Stand-up comedy can be traced all the way back to the early 1800s with minstrel shows, although it didn’t become popular until the 1970s when the comedy club was born. By the ’80s, there were stand-up comics everywhere, but of course, not all are alike. There are many different types of comedy – one stand-up comic might do family-friendly material while others seem to make it all about being as vulgar as possible.
What you probably won’t see as often is female comedians. The guys tend to get most of the bookings, according to multiple studies, especially among those who don’t perform as frequently – the data shows that the group runs about 70 percent male and 30 percent female. But male or female, these are just a few of the different types of stand-up comedy you might be able to enjoy at a club, online, or on TV.
Slapstick isn’t nearly as popular as it once was, as one of the earliest and more simple forms of comedy, often employed by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges, Dick Van Dyke, and Jerry Lewis, considered one of the most brilliant physical/slapstick comedians. He built his persona on getting sympathy for his falls, which he once told The New Yorker included everything from falling off pianos to going out a two-story window, resulting in daily pain.
Slapstick comedy is still around in stand-up today, although it’s often mixed with other types of comedy. Jim Carrey is just one, gaining national recognition after landing a recurring role in the sketch comedy TV series “In Living Color.” The “Jackass” movies are a great example of slapstick, involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of typical physical comedy, sometimes including violence by mishap or even intentional violence. Sasha Baron Cohen, who many know as Borat, is well-known for his physical comedy routines, performing pure slapstick while up on stage in various characters.
There are many comics who do observational-style stand-up, it’s the kind of humor that’s based on things that commonly happen in day-to-day life, often starting with “Have you ever noticed?” or “Did you ever wonder why?” like Jerry Seinfeld is so famous for. Most people find this kind of comedy funny because they can relate to it. Lots of stand-up comedians working today and in the past have built successful careers by observing the mundane things in everyday life and making them funny.
Observational comedy is something that can easily be family-friendly too. For example, clean comedians like Jim Gaffigan bases much of their routine on what happens at home as a parent with five children. He doesn’t have to use profanity, with his material often about fatherhood, observing his kids, food, and laziness. Of course, that’s not always the case as many other comedians who do observational comedy now, like Daniel Tosh (also known for this shock comedy), and in the past, such as the late Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Bill Hicks, used plenty of profanity in their routines.
Shock comedy, sometimes referred to as “offensive” comedy, is aimed to shock the audience, whether achieved by mocking something serious, overt sexual themes, “toilet humor,” or tactlessness such as in the aftermath of a crisis. It disgusts and angers some people while others find humor in it. Comedians have been pushing buttons for decades, like Lenny Bruce, who was even arrested after one stand-up performance just for saying nine “inappropriate words.” George Carlin used all but two of them just a few years later in one of his most famous monologues. Today it goes well beyond those words – a few well-known comedians who tend to shock today include Dave Chapelle, Amy Schumer, and Sarah Silverman.