Understanding the Different Types of Comedians

Comedy is an enormous industry that isn’t always attributed with the complexity that it embodies. There are countless genres of comedy and as many varieties of comedians out there. Here is a rundown of five different types of comedians that will have you rethinking the depth and variety of humor that we consume as viewers. 

  1. Stand-Up Comedians

Stand-up comedy is perhaps the most recognizable form of comedy outside of cinema. It consists of the delivery of one-liners, stories, observational humor, and most of it is delivered on stage. The most famous stand-up comedians include George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, and Chris Rock, among countless others. The stand-up show has always been popular in comedy clubs, but has experienced renewed interest as of late with the release of numerous comedy specials on streaming services like Netflix. 

  1. Sketch Comedy

If there is a hierarchy of comedic achievement, sketch comedy may sometimes be seen as the next step after establishing oneself as a stand-up. Many of the great comedians on the scene in big metropolitan areas or popular comedy troupes like The Groundlings go on to become comedians on television comedy sketch shows like Saturday Night Live, or the much beloved but canceled MADtv. Sketch comedy requires more acting chops than Stand-Up does, and is somewhat of a cross-medium between comedy and theater. 

3. Film Comedians

There is a lot of crossover between stand-up, sketch comedy, and film comedians. Many stars of popular television sketch shows go on to act in comedic films. While the comedy film genre hasn’t been robust in the past ten years for various cultural reasons, comedians in film are crucial parts of the cultural history of cinema. There are also comedic actors who started in film and didn’t have a launching pad of television comedy to establish themselves. Both are lauded in the field. 

4. Character Comedians

Though this variety is perhaps a dying art, character comedians also were a mainstay of American comedic culture, especially in the 1970s through to the 1990s. Paul Reubens became PeeWee Herman, Cassandra Peterson became Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Jim Varney became Ernest P. Worrell. Through film and television, these brilliant comedians molded their comedic chops into quirky and beloved characters that would gain cult status long beyond the confines of their era. 

5. Impressionist Comedians

Celebrity impersonators have cleverly carved out an excellent niche in the performance field, particularly in the age of social media. Also known as Impressionist comedians, these artists develop an act around the precise mimicry of a famous figure. This means that they meticulously study the features, physicality, clothing, makeup, mannerisms, and other aspects of the person in order to ensure the most precise impersonation. Oftentimes the most professional of these impressionists began as actors and honed their precise imitation skills after hearing of their similarity to a celebrity. 

Analyzing the types of comedians is a bit less nuanced than analyzing genres of comedy itself, but it’s still useful to look into the ways that the medium manifests.

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