A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh
Laughing is a reaction to certain stimuli, fundamentally stress, which serves as an emotional balancing mechanism. Traditionally, it is considered a visual expression of happiness, or an inward feeling of joy. It may ensue from hearing a joke, being tickled, or other stimuli...

. This might be through joke
A joke is a phrase or a paragraph with a humorous twist. It can be in many different forms, such as a question or short story. To achieve this end, jokes may employ irony, sarcasm, word play and other devices...

s or amusing situations, or acting a fool, as in slapstick
Slapstick is a type of comedy involving exaggerated violence and activities which may exceed the boundaries of common sense.- Origins :The phrase comes from the batacchio or bataccio — called the 'slap stick' in English — a club-like object composed of two wooden slats used in Commedia dell'arte...

, or employing prop comedy
Prop comedy
Prop comedy is a comedy genre that makes use of humorous objects, or conventional objects used in humorous ways. The stage and film term "prop", an abbreviation of "property", refers to any object handled by an actor in the course of a performance. Although some form of prop comedy has likely...

. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comic
Stand-up comedy
Stand-up comedy is a comedic art form. Usually, a comedian performs in front of a live audience, speaking directly to them. Their performances are sometimes filmed for later release via DVD, the internet, and television...


A popular saying, variously quoted but generally attributed to Ed Wynn
Ed Wynn
Ed Wynn was a popular American comedian and actor noted for his Perfect Fool comedy character, his pioneering radio show of the 1930s, and his later career as a dramatic actor....

, is, "A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny," which draws a distinction between how much of the comedy can be attributed to verbal content and how much to acting and persona.

Since the 1980s, a new wave of comedy, called alternative comedy
Alternative comedy
Alternative comedy is a term that originated in the 1980s for a style of comedy that makes a conscious break with the mainstream comedic style of an era, and typically avoids relying on a standardised structure of a sequence of jokes with punch lines. Patton Oswalt defines it as "comedy where the...

, has grown in popularity with its more offbeat and experimental style. This normally involves more experiential, or observational reporting, e.g. Alexei Sayle
Alexei Sayle
Alexei David Sayle is a British stand-up comedian, actor and author. He was a central part of the alternative comedy circuit in the early 1980s. He was voted the 18th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-ups in 2007...

 and Malcolm Hardee
Malcolm Hardee
Malcolm Hardee was an English comedian, author, comedy club proprietor, compère, agent, manager and "amateur sensationalist"....

. As far as content is concerned, comedians such as Tommy Tiernan
Tommy Tiernan
Tommy Tiernan is an Irish comedian, actor and writer. He and Hector Ó hEochagáin present The Tommy and Hector Show on i102-104FM. Tiernan also featured in Father Ted.-Early life:...

, Des Bishop
Des Bishop
Des Bishop is an Irish comedian and was brought up in New York. He is now primarily based in Ireland, after moving to County Wexford in 1990 at the age of 14.-Approach to Comedy:...

 and Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers is an American comedian, television personality and actress. She is known for her brash manner; her loud, raspy voice with a heavy New York accent; and her numerous cosmetic surgeries...

 draw on their background to poke fun at themselves, while others such as Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart is an American political satirist, writer, television host, actor, media critic and stand-up comedian...

, and Ben Elton
Ben Elton
Benjamin Charles "Ben" Elton is an English comedian, author, playwright and director. He was a leading figure in the British alternative comedy movement of the 1980s, as a writer on such cult series as The Young Ones and Blackadder, as well as also a successful stand-up comedian on stage and TV....

 have very strong political and cultural undertones. Contemporary comedians include Conan O' Brien and David Letterman
David Letterman
David Michael Letterman is an American television host and comedian. He hosts the late night television talk show, Late Show with David Letterman, broadcast on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture on late night television since the 1982 debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC...


Many comics achieve a cult following
Cult following
A cult following is a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a specific area of pop culture. A film, book, band, or video game, among other things, will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fan base...

 while touring famous comedy hubs such as the Just for Laughs
Just for Laughs
Just for Laughs is a comedy festival held each July in Montreal, Quebec, founded in 1983. It is the largest international comedy festival in the world.- Information :...

 festival in Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, the Edinburgh Fringe
Edinburgh Fringe
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Scotland's capital, in the month of August...

, and Melbourne Comedy Festival in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. Often a comic's career advances significantly when they win a notable comedy award, such as the Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly the Perrier comedy award). Comics sometimes foray into other areas of entertainment, such as film and television, where they become more widely known; e.g. Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard
Edward John "Eddie" Izzard is a British stand-up comedian and actor. His comedy style takes the form of rambling, whimsical monologue and self-referential pantomime...

 or Charlyne Yi
Charlyne Yi
Charlyne Amanda Yi is an American actress, comedian, musician, writer, and painter. Her performances do not include joke-telling as in standup comedy; instead, she uses different tactics such as music, magic, games, and often audience participation...

. However, a comic's stand-up success does not guarantee a film's critical or box office success.

The spelling comedienne includes the female suffix -enne and is often used in writing to differentiate a female comedian from a male comedian, in a similar manner to host and hostess.

See also

  • Comedy genres
    Comedy genres
    Comedy may be divided into multiple genres based on the source of humour, the method of delivery, and the context in which it is delivered.These classifications overlap, and most comedians can fit into multiple genres...

  • List of comedians
  • Humour
    Humour or humor is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement...

  • Comedy
    Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

  • Satire
    Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

  • List of humorists
  • List of musical comedians
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