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Screwball Comedy

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No, this doesn't mean what you think.

The screwball comedy is a very strict story form, first developed during The Golden Age of Hollywood: a comedy film — usually in black and white, although some were made in color — in which an uptight, repressed, or otherwise stiff character gets broken out of his or her shell by being romantically pursued by a Cloudcuckoolander (or a similar character type). It does not just mean "zany comedy". The Producers, say, is not a screwball comedy, although it is screwy, ballsy, and very funny.

Screwball comedy is characterized by fast-paced repartee, farcical situations, escapist themes, and plot lines involving courtship and marriage and showing the struggle between economic classes. In other words, a parody of a Romantic Comedy.

Compare Farce.

Classic screwball comedy examples include (period 1934-1944):

Later and modern examples of screwball comedy include:

  • The Patsy is a 1928 silent comedy starring Marion Davies that can be regarded as a sort of very early prototype for the genre.
  • Ticktock, a horror novel by Dean Koontz, is deliberately written as a Screwball Comedy.
  • Dharma & Greg is a TV sitcom version.
  • My Dark and Fearsome Queen combines Screwball and Black Comedy with fantasy adventure.
  • Strangers in Paradise
  • John Belushi co-wrote an unproduced screenplay called Noble Rot, a Genre Throwback to the Screwball Comedies of The '30s.
  • The manga and its anime adaptation Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi features a college student infatuated with a sweet-tempered, yet widowed boarding house manager, while having to put up with the madcap tenants. It's like if Howard Hawks created a manga turned into an anime.
  • Gimme, Gimme, Gimme is a non-romantic example (mostly because the male character is homosexual) but has many moments of the two main characters having to Break the Haughty out of the other. The male character is a snobbish middle-class struggling actor, and the female character is an under-class ugly Fag Hag, and the two of them fight over attractive men.
  • Schitt's Creek updates many of the tropes from classic screwball comedy, especially in the unfolding romances of Cloud Cuckoolander Alexis and David and the class-comedy that comes from the Roses' fish-out-of-water antics. One key update is allowing pansexual and flamboyant David to be a protagonist, rather than just a Camp Gay side character whose sexuality goes unnamed. David's romance with Patrick, in fact, has all the hallmarks of the genre with David breaking the more uptight Patrick out of his shell and much comic bickering between them. There's even an onscreen Shout-Out to the genre when Moira gives David a pep talk in the voice of a 1930s screwball heroine.
    Moira: Ah say, don't be a dewdropper. Throw some concealer under those peepers, make like a swell and go put on the ritz.