One leading analysis of American humor, the 1931 book by Constance Rourke , identified the character of the ‘Yankee’ as that first American comic figure, the first widely accepted American character that the nation could find funny , make fun of and even export for the amusement of the world - a gangly traveler who told stories, played elaborate practical jokes , was ingenuous , sly, perhaps uneducated . She reports that American comedy sprang forth after the American Revolution , when the country was " freed from the worry of self preservation " and its citizens began to regard themselves as "works of art".
Humor began to emerge in the United States soon after the American Revolution in written and spoken form, and delivery methods have continued to evolve since then. This article is not strictly chronological in nature.
Literature appears before cartoons although newspaper cartoons in the modern sense began in the 1840s.
Radio and film came out roughly at the same time . Film is covered after radio because it led more directly to the television section .
Stand-up comedy began to receive renewed attention in the 1970s which is the reason why it was placed directly after television.
A candidate for the 'founding father' of American humor is Mark Twain . It should be stated that humorists existed in the United States before Twain, for example Augustus Baldwin Longstreet collection of Southern humor came out when Twain was 5 years old, but Twain is seen as a founding figure in creating an "American voice "
Popular humorists who spanned the late 1800s and early 1900s included Samuel Minturn Peck (1854-1938), who wrote My Sweetheart , and Hayden Carruth (1862-1932), who wrote Uncle Bentley and the Roosters . Early twentieth -century American humorists included members of the Algonquin Round Table (named for the Algonquin Hotel ), such as Dorothy Parker , SJ Perelman and Robert Benchley . In more recent times popular writers of American humor include
P. J. O'Rourke , Louis (L) Harding , Erm a Bombeck , and Dave Barry .
Warner Brothers' cartoons often dealt with themes beyond US culture or society, but did involve a great deal of commentary on American life. Although many of the American winners of the Academy Award for Animat ed Short Film are not exampl es of American humor , a significant percentage would qualify as such . On television, noteworthy American cartoons include The Flintstones , The Simpsons , Futurama , Beavis and Butthead , King of the Hill , Ren and Stimpy , Family Guy , Spongebob Squarepants , American Dad and South Park .
Burles que became a popular form of ente rtainment in the middle of the 19th century. Originally a form of farce in which females in male roles mocked the politics and c ulture of the day , burlesque was conde mned by opinion makers for its sexu ality and outspokenness . The form was h ounded off the "legitimate stage " and found itself relegated to saloons and barrooms , and its content mostly raunchy jokes .
Vaudeville is a style of variety entertainment predominant in America in the lat e 19th Century and early 20th Century. Developing from many sources including shows in saloons , minstrelsy , British pantomimes , and other popular entertainm ents, vaudeville became one of the mos t popular types of entertainment in Americ a. Part of this entertainment was usually one or more
Vaudeville provided generations of American entertainers including George M. Cohan , George Burns and Gracie Allen , Mae West, Fanny Brice , and W.C. Fields , among others. Vaudeville grew less popular as movies replaced live entertainment, but vaudeville performers were able to move into those other fields. Former vaudeville performers who were successful in film, radio and television include: Buster Keaton , Marx Brothers, Edgar Bergen , Three Stooges , and Abbott & Costello .
Early radio shows include what is labeled as the first situation comedy, Sam and Henry , which debuted on WGN radio in 1926 . It was partially inspired by Sidney Smith's popular comic strip The Gumps .
The show was successful enough that in 1930 a film was made with the characters and in 1951 it became a television sitcom . The film starred the white actors in blackface . The television show starred African American actors .
Amos & Andy began as one of the first radio comedy serials which debuted on CBS in 1928 . This was a show written and performed by white actors about black farmhands moving to the big city .
Radio in its early years was a showcase for comedy stars from the vaudeville circuit. Jack Benny being among the early comedy stars in this medium. When Jack moved to television in the 1950s , his time slot was filled by Stan Freberg a voice actor , and comedian. Stan began in 1950 to produce records of his comedy routines which involved parodies of popular tunes and spoofs of modern entertainment personalities and on political topics . He was also on radio from 1954-1957 .
Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were an American comedy team who began in radio in 1946 with a daily 15-minute show titled Matinee With Bob and Ray . Their format was typically to satirize the medium in which they were performing, such as conducting interviews , with off-the-wall dialogue presented in a generally deadpan style as though it were a serious interview. They continued on the air for over four decades on radio and television, ending in 1987.
In more recent times the medium fell out of favor as a source of humor with Garrison Keillor being perhaps a rare modern example.
During the era of silent films in the 1920s, comedic films began to appear in significant numbers. These were mainly focused on visual humor, including slapstick and burlesque. In America, prominent clown-style actors of the silent era include Charlie Chaplin (although he was born in England), Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd . Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy) (Stan Laurel being British), Fatty Arbuckle , the Marx Brothers and other names were significant in the first decades of American cinema humor.
Many early film directors in the US were born elsewhere. This is true of one of the most noted early comedy directors in Hollywood, Billy Wilder . That said, American born directors like Howard Hawks , Preston Sturges and George Cukor also were major film c ome dy directors in the 1940s.
In the 1980s Christopher Guest , Carl Reiner , and the Coen brothers emerged as significant directors or writers in American film comedy . Added to this several "brother duos " have been of significance in American film like The Zucker brothers , the Coen brothers, and The Farrelly brothers.
In the last ten years Kevin Smith , Jay Roach , Tom Shadyac , and Alexander Payne have garnered notice as film directors whose work is often humorous ; if at times darkly so in the case of Payne. Some of the aforementioned directors, particularly Woody Allen and the Coen brothers, also do other genres of film besides comedy.
The situation comedy ( sitcom ) is a format that first developed in radio and later became the primary form of comedy on television . The first sitcom to be number one in US ratings overall was I Love Lucy .
In the decades since, several sitcoms have been tops in the ratings. In the 1960s The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show show held that distinction. Both of these programs were based on the country bumpkin - the Clampetts bringing their hillbilly ways to Beverly Hills, and the slow talking sheriff in the small rural town. In the 1970s All in the Family was the top rated show while dealing with serious issues it was based on the loudmouth bigot usually getting his come-uppance.
The most successful sitcoms of the 1980s were Roseanne and Cheers . Roseanne was a family sitcom, based on loud and large blue-collar parents. Cheers on the other hand was about a neighborhood bar frequented by a mix of working-class and professional drinkers .
In the 1990s the increasing popularity of cable changed the popularity of the sitcom. Cable provided more viewing options and made it more difficult for any one show to dominate in the manner that The Cosby Show or Cheers did in their eras. That said, Seinfeld and Friends managed to be among the most-watched shows of the decade. The 2000s has seen a further erosion in the sitcom with Friends being the only one to be the top watched show in any year of this decade, thus far, and the cancellation of the Emmy winning Arrested Development . Arrested Development had been one of the few critically successful comedies to have started in the 2000s, but recent comedies like The Office , 30 Rock and My Name Is Earl have garnered some praise .