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Related: ambivalence - black - comedy - tragicomedy
Films: Eating Raoul (1982) - After Hours (1985) - Man Bites Dog (1992) - The Cable Guy (1996)
Anthologies (literature): Anthology of Black Humor (1940) - André Breton
Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov in
Eating Raoul (1982) - Paul Bartel [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
DefinitionBlack comedy, also known as black humor, is a subgenre of comedy and satire that deals with a serious subject, that normally would not be humorous, in a humorous manner.
Black comedy, also known as black humor, is a subgenre of comedy and satire where topics and events normally treated seriously - death, mass murder, sickness, madness, terror, drug abuse, et cetera - are treated in a humorous or satirical manner.
Black humor is similar to sick humor, such as dead baby jokes. However, in sick humor most of the humor comes from shock and revulsion; black humor usually includes an element of irony, or even fatalism.
In America, black comedy as a literary genre came to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s. Writers such as Terry Southern, Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut and others published novels and stories where profound or horrific events were portrayed in a comic manner. An anthology edited by Bruce Jay Friedman, titled "Black Humor," assembles many examples of the genre.
For example, the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb presents one of the finest examples of black comedy. The subject of the film is nuclear war and the extinction of life on Earth. Normally, dramas about nuclear war treat the subject with gravity and seriousness, creating suspense over the efforts to avoid a nuclear war. But Dr. Strangelove plays the subject for laughs; for example, in the film, the fail-safe procedures designed to prevent a nuclear war are precisely the systems that ensure that it will happen.
A scene in Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot is a good example of black comedy: A man takes off his belt to hang himself, and his trousers fall down. The cartoons of Charles Addams typically display black humour, by mixing humor with scenes that would normally be considered macabre or horrific. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_comedy [Jun 2005]
Gallows humor is humor that makes light of death or other serious matters. It is similar to black comedy but differs in that it is made by the person affected. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallows_humor [Jun 2005]
Some famous black comedy films
--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_comedy, Apr 2004
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, dealing with nuclear war.
- The Loved One, dealing with funerals
- Prizzi's Honor, in which a Mafia hitman and hitwoman fall in love
- M*A*S*H, in which the medical staff of a Korean War field hospital engage in silly mischief to alleviate the horror of the bloody carnage of the wounded they must treat
- Roger & Me, in which director Michael Moore follows the tragically ridiculous decline of Flint, Michigan and its effects after General Motors CEO Roger Smith closed the city's autoplants and threw 40,000 people out of work.
- Life Is Beautiful (Originally La Vita č bella), about an Italian Jew who uses humor and fantasy to hide the truth from his son in a concentration camp.
- Catch-22, another film about the madness of war, based on the novel by Joseph Heller.
- To Die For, about murder and pedophilia.
- Ichi the Killer, about a pair of savage killers, one a sadist and the other a masochist.
- American Psycho, about a serial killer. Played by Christian Bale.
- The Lindsay Anderson trilogy of If..., O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital.
- Loot, by Joe Orton dramatist of several Black Comedies
- Pulp Fiction, about the misadventures of thugs.
- Meet the Feebles, about a group of animal-puppet performers who suffer terrible human vices.
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