The Comedy Genre

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Perhaps more than any other cinematic genre, comedy appears to change according to the temper of the times; this is especially true of the comedic sub-genre known as the romantic comedy. Perhaps this ability to adapt accounts for why the romantic comedy has withstood the test of time while other movie genres that at one time were far more plentiful and successful, such as the western and the musical, passed out of favor.


The first commercially successful romantic comedy to posit an alternative notion to this underlying concept did not get made until the 1970s. Woody Allen's Annie Hall is dictated by the external social forces of that decade just as much as the screwball comedies were dictated by the economic and social upheaval of the Depression. Annie Hall stakes out a claim for being the first romantic comedy to display the multiple neuroses inherent in a realistic sexual relationship. It is the neuroses of Alvy and Annie that present the obstruction that leads to what becomes the film's most unconventional upending of genre of romantic comedy: the two do not end up together. Until Allen's film the very concept that the romantic leads would not end up together was the definition of a romantic tragedy film.
In another Woody Allen film, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Lester, the successful TV producer, manages to boil down the entire essence of comedy into one simple equation: "If it bends, it's funny. ...
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