Origins and definition of Vulgar Comedy

So if we talk about Vulgar Comedy as a variety of genres, what makes Vulgar Comedy then? With the risk of repeating myself I say the roots are the earliest forms of theatre, even so far back as before religion (see this POST). I define Vulgar Comedy as the opposite to the OFFICIAL THEATRE. The first theatre or theatre games was played together with its audiences at ritual ceremonies showing the hunt, celebrating marriages or a new season of the year.  It grew out of the share joy play before even religion was born or when it was still was aimed to force a talisman to help the people.
I order to be clear I will also give you my definition of THEATRE.

When later religion established itself with shamans and other leader s for the cult, religion became elitist, excluding and hierarchic as it started to obey the gods who had given the power to the elite. (Read more HERE)Also the theatre and the rituals that grew up from that kind of religion became elitist, where only the upper parts of society where allowed, women became excluded, where the ruler or the shaman led the rituals or games, where the audience became passive spectators and so on. Usually when we hear about the roots of theatre it is those religious rituals we talk about. That is what I define as the Official Theatre, the theatre of the rulers or the shamans, a theatre formed by rules of taste, of hierarchy and for a passive receiving audience. But just because the official theatre took form, the other theatre – the Vulgar Comedy – didn’t cease to exist. It has always existed parallel to the Official Theatre, oppressed; humiliated and, but free. It existed even in the Middle Ages as jugglers, jesters or traveling companies, when the official theatre was banned.

Here is a few of the things that makes up Vulgar Comedy (Click the headlines to read more):

  • LUST – That is why Vulgar Comedy always is based on lust – lust for telling a story, for play or games, for being together and connect.  That doesn’t mean that is doesn’t have important things to say. It can very well include political satire, psychological truths or educating stories.
  • LOW COMEDY – Vulgar Comedy has always been considered low comedy by the rulers and the ruling etiquette since it involves a power that is uncontrollable for the power. The potential danger in the carnivalesque, the anarchistic and the participating theatre where important subjects for common people like sex, power structures or lust is brought up cannot be tolerated. The popular fest itself cannot be totally controlled. Therefore it must be suppressed and the first way to do that is to disaffiliate from it by referring it to as a lower, simpler and more vulgar form or culture.
  • PHYSICAL THEATRE – Even though Vulgar Comedy is mostly telling stories it is not a literary form of theatre, instead it uses the actor’s physicality, the bodies of the characters or masks or it uses tricks and devises. The written word is what censors and controller love all over the world, but Vulgar Comedy is (in most forms) not scripted or doesn’t tell the story or what is important, mainly by the words.
  • SATIRE – Vulgar Comedy is not political theatre, at least not in the way that it wants to change the world or the power structures in it, but it always has been mocking the rulers and hypocrites of its time. Today as the bourgeois is taking over; the satire has become much more tame, unprovocative and civilized.
  • NONLITERARY STORYTELLINGThere is usually a story to be told in Vulgar Comedy. It doesn’t have to be told by words, but it is usually told in a very simple way. The stories are born out of pagan rituals such as the Mayday, Carnival/Saturnalia or fertility rituals; games like mating games or sword dances; processions as in Fest of Fools, Dance Macabre or the Dionysian pompe.
  • PSYCHOLOGY – Or maybe we shall call the headline the lack of personal psychology in Vulgar Comedy. Since Vulgar Comedy has come from, and is still close to, a time where life was so much more collective that today the psychological aspects of the genre is all a matter of being involved in a society.
  • DIRECT COMEDY – Laughter is a keyword in Vulgar Comedy as opposed to humor, were humor is what we merely smile at while we laugh out loud at Vulgar Comedy. Humor is one of the words introduces by “the good taste” in order to civilize or oppress Vulgar Comedy, who’s comedy is never sublime or mannered. It is always in your face.
  • AMBIVALENCE  – Vulgar Comedy is not based on a fixed view of the world, where hierarchies and relations are absolute. In this way the genre is near to the postmodern or postdramatic theories and practices from today.

6 Responses to Origins and definition of Vulgar Comedy

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