Seinfeld on this list twice.
- Kath and Kim
- The Kids in the Hall
- Mr. Show
- Arrested Development
- The Burkiss Way - mad wordplay and a Hurricane of Puns
- The Goon Show - the series that revolutionised British radio comedy and inspired Python's surrealism.
- The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy - did for radio comedy at the turn of the eighties what The Goons did in the fifties.
- Son of Cliché: the precursor to a tv series.
- Garfield doesn't have the highest laugh quotient around, but it is a comedy, and is a big name.
- Richard Pryor brought racial comedy into the mix.
- George Carlin derived most of his humor through cynicism.
- Lenny Bruce was a sort of proto-Carlin, using edgy comedy that upset Moral Guardians.
- Jerry Seinfeld is often attributed with inventing observational comedy.
- Eddie Izzard is similarly attributed with kick-starting Absurdist humor.
- Robin Williams
- Bill Hicks