When I talk about Vulgar Comedy I talk about the oldest form of theatre we know in Europe. It is vulgar both in the sense of popular comedy (Latin: vulgus = commonalty) and in the sense of obscene, rude, coarse or tacky – and it lives up to both implications.
It started way before the Greek tragedy where it derives from rituals and feasts, moved on in the carnival and can be found everywhere there is laughter, from in children’s games to advanced satire and obscene burlesques. Stylized and larger than life, Vulgar Comedy is an energetic, earthy, distorting mirror of daily life, of power structures, and human behavior.
It is not political comedy even if it cannot help itself from mocking the power . It doesn’t fight the power even when it pull down its pants. It doesn’t try to change the world even though it turns it up-side-down.
And it can contain all thinkable stage activities.
We can see Vulgar Comedy today in street theatre, in Chaplin’s movies, in burlesques, in Daffy Duck, clowns, in funny stories, Commedia dell’Arte, cabarets, farces and more. Everywhere it is seen it is a party ready to kick the moralists, the hypocrites’, the humorless in the butt and always played parallel to the Official and the Commercial Theatre.
Two persons who have been most influential when it comes to defining Vulgar Comedy is Mikhail Bakhtin and Anthony Caputi, who’s views I have given their own pages.