Black comedy

This article is about a tone of comedy. For information about comedies featuring African or African-American characters, see Black sitcom.

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. Synonyms used to avoid racial overtones are dark comedy/humor and morbid comedy/humor. (See also color metaphors for race.)

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.

Some examples of black comedy in print include:

Some other famous films known for their use of black humor include:

See also

de:Schwarzer Humor nl:Zwarte humor


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools