from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Title page of Helmut Bachmaier's book on comedy theory

Komik (Gr. Komikos , from komos 'pageant') describes the comic and thus human behavior or speaking, but also artifacts (such as texts, films or drawings) that evoke or want to evoke laughter or amusement . The associated adjective "comical" captures the amusing aspect of the comedy only with reference to literary (and other) texts; in relation to situations or the behavior of interaction partners, on the other hand, a distanced feeling of discomfort is understandable in such an assessment, especially if Comedy did not emerge from the situation as so-called "situation comedy" without having been intended. Comedy is a highly subjective assessment; if there is a significant discrepancy between observers and those affected when assessing a situation, the latter are often called "involuntarily funny". Basically it can be said about comedy that it breaks expectations. The surprising confrontation with disparities or misunderstandings leads to involuntary laughter.


The content and limits of comedy (which are expressed, for example, in the question “What can satire ?”) Are determined by the ethical and media ideas of a society. Comedy can contribute to mental relief - but it can also be ascribed destructive properties: Comedy can be misused for ideological purposes (e.g. in propaganda ), it can exceed tolerance limits (e.g. in satire). Laughter is also described on the one hand as a positive, equalizing, on the other hand as an aggressive, uncontrollable entity. Comedy, especially through parody, can reveal human weaknesses and produce a communicative imbalance. The comedy (or the comic) is at home in literature , theater, film and the visual arts. There is no comic music in so-called serious music by definition, but there are pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in which he gives instructions to the winds and other participants in the orchestra to play the piece deliberately crookedly in order to possibly allude to another piece and parody this. In popular music, comical elements are often brought to bear through parodies or allusions to other music, such as: E.g. throughout Eric Idle's Beatles parody " The Rutles " or Frank Sidebottom's music parodies.

Comic theory

Front page of Tom Kindt's book on comedy theory

Comedy theory describes the scientific examination of the phenomenon of comedy. Comedy theory is interdisciplinary, so literary and cultural studies as well as sociological or medical questions can be brought up to it. The Linguistics is interested in strange phenomena. The various discourse fields of laughter , humor , and comedy in general deserve special attention . Robert Gernhardt differentiates, for example: "Humor is an attitude, comedy is the result of an action." This also includes dealing with literary and other artistic genres of comic provenance, e.g. As the comedy , the wit , the cartoon , the cabaret etc. Also have various terms and categories such as irony , sarcasm , cynicism , satire , parody , satire , burlesque , grotesque , nonsense etc. separated.


On the one hand, contrast theories are to be named that v. a. Identify differences as triggers for comic effects. Other systems argue with reversals, with changes in power structures, with social dimensions, the puzzle game of impressions, with breaking norms; the urge for freedom that is articulated in the comedy; with movement and freezing, rapid changes, feelings of fear or cultural belonging. The great variety of humor appearances, their aims, procedures, occasions and forms of expression make classification difficult. To date, no comprehensive theory of comedy (and humor) has been developed.


The comic theory began with Aristotle , who regards comedy as a harmless inconsistency. He realizes that laughter only applies to people and is therefore a unique selling point. In the fifth chapter of his Poetics , Aristotle describes the comic as an imitation of a “ugly mistake” in thinking, acting or speaking, a “ridiculous mistake”. This can also happen by laughing at a moral defect, i.e. deviating social behavior. He thereby differentiates the comedy from the affective effect of the tragedy . His book on comedy was lost (see The Name of the Rose ). With Horace there are reflections on the satyr play in the letter De arte poetica ). In the baroque era , the rule poetics define not only the class clause and the height of the fall, but also the conditions for comical effects, e.g. B. with Martin Opitz . William Shakespeare contributed the dictum that brevity is the soul of the joke. Thomas Hobbes sees laughter as an act of self-affirmation and thus addresses the power relations between people. For Immanuel Kant , a definition of laughter as will "affect from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing," KU § 54 (II 190). Jean Paul criticizes this view and sets the contrast between the ridiculous and the sublime as decisive for comic effects. With Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (as with other philosophers of German idealism) comedy is understood as a process of consciousness in which subjective freedom is expressed. Arthur Schopenhauer contrasts the comic as a “sudden perception of an incongruence”, while Friedrich Theodor Vischer describes a dialectical contrast between “idea and sensual appearance”. He wrote the sentences "Every joke has to be quick" and the "cunning of the object". For Charles Baudelaire the comic is to be equated with the grotesque , for Henri Bergson a mechanism that covers the living. Theodor Lipps, on the other hand, defines it as “negation, a waning in our eyes”.

Freud's comic theory

Sigmund Freud's influential work The Joke and its relationship to the unconscious deals with technology, tendencies and motifs of jokes, the pleasure mechanisms and the psychogenesis of jokes - but also the social components. One chapter deals with the relationship of the joke to the dream and the unconscious . There Freud compares the joke with the dream: The dream formation serves to save displeasure. What comes along in the dream disguised, comes to light in the joke: It serves to acquire pleasure. If suppressed tendencies and defenses are balanced, the witty fore-pleasure through the playful removal of repressions is the decisive factor in the release of new, greater pleasure. “A possibility of developing pleasure is added to a situation in which another possibility of pleasure is prevented so that this would not result in pleasure on its own; The result is a development of pleasure that is far greater than that of the added possibility. "The psychic energies that are relishly discharged in laughter come from the relief of the already existing and the saving of inhibitions that have yet to be exerted:" Laughter arises when an earlier The amount of psychic energy used to occupy certain psychic pathways has become unusable so that it can experience free discharge. "

Comic theory today

The contemporary theories of Helmuth Plessner (comedy as a reaction to the ambivalence of human existence), Wolfgang Iser (“Every position lets the other tip over”), Robert Gernhardt (“field theory of the comic”, which primarily emphasizes the anarchic primal force of the joke) are informative celebrates), the poetics lectures by Wilhelm Genazino ( On the Comical ) and the numerous comments critical of comedy in Max Goldt's work (“Humor is actually something you have when you are alone”). The satirical magazine Titanic also has a “forum for observation and theorization of comic production through the Hans Mentz humor critique. […] In particular Gernhardt, Henscheid and Eilert, but also other authors, were able to judge the work of their colleagues and competitors under this pseudonym, unwittingly present comic finds, publicize German and international comic production and analyze the functionality of comedy. "(MF Erdl)

Critique of Comedy Theory

“Something is or must be funny that one - cruelly and pleasantly - cannot cope with, especially not through a theory”, writes Odo Marquard and Klaus Cäsar Zehrer adds: “Not just individual scientific papers, the scientific way of thinking as such is difficult to come to terms with the comic. From her inherently humorless point of view, she can see it no other than a 'problem'. " Bernd Eilert adds, critically of science:" That comedy can only be explained from the contrast, the incompatibility, the distance, the deviation, the refusal and from normative requirements always remain dependent is a prejudice to which theorists cling. "

Forms of comedy

Linguistic joke , slapstick , irony , parody , running gag - the multitude of terminology alone makes it clear that comedy can appear in a wide variety of forms. Comedy theorists like Theodor Lipps separate the situation comedy from the character comedy. According to Lipps, the origins of the comedy either lie in the people or in fateful situations. In his work La Rire (1900) Henri Bergson differentiates between forms, attitudes, movements, characters and situations .

For a systematic approach, it is necessary to find suitable comparison parameters with which comedy can be differentiated. Comedy can ...

  • ... on different display levels such as B. on a physical, visual level ( slapstick and sight gags ) or on a linguistic level ( screwball dialogues and linguistic jokes ).
  • ... are viewed through situational relationships in a collective of characters ( situation comedy ) or through the uniqueness of individual characters ( character comedy ) .
  • ... about the quality of the comical envelope ( punch line ) z. B. into the opposite ( irony ) or z. B. can be described in horror ( black humor ).
  • ... be categorized using recurring, varying schemes within a narrative ( running gags ) or the use of genre-specific schemes outside the narrative ( parody ).

Slapstick / sight gags

See also: slapstick

Slapstick is a film genre and a special form of comedy film . Characteristic of the slapstick are body-related, wordless, visual forms of comedy ( Sight gags ) The genre was formed in the early cinema of attractions out and has been one of the silent era to one of the major comedy genres . Above all, actors and directors such as Charlie Chaplin , Buster Keaton , Harold Lloyd , the Marx Brothers , Laurel and Hardy , Karl Valentin or Jacques Tati are characterized by this form of comedy.

Situation comedy

See also: situation comedy

Slapstick describes a specific type of comedy that through the laughter lovely situation arises. According Bergson arises situation comedy either by mechanical repetitions ( Repetition ), reversed roles ( inversion ), or confusion ( interference of the series ):

“A situation is always funny when it belongs to two completely independent series of events at the same time and thus has a double meaning.” - Henri Bergson: La Rire , 1900

According to Arthur Koestler , situation comedy lives from a situation that contains a disturbing element , since it can be classified in two normally incompatible associative frames of reference ( bisociation ). " The punch line is created by unexpectedly tipping between two incompatible interpretations of the situation - a creative act, as culture-specific schemata are re-linked. The unexpected change of context is decisive, whereby the different interpretations of the situation can oscillate back and forth. Based on the knowledge of the recipients and characters about certain actions ( focussing ) and the respective interpretations of the situation, different forms of situation comedy can be distinguished.

Character comedy

Funny characters often look like types . For Henri Bergson , the typical is a trait that no longer develops and thus appears mechanical.

“Anyone who automatically follows his path without worrying about contact with the others seems funny.” - Henri Bergson: La Rire, 1900

So maybe two funny basic types can be distinguished: The blind / absent-minded / idiot , as victims of their own schematic thinking. And the figure of the trickster who deliberately breaks with schemes . Already in Attic comedy a distinction is made between the characters alazṓn (at whom one laughs) and eirôn (with whom one laughs). Mutual misunderstandings can only arise through schematically restricted situational perceptions (with the idiot figure) . Tricksters can reinterpret situations and use them creatively for themselves. The character comedy offers a different, but not a contradicting reading of the situation comedy .

running gag

See also: Running Gag

In the course of a narrative, certain schemes ( intratextually ) can be taken up again and again. In this way, certain repetitive situations and character ticks (a kind of leitmotif ) can be referred to over and over again, which always show the same sequence of symmetrically corresponding events under ever new circumstances. The decisive factor in such running gags is not just the repetition, but the constant new variation of the familiar schematic sequence.


See also: parody

Parodies use intertextual references to generate comedy, i. H. it comes to play with genre conventions, stereotypes and peculiarities of a medium, which requires a contextual knowledge for understanding. There are allusions to works that are overdrawn and caricatured . This creates a game with genre clichés or reinterprets narrative and structural patterns.

See also


  • Mikhail Bakhtin : Literature and Carnival. On romance theory and laughter culture. Frankfurt am Main 1990.
  • Charles Baudelaire : On the nature of laughter. In: Ders .: Complete Works / Letters. Edited by Friedhelm Kemp u. Claude Pichois in collaboration with Wolfgang Drost. Volume 1. Munich 1977, pp. 284-305.
  • Peter L. Berger : Redemptive laughter: the comic in human experience. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1998, ISBN 3-11-015561-3 .
  • Henri Bergson : The Laughter. Darmstadt 1988.
  • August Wilhelm Bohtz : About the comic and the comedy. Goettingen 1844.
  • Michael Braun (among others) (Ed.): Komik im Film. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2019.
  • Simon Critchley : In On Humor (2002), Critchley argues that humor can change a situation and therefore perform a critical function.
  • Sigmund Freud : The joke and its relation to the unconscious. London 1940.
  • Sigmund Freud: The humor. In: Ders .: study edition. Edited by Alexander Mitscherlich, Angela Richards u. James Strachey. Volume IV. Frankfurt am Main 1970, pp. 275-282.
  • Robert Gernhardt : What is there to laugh about? Zurich, 1988.
  • Wilhelm Genazino: The stretched look. Munich, 2004.
  • Ewald Hecker : The physiology and psychology of laughter and the comic. Berlin 1873.
  • Wolfgang Hirsch: The essence of the comic. Amsterdam / Stuttgart 1959.
  • Eike Christian Hirsch : The joke conductor. Hamburg 1985.
  • András Horn : The comic in the mirror of literature. Attempt a systematic introduction. Wuerzburg 1988.
  • Franz Jahn: About the essence of the comic. 1906.
  • Carsten Jakobi, Christine Waldschmidt (Hrsg.): Joke and Reality. Comedy as a form of aesthetic appropriation of the world. Bielefeld 2015.
  • Friedrich Georg Jünger : About the comic. 3. Edition. Frankfurt am Main 1948 (1st edition: also 1948)
  • Emil Kraepelin : On the psychology of the comic. Scientific publishing house, Schutterwald / Baden 2001.
  • Dieter Lamping : Is comedy harmless? A theory of literary comedy and comic literature. In: literature for readers. No. 2, 1994, pp. 53-65.
  • Stefan Lehnberg : Comedy for professionals - what comedy is and how to make it. Berlin, 2020, ISBN 9789463989510 .
  • Theodor Lipps : comedy and humor. A psychological-aesthetic examination. (= Contributions to aesthetics. VI). Hamburg / Leipzig 1898.
  • Odo Marquard : Exile of Joy. In: Wolfgang Preisendanz, Rainer Warning (Ed.): The comic. Munich 1976, pp. 133-151.
  • Jean Paul : Preschool of Aesthetics. Hamburg 1990.
  • Manfred Pfister: Bibliography on genre poetics (3). Theory of the comic, comedy and tragicomedy (1943–1972). In: Journal of French Language and Literature. 83, 1973, pp. 240-254.
  • Luigi Pirandello : The humor. Mindelheim 1986 a. a.
  • Helmuth Plessner : laughing and crying. An investigation into the limits of human behavior. Munich 1950.
  • Wolfgang Preisendanz , Rainer Warning (Ed.): The comic. Munich 1976.
  • Joachim Ritter : About laughter. In: Leaves for German Philosophy. 14, 1940/41, pp. 1-21.
  • Otto Speyer: About the comic and its use in poetry. Berlin 1888.
  • Karl Ueberhorst : The comical. An investigation. Volume I: The Really Funny. Leipzig 1896. Volume II: The Falsely Comical. Leipzig 1900.
  • Friedrich Theodor Vischer: About the sublime and the comic, a contribution to the philosophy of the beautiful. Stuttgart 1837. (Also in: Ders .: On the sublime and the comic and other texts on aesthetics. Frankfurt am Main 1967, pp. 37–215.)

Web links

Wiktionary: Komik  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. s. Ralf Simon (Hrsg.): Theory of Comedy - Poetics of Comedy. (= Aisthesis study book. 2). Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2001, p. 50.
  2. Wolfgang Iser: The comic, a tilting phenomenon . In: Wolfgang Preisendanz, Rainer Warninger (Ed.): The comic . Wilhelm Fink Verlag Munich, Munich 1976, p. 398-402 .
  3. ^ Heinz Otto Luthe: Comedy as a passage . Wilhelm Fink Verlag Munich, Munich 1992, p. 60 ff., 119 ff .
  4. ^ Theodor Lipps: comedy and humor . Starnberg 1898, p. 129, 130 f . ( [PDF]).
  5. ^ Henri Bergson: The Laughter . Eugen Dederichs Verlag, Jena 1921, p. 47, 61 ff., 66, 69, 90 .
  6. ^ Noël Carroll: Notes on the Sight Gag . In: Andrew Horton (ed.): Comedy / Cinema / Theory . University of California Press, Berkeley / Los Angeles / Oxford 1991, p. 25 - 42 .
  7. Duden | Situation comedy | Spelling, meaning, definition. Retrieved November 29, 2017 .
  8. ^ A b Henri Bergson: Laughter . Eugen Dederichs Verlag, Jena 1921, p. 47, 61 ff., 66, 69, 90 .
  9. ^ Arthur Koestler: The Act of Creation . London 1964, p. 32, 35 f., 37 .
  10. Wolfgang Iser: The comic, a tilting phenomenon . In: Wolfgang Preisendanz, Rainer Warninger (Ed.): The comic . Wilhelm Fink Verlag Munich, Munich 1976, p. 398-402 .
  11. ^ Heinz Otto Luthe: Comedy as a passage . Wilhelm Fink Verlag Munich, Munich 1992, p. 60 ff., 119 ff .
  12. ^ Susanne Schäfer: Comedy in Culture and Context . Munich 1996, p. 28, 56, 62, 69, 78 f., 70 ff .
  13. ^ Andrew Horton: Introduction . In: Andrew Horton (ed.): Comedy / Cinema / Theory . University of California Press, Berkeley / Los Angeles / Oxford 1991, p. 1 - 24 .
  14. ^ Arthur Koestler: The Act of Creation . London 1964, p. 32, 35 f., 37 .
  15. Gérard Genette: The story . 3. Edition. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1994, p. 120 ff .
  16. ^ Philipp Neuweiler: Forms of situation comedy in Frank Capra's "Arsenic and Old Lace" . Mainz 2017 ( [PDF]).
  17. ^ Henri Bergson: The Laughter . Eugen Dederichs Verlag, Jena 1921, p. 47, 61 ff., 66, 69, 90 .
  18. ^ Heinz Otto Luthe: Comedy as a passage . Wilhelm Fink Verlag Munich, Munich 1992, p. 60 ff., 119 ff .
  19. ^ Andrew Horton: Introduction . In: Andrew Horton (ed.): Comedy / Cinema / Theory . University of California Press, Berkeley / Los Angeles / Oxford 1991, p. 1 - 24 .
  20. ^ Philipp Neuweiler: Forms of situation comedy in Frank Capra's "Arsenic and Old Lace" . Mainz 2017 ( [PDF]).
  21. ^ Henri Bergson: The Laughter . Eugen Dederichs Verlag, Jena 1921, p. 47, 61 ff., 66, 69, 90 .
  22. Ariane Mhamood: comedy as an alternative. Parodistic narration between travesty and counterfacture in the 'Virginal' and 'Rosengarten' versions as well as in 'Biterolf and Dietleib' . In: Literature - Imagination - Reality. English, German and Romance studies . tape 47 . Scientific publishing house Trier, Trier 2012, p. 21, 23 f., 25 .