What is Comic Relief?

Have you ever been reading a book or watching a show that was way too serious, and you wanted some sort of break from it but didn’t want to quit watching?

Welcome to this Mometrix lesson on Comic Relief!

Now, if you’ve heard of comic relief before, you probably think it’s just inserting mindless comedy or comedic characters into a story. However, comic relief is a tool used by authors and playwrights to intentionally ease tension within the plot of a story. We see it used in plays, movies, TV-shows, and books. There are at least three specific ways comic relief can be used.

By inserting comedic dialogue, a comedic character, or even a whole scene, an author can keep their audience engaged without completely bogging them down in moods of depression, melancholy, or tragedy that they might otherwise get stuck in without the use of comic relief. The best comic reliefs have depth to their characters, meaning their placement within the plot has been cautiously thought out just as any other character.

Comic relief can also serve to reveal useful information to an audience and guide their perspective of events. For example, the author might have the comic relief character act just as confused as the audience. They would seem to be in the same mental and emotional state as the audience, seemingly kept at the same distance, not seen as an inside character. Simultaneously, in this instance, the comic relief character would reveal important information to the audience in the clumsy questions they ask.

A third way comic relief can be distributed in a plot is through foreshadowing and plot twist. This also adds depth to the comic relief and therefore strengthens the plot being read or watched. Comedy desensitizes an audience’s awareness, especially during an instance of serious dialogue or scenes. The comic relief serves a sort of distraction for the audience which leaves the perfect opening for an engaging plot twist.

Let’s look at some examples of comic relief in a couple of movies and a play.

First, we’ll look at Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In the beginning of the play, Shakespeare uses comic relief in the joking between Flavius and Murellus that is quickly shut down by the guardsmen of Caesar; This foreshadows the seriousness of events to come. Shakespeare also uses Casca as a comic relief character through his excessive sarcasm throughout the glum of the play.

Next, let’s look at Disney’s usage of comic relief. Most of the time, comic relief in Disney comes by the way of side characters. Typically these are inanimate objects or animals that otherwise shouldn’t be able to speak. A lot of times, these characters are responsible solely for their comic effects, however, sometimes, an important moral lesson can be attached to these characters. Have you ever seen Aladdin? In Aladdin, Genie is constantly making light of serious situations. He plays off of Aladdin’s shortcomings as if they were no big deal. That being said, Genie is still an important character that helps move the plot along and guide Aladdin’s moral decisions.

Lastly, we have C-3PO in Star Wars. He is always providing unnecessary commentary in dire, or dramatic, situations. Have you noticed that he always needs rescuing by R2D2? This is one way a character can be shown as clumsy and still used to relieve the suspenseful tension otherwise looming in the air.

Comic relief can appear many different ways and can be used to do a number of things within a plot. Most importantly, however comic relief is being used, it will be distracting the ready from the intensity of a scene taking place.

Thank you for joining us today on this lesson over comic relief! Be sure to “like” and “subscribe” to our channel. Happy Studying

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: September 6, 2021