The Big Idea

Comedy has evolved through the varying styles of disruption, gag, and narrative techniques over the years. There are many similarities between the sub genres of comedy, but only one that truly captures the spectrum of comedic possibilities. Examples from slap stick, situational, romantic, dark, political, improvisational, and standup can be seen in screwball comedy films; being a style that can incorporate a plethora of characteristics under one filmic idea. In Romantic vs. Screwball Comedy Irene Dunne is quoted as saying: 

“Things are just the same as they always were only you’re the same as you were too. So I guess things will never be the same again” (pg. 29).

As the authour of the book, Wes D. Gehring, explains this excerpt in simple terms, ” To clarify the nature and role of screwball comedy, the films of the genre can be examined for five key characteristics of the aforementioned comic antihero: abundant leisure time, childlike nature, basic male frustration, a general propensity for physical comedy, and a proclivity for parody and satire” (pg. 29). Using Some Like It Hot as a reference, I will attempt to show how screwball comedy’s formal constants relate to its maleable comedic form; allowing the genre to apply to many audiences,  and overlap with different comedic sub genres. In describing the common motifs within screwball comedy, I will also highlight how the construction of the fabula and szyuhet alert the audience to its desired comedic quality. Using both template and procedural schemata, ideas like absentmindedness and gender roles are present in these types of films. Also, after defining the central characteristics of screw ball comedy, I will look to compare its advantageous nature with other sub genres like slap stick, situation, and romantic comedy. Highlighting how screwball comedy is not just another style of comedy, but a compilation of the other sub genres.

Tenative Thesis:

Discussing the formal constants in screwball comedy I will highlight how they enhance this sub genre while allowing for comedic creativity which identifies with situation, slap stick, and romantic traits.   



Dale, Alan. Comedy Is A Man In Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. 2000.

Gehring, Wes D. Romantic vs. Screwball Comedy: Charting the Difference. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Lanham, Maryland. 2002 

Gehring, Wes D. Screwball Comedy A Genre of Madcap Romance. Greenwood Press. Westport, Connecticut. 1986   

Horton, Andrew. Comedy/ Cinema/ Theory. University of California Press. Los Angeles, California. 1991. 

Karnick, Kristine Brunovsk, and Jenkins, Henry. Classical Hollywood Comedy. ROutledge. New York. 1995.

King, Geoff. Film Comedy. Walflower Press. New York. 1988.



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