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HE STOOPS TO LAUGHTER:
THE TRANGRESSION AND PROGRESSION OF HUMAN COMEDY
Joshua Whipp
ENGL 300: Methods and Research
Dr. George Hahn
Towson University
December 2, 2014
Junior Year
2
Comedy throughout the ages has always been a genre that is ever changing. Starting back
when comedy implied the protagonist was starting on a low and ending on a high. From there we
see multiple evolutions of the genre. Leading up the 18th century when author and playwright
Oliver Goldsmith wrote one of his most notable works. She Stoops to Conquer 1broke ground
and went against many traditions of comedy. Goldsmith defended his work, calling the dominant
form of comedy at the time (sentimental) a bastard form of tragedy. Goldsmith proposed a new
comic genre called “laughing comedy”. She Stoops to Conquer changed the game of comedy and
Goldsmith through laughing comedy still remains to influence modern society more than any
other subgenre.
The origin of comedy is linked back to Greeks. Not much of the start is
documented by according to Aristotle2, it began to take form in Megaris 3and Sicyon4. At
country festivals in celebration of the vintage5, it was common for people to go from town to
town either singing tragic choruses, or carrying the Phallic emblem6 and singing the praises of
1She Stoops to Conquer also known as Mistakes of Night is about the Hardcastle family. Mr. Hardcastle, Mrs.
Hardcastle, Kate, and Constance are all living under the same roof. Mr. Hardcastle is trying to arrange his daughter,
Kate, with the son of a rich Londoner, Sir Charles Marlow. Marlow (his son)is traveling with his companion
George Hastings.Meanwhile Mrs. Hardcastle is trying to set up her niece Constance with her son from a previous
marriage, Tony Lumpkin. Constance has a small inheritance set up from Mrs. Hardcastle, mostly consisting of
jewels. When Hastings and Marlow first arrive to the town they are lost and end up going into the local pub where
they run into Tony.Tony plays a trick on them and sends themto the Hardcastle’s house but telling them it is simply
an old inn. The two boys are rude and disrespectful on arrival because they think Mr. Hardcastle is simply an
innkeeper. When Kate meets Marlow for the first time she is in regal upper-class clothing which causes Marlow to
choke on his words. Kate then realizes she must stoop down into the lower class in order to gain the liking of
Marlow. Meanwhile Constance falls for Hastings and has to persuade Mrs. Hardcastle into letting them elope. Mr.
Hardcastle does not approve the Marlow yet Kate falls for him when she is not dressed up. All the confusing is
finally settled when Sir Charles Marlow decides to visit. The play ends with all of the truth coming forward and
Marlow and Kate get married and as do Hastings and Constance.
2 A Greek philosopher and scientist born in the Macedonian city of Stagirus, in 384 BCE.
3 A small but populous state ofancient Greece, west of Attica and north of Corinthia, whose inhabitants were
adventurous seafarers,credited with deceitful propensities.
4 an ancient Greek city situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea on the territory of the
present-day regional unit of Corinthia.
5 the grapes or wine produced during one season
6 Any object that by any stretch of the imagination may be conceived as representing a penis, either erect of flaccid.
3
Phales7. During the hours of the night men would run through the streets with torches singing
these choruses. These individuals in the improvised band were called comus, a member of the
comus would be called a comedus, while the song would be called comoedia or comedy; just as
the songs of the satyrs8 were called tragoedia, or tragedy. The Phallic images remained to signify
the general idea of comedy up until the days of Aristotle. It is intriguing that the male genitals
are a symbol of comedy while the female genitals have no mention in the ancient days. The
symbol remains relevant to this day with youth demonstrating and drawing the same symbols as
those draw and interpreted as Phallic.
Before exploring the evolution of comedy, it is important that one knows what makes
comedy so much intricate than tragedy or romantic drama. When watching a production of
tragedy it is easy to remember that one is on the other side of the footlights. Tragedies naturally
deal with substantial events in a person’s life. Which makes it easy to disconnect from that actor
or actress because most of the time, back then, only the upper class would be seeing these plays
and would have their life pretty well maintained. The whole action of drama and tragedy is taken
to a higher plane when dealing with human actions. However, comedy is completely different; an
author is dealing with human nature in everyday situations. In She Stoops to Conquer the plot is
not on a higher plane but on a lower one in which everybody can relate to. If the audience can
step into the conventions of the stage, they can fully appreciate the everyday comic spirit.
7 Satyr god of the processionalphallos and the song sang at the fertility festivals of Dionysos.Aristiphanes,surely in
jest, calls him the god of adultery and pederasty
8 One of a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods.In Greek art they were represented as a man with a horse's ears
and tail, but in Roman representations as a man with a goat's ears, tail, legs, and horns.
4
Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy9 was written during the 14th century. During this
time comedy had an entirely different connotation. In the ancient world poems were classified as
high10 or low11. Low poems had pleasant endings and were written on vulgar or common
matters. High poems were written about severe situations. The major note about The Divine
Comedy was that Dante wrote the poem about a serious subject, the redemption of man, yet he
wrote the work in low and vulgar Italian. Due to the vulgarity and the poem being written in
Italian and not Latin caused the poem to be classified as a “comedy”. Dante used the poem as a
religious and political satire although few know about the political elements that would have
been picked up by readers of the time. The Divine Comedy is hard to understand contextually in
today’s society but the vulgarity and satiric tones stuck for his time.
Satire is known for being the oldest subgenre of comedy. It can be incorporated in
literature, art, and performing arts. The artist or writer plays on one’s follies and ridicules them.
The earliest form of satire was similar to The Divine Comedy, political satire. The captivating
fact about political satire is that whenever a society has been ruled by a ruler or government, or
when there has been separations in class, satire has existed. Satire seems to be part of human
nature. When governed by another group or individual, one will always create a form of satire;
with either attacking shortcomings or criticizing a regime.
The idea of high and low poetry was quickly tossed with the development of prose and
the introduction of written plays and novels. Thomas Malory12 changed many preconceived
notions on what it is to be a writer. During the same time novels were gaining in popularity, the
9 An epic poemwritten between 1308 and 1321. The poem describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and
Heaven. An allegory of one man’s journey and connection with God.
10 A tragedy
11 A comedy
12 Authorof Le Morte d’Arthur, which some refer to as the first English novel
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Italian Renaissance 13reexamined the poetics14 of Aristotle. Setting the same ideas that Aristotle
had to a more definitive and solid foundation. Under the reign of Elizabeth I15, education and
sexual expression increased. England began producing legendary playwrights, no other than the
reputable William Shakespeare16. During the enlightened17 era, Shakespeare wrote a new kind of
comedy, the comedy of manners. The comedy of manners is a style of comedy that reflects the
lives of the upper class, keeping true to their beliefs and traditions. However the actors must
pretend to maintain a “mask” of social hierarchy while letting the audience know what is truly
behind their manners. It is common for these comedies to have substantial dialogue about sexual
acts, bedroom seductions, and sensual flirtations.
In Much Ado About Nothing18 Beatrice comments on why she must grow into an old
maid and not get married,
Leonato19
:You may light on a husband that hath no beard.
Beatrice:What should I do with him—dress him in my apparel
and make him my waiting-gentlewoman20
?
13 Toward the end of the 14th century AD, a handful of Italian thinkers declared that they were living in a new age.
The barbarous,unenlightened “Middle Ages” were over, they said; the new age would be a “rinascità” (“rebirth”) of
learning and literature, art and culture.
14 The earliest display of dramatic theory.Aristotle justifies what he calls “poetry”,in Greek meaning “making” and
Aristotle implies making drama, comedy, tragedy, and the satyrplay.”
15 Elizabeth I was the long-ruling queen of England, governing with relative stability and prosperity for 44 years.
The Elizabethan era is named for her.
16 Often called the English national poet, is widely considered the greatest dramatist of all time.
17 Cultural movement of intellectuals starting in the late 17th century. Emphasizing reason and individualism rather
than tradition
18 One of William Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. Written around 1598, the work is based on Beatrice, a girl
unjustly accused of being unchaste who later reconciles with her accusing lover, Benedick. It is also about a Hero
and Claudio – two sharp,knowledgeable individuals who swear they will never fall in love.
Stories about young women wrongly accused,brought close to death,and then rejoined with their lovers were really
popular during the Renaissance.Shakespeare used that trope (which can be traced all the way back to the Greek
romances) to make this light and silly comedy. The play trips along at a steady place as characters invent and pass
on totally misleading information.
19 Leonato is the governor of Messina,at least until he is asked to consider the fate of Dogberry's prisoners. Leonato
lets himself be guided rather easily by the ideas and opinions of others
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He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no
beard is less than a man; and he that is more than
a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man,
I am not for him: therefore,I will even take
Sixpence21
in earnest of the bear-ward22
,and lead his
apes into hell. (II.i.27–34)
Beatrice states that no man a suitable partner for her because she is looking for a man that
is in-between youth and adulthood. During the renaissance it was very common that both men
and women desired men in their adolescents. The comedy in this example can be explored in two
ways; one being the fact that Beatrice is looking for an adolescent man which is phase in a man’s
life that does not last very long. Another laugh would be the fact that this work was being
produced on stage, and the cast would have been all men. The guy playing Beatrice23 would be
an adolescent dressing in women’s clothing. The stage direction would make this clearer that it is
a comedy of manners. Beatrice is an upper class woman and stating that she is giving up
marriage because she wants a young adolescent man shows her naïve nature and on top of it all
she is being played by a younger boy would suggest homoeroticism24.
After the reign of Elizabeth I and her heirs, comedy and theatre took a turn for the worse
in 1653 when the Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector 25of the Commonwealth of England,
20 A woman of high social standing
21 A coin worth six old pence, withdrawn in 1980
22 A bear keeper
23 The English Renaissance theatre only included males. Female roles were played by adolescent boy players in
women’s costumes.
24 The tendency to obtain sexual gratification from a member of the same sex
25 The leader of the commonwealth, see 17. below
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Scotland and Ireland26. Cromwell saw the theatre as a placed of amusement and feared that it
would spread immorality. After 5 years as Lord Protector Cromwell passed away from what
most believe was malaria. Oliver’s son was left as the successor, however, after 264 days
Richard Cromwell abdicated the throne and King Charles II 27retook the throne.
Charles II being a huge fan of the theatre reopened all them. During Charles II reign,
popular playwrights such as John Dryden, Thomas Otway, and William Congreve emerged.
They began to write heroic drama, Restoration comedy28, and pathetic drama; shortly after the
reopening of the theatres Restoration comedy was viewed negatively for its vulgarity.
Playwrights during the time wanted to focus on the morality of the people. Exploring the idea
that they could make people feel joyous by gaining the masses sympathy for their characters,
starting the sentimental era. Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers 29is a pivotal example of a
sentimental comedy. Bevil Jr. is introducing his father in the following,
BEV. JUN:(introducing SIR JOHN) Sir, you are the
most gallant, the most complaisant of all parents.
Sure, ‘tis not a compliment to say these lodgings are
your. Why would you not walk in sir?
SIR J. BEV: I was loath to interrupt you
26 1649 onward when England, Ireland, and Scotland was ruled as republic following the end of the second English
civil war
27 Charles II was king of England, Scotland and Ireland, whose restoration to the throne in 1660 marked the end of
republican rule in England.
28 Anotherterm for Comedy of manners
29 A play by Richard Steele, in which Bevil Jr. is being pressured into marrying Lucinda the daughterof Mr.
Sealand. Bevil Jr. has no intention in marrying Lucinda because he is in love with Indiana. However, Bevil Jr.’s
friend Myrtle is interested in Lucinda. Bevil and myrtle scheme to postpone the marriage. Mrs. Sealand plans on
marrying Lucinda to Cimberton due to his vast fortune. Through a lot of scheming and disguise,Bevil Jr. finds out
Indiana is Mr. Sealand’s daughterand gets permission to marry her. While Lucinda marries myrtle because Mr.
Sealand doesn’t like Cimberton.
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Unseasonably on your wedding-day.
The language of the excerpt above shows the kind of civility and morality in the work.
Sentimental comedy had no desire to provoke laughter from the audience, rather tears. The form
of comedy plays to a classical form of comedy. As opposed to comedy of manners that was filled
sexual innuendoes30. The only thing holding this “comedy” into the genre is the sole fact that it
has a happy ending.
Oliver Goldsmith had a major issue with sentimental comedy. He wrote several essays
stating his objections. In Goldsmith’s essay “A Comparison between Laughing and Sentimental
Comedy31” he states,
“The other objection is as ill-grounded; for though we should give these pieces another
name, it will not mend their efficacy. It will continue a kind of mulish production, with
all the defects of its opposite parents, and marked with sterility. If we are permitted to
make comedy weep,we have an equal right to make tragedy laugh, and to set down in
blank verse the jests and repartees of all the attendants in a funeral procession.”
Goldsmith was one of the first and only who stepped up and pushed for the progression of
comedy. He viewed sentimental comedy as a step in the wrong direction and felt that society
should have pushed forward with comedy of manners. Oliver believed that the true purpose of
comedy was to give a “humorous exhibition” of the follies of men and women, and to accept
these errors by laughter. Goldsmith goes on to state in his essay that “one argument in favor of
sentimental comedy which will keep it on the stage… It is of all other the most easily written.”
30 An allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive ordisparaging one
31 http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/goldsmth/theatre/
9
As She Stoops to Conquer begins, on one of the first pages the reader experiences a song
by Tony Lumpkin 32on page 6. “"Let school-masters puzzle their brain, with grammar, and
nonsense, and learning; Good liquor, I stoutly maintain, gives genius a better discerning."
Goldsmith set this song up from the start for a reason; it gives the audience a clear aim of what
type of comedy Goldsmith’s show is going to be. He is “teaching” the audience to find humor in
low behavior. In the 1772 it was still taboo to talk and be seen being drunk. It was viewed as
lower behavior. Freeze frame for a second and fast forward to present time imagine a comedy
which did not involve the mocking or folly of individuals under the influence of alcohol.
Goldsmith set the stage by letting the masses know that it is okay to laugh at the errors of other
and that society should now be so judgmental about low behavior as it can lead to a joyous time.
Goldsmith got a lot of slack when he wrote She Stoops to Conquer, for one, it was a huge
break from the usual comedy. The play took months before it was put on stage due to the simple
fact that many producers were scared on how the masses would react to the low humor of the
work. In the introduction of the 1899 reprint of the play Joseph Jacobs 33states,
“It is about time that we gave up our patronizing attitude towards one of our greatest literary
artists of the eighteenth century. Because Boswell34
could not appreciate the vivacity of the Irish
temperament, that is no reason why we should regard Oliver Goldsmith as a half-inspired fool
32 Son of Mrs. Hardcastle from an earlier marriage, and known for his free-spirited ways and love for alcohol.
Practical joker. Proves to be good-natured and kind despite his superficial hatred to the world. His mother wants him
to marry Constance but he is opposed.
33 a folklorist, literary critic, historian and writer of English literature who became a notable collector and publisher
of English Folklore. His work went on to popularize some of the world’s best known versions of English fairy tales
including "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Goldilocks and the three bears","The Three Little Pigs", "Jack the Giant
Killer" and "The History of Tom Thumb".
34 he became known for his friendship with Dr. Johnson,his Account of Corsica (1768) and in the last years of his
life, for the 1791 biography of his friend Samuel Johnson.During the course of his life he met an amazing number
of the great and powerful, of the literati, the philosophers,academics and advocates ofhis time. In 1769 he married
his cousin Margaret Montgomerie, and in 1782 he became the 9th Laird of Auchinleck, his ancestralhome. He died
in May 1795 in London, following weeks of serious illness.
10
who blundered into producing two of the most vital literary masterpieces in our language.” She
Stoops to Conquer 1899 pg. 5
Boswell is most famously known for writing a biography for his friend Samuel Johnson35, who
was also a dear friend of Goldsmith and Johnson was the person in which Goldsmith dedicated
his work to. However, Bowell did not see the humor in publicizing low decency acts.
Goldsmith’s works will always stand as literary masterpieces. The most notable being his work
has changed the face of comedy.
In Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer it is clear that it is mocking the sentimental
comedy of the time; which is one of the reasons it took 3 years and a hesitant producer to finally
produce his play at the Covent Garden36. The play is based on a series of misunderstands that are
not concealed in any way. From the start there is a lot of confusion when Marlow goes to the
Hardcastle house and is treating the family like an inn. Just about every character in the play is
confused at one point or another which sparks the easy flow of “laughter comedy37”. Goldsmith
does not try to envelope his words with hidden meanings. The jokes and comedy are blunt and
right in the face. Goldsmith makes several attacks on sentimental comedy through his characters.
“Miss Hardcastle: Indeed I have often been surprised how man of sentiment could ever admire
those light air pleasures, where nothing reaches the heart.”pg. 42. Goldsmith criticizes the idea
that sentimental writers and fans can enjoy the easier and light pleasures of life because their
hearts are always bogged down with emotion. She Stoops to Conquer is hands down the best
example of an anti-sentimental comedy.
35 an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet,essayist,moralist, literary critic,
biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and has been described
as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history"
36 A theatre on the outskirts of London
37 Pure comedy, essentially the anti-sentimental comedy. Invokes all laughter, no tears.
11
Goldsmith also creates humor in misunderstandings and deception throughout the play.
The most notable is Marlow’s attitude toward Kate when she is dressed well. Marlow’s inability
to speak to “modern” women creates a dilemma which leads to Kate being deceptive when she
decides to dress up as a woman of the lower class. This disconnect for Marlow creates comedic
relief for the audience through the material and obvious fact that Kate is still the same person.
Goldsmith is one of the first playwrights to use this idea of appearance deception to create
humor. Later it will be seen in other major playwright’s works, such as The Comedy of Errors
38by William Shakespeare. In which two men visit a town which have their identical twins living
in the town. The mistaken identities lead to a series of wrongful beatings, infidelity, theft,
madness, and demonic possession.
Goldsmith knew his intent when writing the play, ever word was precisely tuned;
throughout the work there are multiple digs and hints that he is belittling the authors39 of
sentimental comedy. He uses subtle wording to mock those authors that are trying so hard to
inspire comedy into the future. "Pshaw, pshaw! This is all but the whining end of a modern
novel” Mrs. Hardcastle, Act V, p. 59. Goldsmith had a clear intention when directing this line.
One could question if Goldsmith was mocking the idea that sentimental comedy would be the
new “modern novel”. The statement could be left up to interpretation but either way Goldsmith is
confronting the question of what exactly is the new form of comedy. One understanding that
during this time, a “laughing comedy” aimed at the follies of others has never been attempted on
a scale this big.
38 The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's early plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical
comedies, with a major part of the humor coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word
play.
39 Colley Cibber, Sir Richard Steele, Edward Moore, William Whitehead,and works such as Love’s Last Shift
(1696),The Careless Husband (1704),The Conscious Lovers (1722),The Foundling (1748),and The School for
Lovers (1762)
12
When examining the four types of comedy previously mentioned satiric, comedy of
manners, sentimental comedy, and laughter comedy. One stands out as the one seen the most in
today’s society. Oliver Goldsmith went on stood up for the power of laughter when he wrote The
Stoops to Conquer and went against the majority of playwrights. He invoked the people to start
having more enjoyment in their lives. When viewing theatre and film in today’s society,
Goldsmith’s play was a defining moment in the history of theatre. If the play was not produced
and was ignored one could not tell what the effects would be. Sentimental comedy could still be
dominant.
TV shows, films, or theatre productions now still that resemble the plot of She Stoops to
Conquer. On sitcoms such as Seinfeld40 or Friends41 there are several times when someone is
talking to someone else and they are confused in regards to whom the subject of the conversation
is. The shows above are listed on any channel as a comedy, the jokes are quick and easily to
grasp, there are very few episodes that cause one to cry. Most comedy programs today follow the
concept that Oliver Goldsmith set up.
Another method Goldsmith uses to provoke laughter in the play is his use of insults! Today, it is
very common to see insult comics all over the place. The use of sarcasm and satiric language is
at its peak in today’s society but back in the 18th century there was not a significant amount of
insults in work besides serious disdain between two characters. Goldsmith gives us insults but
not with a malicious intent behind them, it’s more like two brothers bickering back and forth
when the play is directed. “You numskulls! And so while, like your betters, you are quarrelling
for places, the guests must be starved. O, you dunces! I find I must begin all over again. – But
40 A U.S. comedic sitcom described as “a showabout nothing”
41 A U.S. sitcom which aired September 1994. The show was about 6 friends living in New York and their trials and
tribulations of their lives.
13
don’t I hear a coach drive into the yard? To your posts, you blockheads!” pg. 64. The entire
scene feels very The Three Stooges 42to the modern reader. The insults are light-hearted and are
meant to be taken with a lighter sense. Goldsmith undoubtedly pushed the mark for comedy
much further with the use of comedic insults while the actor and characters still have their tongue
pressed firmly on their cheek43.
Some critics may argue that Goldsmith’s work inspired comedy today. While that is a big
compliment to be stated, one must also analyze what exactly today’s comedies are based on.
Through extensive research of “today’s top selling comedies” leads to many books and authors
on the list; one being a personal favorite, David Sedaris44. Sedaris writes on his memories as
growing up with a rather blunt and disconnected family. His comedic wit comes from his detail
and explicit metaphors. In his novel When You Are Engulfed in Flames45, there is a chapter in
which he talks about how his father worked at a morgue. He goes on to tell a story of when he
would go to work with his father and see the dead bodies. Sedaris learned a lot from going to
work with his dad and was exposed to multiple unfortunate and sporadic ways people can die
and goes on to state “By this point in my stay, my list of don’ts covered three pages and included
such reminders as: never fall asleep in a dumpster, never underestimate a bee, never drive a
convertible behind a flatbed truck, never get old, never get drunk near a train, and never, under
any circumstances, cut off your air supply while masturbating” When You Are Engulfed in
42 An American vaudeville and comedy act of the mid–20th century (1930–1975) best known for their numerous
short subject films, still syndicated to television. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick
43 Tongue-in-cheek is a figure of speech used to imply that a statement or other production is humorously or
otherwise not seriously intended, and it should not be taken at face value.
44 An American humorist, comedian, author,and radio contributor. He was publicly recognized in 1992 when
National Public Radio broadcast his essay "Santa Land Diaries"
45 Sedaris's sixth book assembles essays on various situations such as trying to make coffee when the water is shut
off, associations in the French countryside,buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina, having a lozenge
fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passengeron a plane, armoring windows with LP covers to protect the
house from neurotic songbirds,lancing a boil from another's backside, and venturing to Japan to quit smoking.
14
Flames 2008, pg. 113. It is quite common today that comedies in literature are based on the
explicit, sex, alcohol, or death. Sedaris touches on many of those subjects in his essays of his
childhood. He reflects back and creates humor out of his adolescent past with the use of adult
language and a better understanding of the sexual and morbid ideals.
The issue many have with modern day comedies is that we as a society are running out of
topics to write about. The progression of comedy is so well documented and so well taught that
many people run out of ideas. With the evolution of comedy it demonstrates that theatre’s have
to keep running older plays when it comes to comedy and can continue producing new drama’s.
Humor at present day seems to be departing from the stage. Within the next couple centuries,
many fear that comedies will have no desire to be produced on stage with the increase of cinema.
Actors in movies and TV46 are getting paid higher and have technological support to increase the
blatant humor. The days of word play and puns are slowly fading with the newer generations.
Think of the last time you’ve heard about a new play being pushed as a comedy that is on
Broadway47. Most Broadway plays are musicals and the stage plays are slowly being outrun due
to the lack of entertainment associated with them. Leaving the new comedy to rely significantly
on subjects that past centuries have not dared to go; mocking and poking fun at the dead, sex,
drugs, and drunken behavior.
46 The lowest-paid 10 percent made $8.79 hourly, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned over $90 hourly. Most
worked in the motion picture and video industries to make a mean hourly $43.33. However, independent actors
made the highest average pay at $45.39 per hour. However TV actors that are bigger name celebrities make
anywhere from $200,000-$750,000 per episode.The minimum weekly salary for actors on Broadway last year was
$1,215, and Off Broadway minimums range from $440 to $763. But Actors' Equity confirms that fewer than 15
percent of its dues-paying members work during any given week and the average annual earning for an actor in 1999
was $14,936 per week.
47 Broadway theatres are widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English -
speaking world.
15
Many question where comedy is going to go in the future, with the strong increase of low
style humor today. Many stand-up comics question the outlook and are seeking to find the new
niche of comedy. There are now schools and theatres that teach comedy classes, more
specifically classes that help prepare students to be quick witted and ready to perform in front an
audience. Alf LaMont 48of Laughspin49 provokes “Of course, comedy classes didn’t fly within
the tribal atmosphere of a comedy club. After consulting with comics, I found the opposition to
“comedy classes” to be almost universal. The notion that comedy could be taught seemed to be
downright offensive to most comics and comedy teachers were looked on as snake oil salesmen
and “hacks.” Comedy in the view of comics and the intended audience is not something that can
be taught. The dynamic trait of laughing comedy is the fact that everyone finds something else
funny. A joke is something that cannot be explained, learning the algorithm of it would simply
destroy it, as Mark Twain50 once said, “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog: you
understand it better, but the frog dies in the process”. Comedians such as LaMont believe that the
academization of comedy is inevitable due to the growth of popularity of stand-up comedians
such as Dane Cook51, Whoopi Goldberg52, and Daniel Tosh53, going further to state that in this
moment it is profitable for theatres and schools to teach comedy.
48 Alf LaMont is the Social Media Director at Task Force PR, and was VP of Marketing and Development at The
Comedy Store in Los Angeles in a previous life. Alf's work on comedy and technology has been featured on Laugh
Button, Laugh Spin, Venues Today, The Comic's Comic, Connectedcomedy.com, and Fifteen Minutes Media where
he was referred to as a “Rising star of Social Media”
49 Formerly Punchline Magazine, Laughspin.com is your source for all things comedy. Founded and edited by Dylan
Gadino
50 Samuel Langhorne better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote
The Adventures ofTom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn.
51 an American stand-up comedian and film actor. He has released five comedy albums: Harmful If Swallowed;
Retaliation; Vicious Circle; Rough Around The Edges: Live From Madison Square Garden; and Isolated Incident. In
2006, Retaliation became the highest charting comedy album in 28 years and went platinum.
52 an American comedienne, actress,singer-songwriter, political activist, author and talk showhost.
53 an American comedian, television host,actor, writer, and executive producer who hosts the Comedy Central
television show Tosh.0.
16
Comedy has progressed drastically through the centuries. Through a complete definition
change when one juxtaposes the original meaning with todays. Without a doubt Oliver
Goldsmith wrote one of the most influential comedic plays of all time. Goldsmith’s work
publicized the appreciation for low style humor and ignited the spark that promoted blatant jokes
without the need to think about word play, puns, or the deep meaning of sorrow that were
involved in sentimental and satiric comedy.

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She Stoops to Conquer: Comedy's Transgression and Progression

  • 1. 1 HE STOOPS TO LAUGHTER: THE TRANGRESSION AND PROGRESSION OF HUMAN COMEDY Joshua Whipp ENGL 300: Methods and Research Dr. George Hahn Towson University December 2, 2014 Junior Year
  • 2. 2 Comedy throughout the ages has always been a genre that is ever changing. Starting back when comedy implied the protagonist was starting on a low and ending on a high. From there we see multiple evolutions of the genre. Leading up the 18th century when author and playwright Oliver Goldsmith wrote one of his most notable works. She Stoops to Conquer 1broke ground and went against many traditions of comedy. Goldsmith defended his work, calling the dominant form of comedy at the time (sentimental) a bastard form of tragedy. Goldsmith proposed a new comic genre called “laughing comedy”. She Stoops to Conquer changed the game of comedy and Goldsmith through laughing comedy still remains to influence modern society more than any other subgenre. The origin of comedy is linked back to Greeks. Not much of the start is documented by according to Aristotle2, it began to take form in Megaris 3and Sicyon4. At country festivals in celebration of the vintage5, it was common for people to go from town to town either singing tragic choruses, or carrying the Phallic emblem6 and singing the praises of 1She Stoops to Conquer also known as Mistakes of Night is about the Hardcastle family. Mr. Hardcastle, Mrs. Hardcastle, Kate, and Constance are all living under the same roof. Mr. Hardcastle is trying to arrange his daughter, Kate, with the son of a rich Londoner, Sir Charles Marlow. Marlow (his son)is traveling with his companion George Hastings.Meanwhile Mrs. Hardcastle is trying to set up her niece Constance with her son from a previous marriage, Tony Lumpkin. Constance has a small inheritance set up from Mrs. Hardcastle, mostly consisting of jewels. When Hastings and Marlow first arrive to the town they are lost and end up going into the local pub where they run into Tony.Tony plays a trick on them and sends themto the Hardcastle’s house but telling them it is simply an old inn. The two boys are rude and disrespectful on arrival because they think Mr. Hardcastle is simply an innkeeper. When Kate meets Marlow for the first time she is in regal upper-class clothing which causes Marlow to choke on his words. Kate then realizes she must stoop down into the lower class in order to gain the liking of Marlow. Meanwhile Constance falls for Hastings and has to persuade Mrs. Hardcastle into letting them elope. Mr. Hardcastle does not approve the Marlow yet Kate falls for him when she is not dressed up. All the confusing is finally settled when Sir Charles Marlow decides to visit. The play ends with all of the truth coming forward and Marlow and Kate get married and as do Hastings and Constance. 2 A Greek philosopher and scientist born in the Macedonian city of Stagirus, in 384 BCE. 3 A small but populous state ofancient Greece, west of Attica and north of Corinthia, whose inhabitants were adventurous seafarers,credited with deceitful propensities. 4 an ancient Greek city situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea on the territory of the present-day regional unit of Corinthia. 5 the grapes or wine produced during one season 6 Any object that by any stretch of the imagination may be conceived as representing a penis, either erect of flaccid.
  • 3. 3 Phales7. During the hours of the night men would run through the streets with torches singing these choruses. These individuals in the improvised band were called comus, a member of the comus would be called a comedus, while the song would be called comoedia or comedy; just as the songs of the satyrs8 were called tragoedia, or tragedy. The Phallic images remained to signify the general idea of comedy up until the days of Aristotle. It is intriguing that the male genitals are a symbol of comedy while the female genitals have no mention in the ancient days. The symbol remains relevant to this day with youth demonstrating and drawing the same symbols as those draw and interpreted as Phallic. Before exploring the evolution of comedy, it is important that one knows what makes comedy so much intricate than tragedy or romantic drama. When watching a production of tragedy it is easy to remember that one is on the other side of the footlights. Tragedies naturally deal with substantial events in a person’s life. Which makes it easy to disconnect from that actor or actress because most of the time, back then, only the upper class would be seeing these plays and would have their life pretty well maintained. The whole action of drama and tragedy is taken to a higher plane when dealing with human actions. However, comedy is completely different; an author is dealing with human nature in everyday situations. In She Stoops to Conquer the plot is not on a higher plane but on a lower one in which everybody can relate to. If the audience can step into the conventions of the stage, they can fully appreciate the everyday comic spirit. 7 Satyr god of the processionalphallos and the song sang at the fertility festivals of Dionysos.Aristiphanes,surely in jest, calls him the god of adultery and pederasty 8 One of a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods.In Greek art they were represented as a man with a horse's ears and tail, but in Roman representations as a man with a goat's ears, tail, legs, and horns.
  • 4. 4 Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy9 was written during the 14th century. During this time comedy had an entirely different connotation. In the ancient world poems were classified as high10 or low11. Low poems had pleasant endings and were written on vulgar or common matters. High poems were written about severe situations. The major note about The Divine Comedy was that Dante wrote the poem about a serious subject, the redemption of man, yet he wrote the work in low and vulgar Italian. Due to the vulgarity and the poem being written in Italian and not Latin caused the poem to be classified as a “comedy”. Dante used the poem as a religious and political satire although few know about the political elements that would have been picked up by readers of the time. The Divine Comedy is hard to understand contextually in today’s society but the vulgarity and satiric tones stuck for his time. Satire is known for being the oldest subgenre of comedy. It can be incorporated in literature, art, and performing arts. The artist or writer plays on one’s follies and ridicules them. The earliest form of satire was similar to The Divine Comedy, political satire. The captivating fact about political satire is that whenever a society has been ruled by a ruler or government, or when there has been separations in class, satire has existed. Satire seems to be part of human nature. When governed by another group or individual, one will always create a form of satire; with either attacking shortcomings or criticizing a regime. The idea of high and low poetry was quickly tossed with the development of prose and the introduction of written plays and novels. Thomas Malory12 changed many preconceived notions on what it is to be a writer. During the same time novels were gaining in popularity, the 9 An epic poemwritten between 1308 and 1321. The poem describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. An allegory of one man’s journey and connection with God. 10 A tragedy 11 A comedy 12 Authorof Le Morte d’Arthur, which some refer to as the first English novel
  • 5. 5 Italian Renaissance 13reexamined the poetics14 of Aristotle. Setting the same ideas that Aristotle had to a more definitive and solid foundation. Under the reign of Elizabeth I15, education and sexual expression increased. England began producing legendary playwrights, no other than the reputable William Shakespeare16. During the enlightened17 era, Shakespeare wrote a new kind of comedy, the comedy of manners. The comedy of manners is a style of comedy that reflects the lives of the upper class, keeping true to their beliefs and traditions. However the actors must pretend to maintain a “mask” of social hierarchy while letting the audience know what is truly behind their manners. It is common for these comedies to have substantial dialogue about sexual acts, bedroom seductions, and sensual flirtations. In Much Ado About Nothing18 Beatrice comments on why she must grow into an old maid and not get married, Leonato19 :You may light on a husband that hath no beard. Beatrice:What should I do with him—dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting-gentlewoman20 ? 13 Toward the end of the 14th century AD, a handful of Italian thinkers declared that they were living in a new age. The barbarous,unenlightened “Middle Ages” were over, they said; the new age would be a “rinascità” (“rebirth”) of learning and literature, art and culture. 14 The earliest display of dramatic theory.Aristotle justifies what he calls “poetry”,in Greek meaning “making” and Aristotle implies making drama, comedy, tragedy, and the satyrplay.” 15 Elizabeth I was the long-ruling queen of England, governing with relative stability and prosperity for 44 years. The Elizabethan era is named for her. 16 Often called the English national poet, is widely considered the greatest dramatist of all time. 17 Cultural movement of intellectuals starting in the late 17th century. Emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition 18 One of William Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. Written around 1598, the work is based on Beatrice, a girl unjustly accused of being unchaste who later reconciles with her accusing lover, Benedick. It is also about a Hero and Claudio – two sharp,knowledgeable individuals who swear they will never fall in love. Stories about young women wrongly accused,brought close to death,and then rejoined with their lovers were really popular during the Renaissance.Shakespeare used that trope (which can be traced all the way back to the Greek romances) to make this light and silly comedy. The play trips along at a steady place as characters invent and pass on totally misleading information. 19 Leonato is the governor of Messina,at least until he is asked to consider the fate of Dogberry's prisoners. Leonato lets himself be guided rather easily by the ideas and opinions of others
  • 6. 6 He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him: therefore,I will even take Sixpence21 in earnest of the bear-ward22 ,and lead his apes into hell. (II.i.27–34) Beatrice states that no man a suitable partner for her because she is looking for a man that is in-between youth and adulthood. During the renaissance it was very common that both men and women desired men in their adolescents. The comedy in this example can be explored in two ways; one being the fact that Beatrice is looking for an adolescent man which is phase in a man’s life that does not last very long. Another laugh would be the fact that this work was being produced on stage, and the cast would have been all men. The guy playing Beatrice23 would be an adolescent dressing in women’s clothing. The stage direction would make this clearer that it is a comedy of manners. Beatrice is an upper class woman and stating that she is giving up marriage because she wants a young adolescent man shows her naïve nature and on top of it all she is being played by a younger boy would suggest homoeroticism24. After the reign of Elizabeth I and her heirs, comedy and theatre took a turn for the worse in 1653 when the Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector 25of the Commonwealth of England, 20 A woman of high social standing 21 A coin worth six old pence, withdrawn in 1980 22 A bear keeper 23 The English Renaissance theatre only included males. Female roles were played by adolescent boy players in women’s costumes. 24 The tendency to obtain sexual gratification from a member of the same sex 25 The leader of the commonwealth, see 17. below
  • 7. 7 Scotland and Ireland26. Cromwell saw the theatre as a placed of amusement and feared that it would spread immorality. After 5 years as Lord Protector Cromwell passed away from what most believe was malaria. Oliver’s son was left as the successor, however, after 264 days Richard Cromwell abdicated the throne and King Charles II 27retook the throne. Charles II being a huge fan of the theatre reopened all them. During Charles II reign, popular playwrights such as John Dryden, Thomas Otway, and William Congreve emerged. They began to write heroic drama, Restoration comedy28, and pathetic drama; shortly after the reopening of the theatres Restoration comedy was viewed negatively for its vulgarity. Playwrights during the time wanted to focus on the morality of the people. Exploring the idea that they could make people feel joyous by gaining the masses sympathy for their characters, starting the sentimental era. Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers 29is a pivotal example of a sentimental comedy. Bevil Jr. is introducing his father in the following, BEV. JUN:(introducing SIR JOHN) Sir, you are the most gallant, the most complaisant of all parents. Sure, ‘tis not a compliment to say these lodgings are your. Why would you not walk in sir? SIR J. BEV: I was loath to interrupt you 26 1649 onward when England, Ireland, and Scotland was ruled as republic following the end of the second English civil war 27 Charles II was king of England, Scotland and Ireland, whose restoration to the throne in 1660 marked the end of republican rule in England. 28 Anotherterm for Comedy of manners 29 A play by Richard Steele, in which Bevil Jr. is being pressured into marrying Lucinda the daughterof Mr. Sealand. Bevil Jr. has no intention in marrying Lucinda because he is in love with Indiana. However, Bevil Jr.’s friend Myrtle is interested in Lucinda. Bevil and myrtle scheme to postpone the marriage. Mrs. Sealand plans on marrying Lucinda to Cimberton due to his vast fortune. Through a lot of scheming and disguise,Bevil Jr. finds out Indiana is Mr. Sealand’s daughterand gets permission to marry her. While Lucinda marries myrtle because Mr. Sealand doesn’t like Cimberton.
  • 8. 8 Unseasonably on your wedding-day. The language of the excerpt above shows the kind of civility and morality in the work. Sentimental comedy had no desire to provoke laughter from the audience, rather tears. The form of comedy plays to a classical form of comedy. As opposed to comedy of manners that was filled sexual innuendoes30. The only thing holding this “comedy” into the genre is the sole fact that it has a happy ending. Oliver Goldsmith had a major issue with sentimental comedy. He wrote several essays stating his objections. In Goldsmith’s essay “A Comparison between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy31” he states, “The other objection is as ill-grounded; for though we should give these pieces another name, it will not mend their efficacy. It will continue a kind of mulish production, with all the defects of its opposite parents, and marked with sterility. If we are permitted to make comedy weep,we have an equal right to make tragedy laugh, and to set down in blank verse the jests and repartees of all the attendants in a funeral procession.” Goldsmith was one of the first and only who stepped up and pushed for the progression of comedy. He viewed sentimental comedy as a step in the wrong direction and felt that society should have pushed forward with comedy of manners. Oliver believed that the true purpose of comedy was to give a “humorous exhibition” of the follies of men and women, and to accept these errors by laughter. Goldsmith goes on to state in his essay that “one argument in favor of sentimental comedy which will keep it on the stage… It is of all other the most easily written.” 30 An allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive ordisparaging one 31 http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/goldsmth/theatre/
  • 9. 9 As She Stoops to Conquer begins, on one of the first pages the reader experiences a song by Tony Lumpkin 32on page 6. “"Let school-masters puzzle their brain, with grammar, and nonsense, and learning; Good liquor, I stoutly maintain, gives genius a better discerning." Goldsmith set this song up from the start for a reason; it gives the audience a clear aim of what type of comedy Goldsmith’s show is going to be. He is “teaching” the audience to find humor in low behavior. In the 1772 it was still taboo to talk and be seen being drunk. It was viewed as lower behavior. Freeze frame for a second and fast forward to present time imagine a comedy which did not involve the mocking or folly of individuals under the influence of alcohol. Goldsmith set the stage by letting the masses know that it is okay to laugh at the errors of other and that society should now be so judgmental about low behavior as it can lead to a joyous time. Goldsmith got a lot of slack when he wrote She Stoops to Conquer, for one, it was a huge break from the usual comedy. The play took months before it was put on stage due to the simple fact that many producers were scared on how the masses would react to the low humor of the work. In the introduction of the 1899 reprint of the play Joseph Jacobs 33states, “It is about time that we gave up our patronizing attitude towards one of our greatest literary artists of the eighteenth century. Because Boswell34 could not appreciate the vivacity of the Irish temperament, that is no reason why we should regard Oliver Goldsmith as a half-inspired fool 32 Son of Mrs. Hardcastle from an earlier marriage, and known for his free-spirited ways and love for alcohol. Practical joker. Proves to be good-natured and kind despite his superficial hatred to the world. His mother wants him to marry Constance but he is opposed. 33 a folklorist, literary critic, historian and writer of English literature who became a notable collector and publisher of English Folklore. His work went on to popularize some of the world’s best known versions of English fairy tales including "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Goldilocks and the three bears","The Three Little Pigs", "Jack the Giant Killer" and "The History of Tom Thumb". 34 he became known for his friendship with Dr. Johnson,his Account of Corsica (1768) and in the last years of his life, for the 1791 biography of his friend Samuel Johnson.During the course of his life he met an amazing number of the great and powerful, of the literati, the philosophers,academics and advocates ofhis time. In 1769 he married his cousin Margaret Montgomerie, and in 1782 he became the 9th Laird of Auchinleck, his ancestralhome. He died in May 1795 in London, following weeks of serious illness.
  • 10. 10 who blundered into producing two of the most vital literary masterpieces in our language.” She Stoops to Conquer 1899 pg. 5 Boswell is most famously known for writing a biography for his friend Samuel Johnson35, who was also a dear friend of Goldsmith and Johnson was the person in which Goldsmith dedicated his work to. However, Bowell did not see the humor in publicizing low decency acts. Goldsmith’s works will always stand as literary masterpieces. The most notable being his work has changed the face of comedy. In Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer it is clear that it is mocking the sentimental comedy of the time; which is one of the reasons it took 3 years and a hesitant producer to finally produce his play at the Covent Garden36. The play is based on a series of misunderstands that are not concealed in any way. From the start there is a lot of confusion when Marlow goes to the Hardcastle house and is treating the family like an inn. Just about every character in the play is confused at one point or another which sparks the easy flow of “laughter comedy37”. Goldsmith does not try to envelope his words with hidden meanings. The jokes and comedy are blunt and right in the face. Goldsmith makes several attacks on sentimental comedy through his characters. “Miss Hardcastle: Indeed I have often been surprised how man of sentiment could ever admire those light air pleasures, where nothing reaches the heart.”pg. 42. Goldsmith criticizes the idea that sentimental writers and fans can enjoy the easier and light pleasures of life because their hearts are always bogged down with emotion. She Stoops to Conquer is hands down the best example of an anti-sentimental comedy. 35 an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet,essayist,moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history" 36 A theatre on the outskirts of London 37 Pure comedy, essentially the anti-sentimental comedy. Invokes all laughter, no tears.
  • 11. 11 Goldsmith also creates humor in misunderstandings and deception throughout the play. The most notable is Marlow’s attitude toward Kate when she is dressed well. Marlow’s inability to speak to “modern” women creates a dilemma which leads to Kate being deceptive when she decides to dress up as a woman of the lower class. This disconnect for Marlow creates comedic relief for the audience through the material and obvious fact that Kate is still the same person. Goldsmith is one of the first playwrights to use this idea of appearance deception to create humor. Later it will be seen in other major playwright’s works, such as The Comedy of Errors 38by William Shakespeare. In which two men visit a town which have their identical twins living in the town. The mistaken identities lead to a series of wrongful beatings, infidelity, theft, madness, and demonic possession. Goldsmith knew his intent when writing the play, ever word was precisely tuned; throughout the work there are multiple digs and hints that he is belittling the authors39 of sentimental comedy. He uses subtle wording to mock those authors that are trying so hard to inspire comedy into the future. "Pshaw, pshaw! This is all but the whining end of a modern novel” Mrs. Hardcastle, Act V, p. 59. Goldsmith had a clear intention when directing this line. One could question if Goldsmith was mocking the idea that sentimental comedy would be the new “modern novel”. The statement could be left up to interpretation but either way Goldsmith is confronting the question of what exactly is the new form of comedy. One understanding that during this time, a “laughing comedy” aimed at the follies of others has never been attempted on a scale this big. 38 The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's early plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humor coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play. 39 Colley Cibber, Sir Richard Steele, Edward Moore, William Whitehead,and works such as Love’s Last Shift (1696),The Careless Husband (1704),The Conscious Lovers (1722),The Foundling (1748),and The School for Lovers (1762)
  • 12. 12 When examining the four types of comedy previously mentioned satiric, comedy of manners, sentimental comedy, and laughter comedy. One stands out as the one seen the most in today’s society. Oliver Goldsmith went on stood up for the power of laughter when he wrote The Stoops to Conquer and went against the majority of playwrights. He invoked the people to start having more enjoyment in their lives. When viewing theatre and film in today’s society, Goldsmith’s play was a defining moment in the history of theatre. If the play was not produced and was ignored one could not tell what the effects would be. Sentimental comedy could still be dominant. TV shows, films, or theatre productions now still that resemble the plot of She Stoops to Conquer. On sitcoms such as Seinfeld40 or Friends41 there are several times when someone is talking to someone else and they are confused in regards to whom the subject of the conversation is. The shows above are listed on any channel as a comedy, the jokes are quick and easily to grasp, there are very few episodes that cause one to cry. Most comedy programs today follow the concept that Oliver Goldsmith set up. Another method Goldsmith uses to provoke laughter in the play is his use of insults! Today, it is very common to see insult comics all over the place. The use of sarcasm and satiric language is at its peak in today’s society but back in the 18th century there was not a significant amount of insults in work besides serious disdain between two characters. Goldsmith gives us insults but not with a malicious intent behind them, it’s more like two brothers bickering back and forth when the play is directed. “You numskulls! And so while, like your betters, you are quarrelling for places, the guests must be starved. O, you dunces! I find I must begin all over again. – But 40 A U.S. comedic sitcom described as “a showabout nothing” 41 A U.S. sitcom which aired September 1994. The show was about 6 friends living in New York and their trials and tribulations of their lives.
  • 13. 13 don’t I hear a coach drive into the yard? To your posts, you blockheads!” pg. 64. The entire scene feels very The Three Stooges 42to the modern reader. The insults are light-hearted and are meant to be taken with a lighter sense. Goldsmith undoubtedly pushed the mark for comedy much further with the use of comedic insults while the actor and characters still have their tongue pressed firmly on their cheek43. Some critics may argue that Goldsmith’s work inspired comedy today. While that is a big compliment to be stated, one must also analyze what exactly today’s comedies are based on. Through extensive research of “today’s top selling comedies” leads to many books and authors on the list; one being a personal favorite, David Sedaris44. Sedaris writes on his memories as growing up with a rather blunt and disconnected family. His comedic wit comes from his detail and explicit metaphors. In his novel When You Are Engulfed in Flames45, there is a chapter in which he talks about how his father worked at a morgue. He goes on to tell a story of when he would go to work with his father and see the dead bodies. Sedaris learned a lot from going to work with his dad and was exposed to multiple unfortunate and sporadic ways people can die and goes on to state “By this point in my stay, my list of don’ts covered three pages and included such reminders as: never fall asleep in a dumpster, never underestimate a bee, never drive a convertible behind a flatbed truck, never get old, never get drunk near a train, and never, under any circumstances, cut off your air supply while masturbating” When You Are Engulfed in 42 An American vaudeville and comedy act of the mid–20th century (1930–1975) best known for their numerous short subject films, still syndicated to television. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick 43 Tongue-in-cheek is a figure of speech used to imply that a statement or other production is humorously or otherwise not seriously intended, and it should not be taken at face value. 44 An American humorist, comedian, author,and radio contributor. He was publicly recognized in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "Santa Land Diaries" 45 Sedaris's sixth book assembles essays on various situations such as trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, associations in the French countryside,buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina, having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passengeron a plane, armoring windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds,lancing a boil from another's backside, and venturing to Japan to quit smoking.
  • 14. 14 Flames 2008, pg. 113. It is quite common today that comedies in literature are based on the explicit, sex, alcohol, or death. Sedaris touches on many of those subjects in his essays of his childhood. He reflects back and creates humor out of his adolescent past with the use of adult language and a better understanding of the sexual and morbid ideals. The issue many have with modern day comedies is that we as a society are running out of topics to write about. The progression of comedy is so well documented and so well taught that many people run out of ideas. With the evolution of comedy it demonstrates that theatre’s have to keep running older plays when it comes to comedy and can continue producing new drama’s. Humor at present day seems to be departing from the stage. Within the next couple centuries, many fear that comedies will have no desire to be produced on stage with the increase of cinema. Actors in movies and TV46 are getting paid higher and have technological support to increase the blatant humor. The days of word play and puns are slowly fading with the newer generations. Think of the last time you’ve heard about a new play being pushed as a comedy that is on Broadway47. Most Broadway plays are musicals and the stage plays are slowly being outrun due to the lack of entertainment associated with them. Leaving the new comedy to rely significantly on subjects that past centuries have not dared to go; mocking and poking fun at the dead, sex, drugs, and drunken behavior. 46 The lowest-paid 10 percent made $8.79 hourly, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned over $90 hourly. Most worked in the motion picture and video industries to make a mean hourly $43.33. However, independent actors made the highest average pay at $45.39 per hour. However TV actors that are bigger name celebrities make anywhere from $200,000-$750,000 per episode.The minimum weekly salary for actors on Broadway last year was $1,215, and Off Broadway minimums range from $440 to $763. But Actors' Equity confirms that fewer than 15 percent of its dues-paying members work during any given week and the average annual earning for an actor in 1999 was $14,936 per week. 47 Broadway theatres are widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English - speaking world.
  • 15. 15 Many question where comedy is going to go in the future, with the strong increase of low style humor today. Many stand-up comics question the outlook and are seeking to find the new niche of comedy. There are now schools and theatres that teach comedy classes, more specifically classes that help prepare students to be quick witted and ready to perform in front an audience. Alf LaMont 48of Laughspin49 provokes “Of course, comedy classes didn’t fly within the tribal atmosphere of a comedy club. After consulting with comics, I found the opposition to “comedy classes” to be almost universal. The notion that comedy could be taught seemed to be downright offensive to most comics and comedy teachers were looked on as snake oil salesmen and “hacks.” Comedy in the view of comics and the intended audience is not something that can be taught. The dynamic trait of laughing comedy is the fact that everyone finds something else funny. A joke is something that cannot be explained, learning the algorithm of it would simply destroy it, as Mark Twain50 once said, “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog: you understand it better, but the frog dies in the process”. Comedians such as LaMont believe that the academization of comedy is inevitable due to the growth of popularity of stand-up comedians such as Dane Cook51, Whoopi Goldberg52, and Daniel Tosh53, going further to state that in this moment it is profitable for theatres and schools to teach comedy. 48 Alf LaMont is the Social Media Director at Task Force PR, and was VP of Marketing and Development at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles in a previous life. Alf's work on comedy and technology has been featured on Laugh Button, Laugh Spin, Venues Today, The Comic's Comic, Connectedcomedy.com, and Fifteen Minutes Media where he was referred to as a “Rising star of Social Media” 49 Formerly Punchline Magazine, Laughspin.com is your source for all things comedy. Founded and edited by Dylan Gadino 50 Samuel Langhorne better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures ofTom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn. 51 an American stand-up comedian and film actor. He has released five comedy albums: Harmful If Swallowed; Retaliation; Vicious Circle; Rough Around The Edges: Live From Madison Square Garden; and Isolated Incident. In 2006, Retaliation became the highest charting comedy album in 28 years and went platinum. 52 an American comedienne, actress,singer-songwriter, political activist, author and talk showhost. 53 an American comedian, television host,actor, writer, and executive producer who hosts the Comedy Central television show Tosh.0.
  • 16. 16 Comedy has progressed drastically through the centuries. Through a complete definition change when one juxtaposes the original meaning with todays. Without a doubt Oliver Goldsmith wrote one of the most influential comedic plays of all time. Goldsmith’s work publicized the appreciation for low style humor and ignited the spark that promoted blatant jokes without the need to think about word play, puns, or the deep meaning of sorrow that were involved in sentimental and satiric comedy.