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thumb|left|250px|Figure 1. Comedy was considered a key type of theatrical performance by the Greeks. ]]
Comedy, or a sense of humor, is really a part of human nature and it can be considered universal. However, comedy is also a form of mass entertainment that has its origins in ancient periods. Comedians from the ancient Greeks are known to us, but there is evidence that mass or even organized comedy was likely developed even earlier in Western societies.
Some of the earliest jokes recorded appear to be about political satire, drunken behavior, and sex. These jokes come from Egypt, where a scroll dated to 2600 BCE discusses these topics in a more light-hearted way. However, some state that this scroll derives from a later period, perhaps around 1600 BCE. Mesopotamia also has some of the earliest jokes, perhaps about the same time in Egypt, where the earliest jokes seem to deal with flatulence. One of the earliest comedic stories known to us may not have been performed to the masses but seems to have been written for some audience or at least a likely larger group of people, making it one of the more complete early stories or even a play for performance. This story is called the <i>Poor Man of Nippur</i>, written in Nippur from ancient Mesopotamia sometime around 1500 BCE or possibly earlier.
The story effectively tells the tale of a poor man who got thrown out
from the mayor's office and being humiliated by the mayor. In revenge, three times the man deceives the mayor and beats him, with the last time beating him to death. While the end might not seem so funny, the comedy is in the fact that someone who is supposed to be uncouth is able to deceive the supposedly smart city ruler. The man wears different disguises to trick the mayor, once even making money by tricking the mayor to think he had stolen gold from the poor man by fining the mayor, as the poor man was disguised as a visiting foreign emissary. The story effectively reflects political satire, where supposedly enlightened rulers are not really that enlightened.<ref>For more on comedy in Mesopotamia and Egypt, see: Attardo, S., & Sage Publications. (2014). <i>Encyclopedia of humor studies</i>. Retrieved from http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=1647783. See pg. 69. </ref>
While Egypt and Mesopotamia likely produced some early organized comedic plays or stories, the best known tend to be those from ancient Greece. The Greeks formalized their plays into satire, tragedy, and comedy. Similar to Mesopotamia and Egypt, sex and political satire are the subjects for early Greek comedies by Aristophanes, who perhaps is one of the earliest known authors of comedy, who lived around 400 BC in Athens. He was also very active in writing comedy, writing perhaps more than 40 comedies, of which 11 have survived.
The first well known comedic actor was Quintus Roscius, who lived from around 126-62 BC. He was a slave who eventually succeeded in buying his freedom. He was known to have brought comedy away from a crass, clown-like style to something more that would be about presentation and using wit in humor. He became something of a pop star, where even various well known Roman politicians patronized him and he became a fairly wealthy man through his acting ability, perhaps the first known person to have done so. By 55 BC, large purpose-built theaters began to appear throughout the Roman Empire (Figure 2).
Actors were often foreign and usually of low status, despite the success of Roscius, often not being citizens since acting was still seen as something beneath a Roman citizen, even though it was enjoyed now by the masses. What Roscius did do is influence the style of acting in forthcoming Roman comedy, primarily where acting became about oration and presentation using gestures as well as using words and wit. Women were often not allowed to take leading roles, usually being relegated to non-speaking roles in plays and comedies.<ref>For more on theatres and their role in mass entertainment, see: Beacham, R. C. (1991). <i>The Roman theatre and its audience</i>. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. </ref>
====Recent Evolution in Comedy Entertainment====
The next major change was the medium of films changing the nature of comedy. Naturally, film and television became different because
it could reach a much larger audience. However, initially, it also changed the nature of comedy from something that was spoken to something that was unspoken, as early films had no sound and were little more than fast moving picture sequences. This led to comedic innovators such as Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laural, and Dan Leno to develop a new form of comedy that would depend on actions or acts that would include pranks, tricks, situations that seemed impossible for the actors, or actions making fun of the intelligence of the actor. However, the delivery was important as it had to be timed to coincide with a sequence of events. This also influenced early 20th-century humor that relied more on surreal or unreal situations that would lead to a series of comedic events. This also reflected early 20th-century art that was also being affected by the surrealism movement. As sound became developed, first in radio, and then later in film and television, comedy acts such as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis became well known. The sitcom and standup routines also developed during this time and the mid-20th century and have continued to be influential in comedy today.<ref>For more on 20th-century developments in comedy, see: Mundy, J., & White, G. (2012).<i> Laughing matters: understanding film, television and radio comedy</i>. Manchester University Press. </ref>
Comedy themes that developed as early as the 3rd millennium BC are still with us today, showing that things that we find funny today have long stayed with us. Long before political satirist such as John Stewart, writers in ancient Mesopotamia and later Greece and Rome entertained their audiences. The Roman
were likely the first to purposely build large and permanent theatres that were used to entertain the masses, with comedies being one of the types of plays performed. Many developments by them have continued to influence comedy routines still with us today. In the 19th century, large musicals that had comedy integrated within them was the norm. Television and film, that is a change in the medium of delivery, resulted in comedy transforming and adapting in different ways.