American black comedy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
black comedy, American comedy

In the United States, 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 Harlan Ellison have published novels, stories and plays where profound or horrific events were portrayed in a comic manner. An anthology edited by Bruce Jay Friedman, titled Black Humor: Anthology was published in 1965.

According to screenwriter John Truby, when black comedy is used as a basis for a story's plotline, it involves a society in an unhealthy state and a main character wanting something which, for whatever reason, is not a thing that will be beneficial to himself or society. The audience should usually be able to see this for themselves, and often a supporting character within the story also sees the insanity of the situation. The main character rarely if ever learns a lesson or undergoes any significant change from the ordeal, but sometimes a relatively sane course of action is offered to them.

Black comedy is a prevalent theme of many cult films, television shows and video games. The 1964 film Dr. Strangelove presents one of the best-known mainstream examples of black comedy. The subject of the film is nuclear warfare and the annihilation 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. Plotwise, Group Captain Mandrake serves as the one sane character in the decayed society, and Major Kong fills the role of the hero striving for a harmful goal.

In modern standards, black comedy is commonly used in dramatic or satirical films retaining its serious tone. Examples include The Twelve Chairs, Catch Me If You Can, W., Network, Natural Born Killers and sometimes family-oriented films like Super Mario Bros. and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "American black comedy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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