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Arts & Culture

The Complications of Comedy

Credit T. Charles Erickson / Press Photo from Hartford Stage Photo Archive
Press Photo from Hartford Stage Photo Archive
Jenny Leona and Jeff McCarthy in the Hartford Stage Production of "The Underpants"

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. But, why is comedy so hard, especially on the stage, and what makes something funny?

The premise for a famously funny plot could easily sound like a tragedy.  An out of work actor is so desperate for employment that he dresses up like a woman and then falls in love with a beautiful co-star whom he deceives and betrays on several levels. That doesn't sound that hilarious. 

And, speaking of dressing up as a woman, the guys in "Some Like It Hot" have witnessed the Valentine's Day Massacre and now thing they're going to be murdered by the mob.  Hilarious right, but it is.

How about the one where the people don't understand they're dealing with a dangerous leopard escaped from the zoo. 

So, what makes something funny? 

It's our different set of sensibilities writers and actors bring to that same material. We'll talk to some very adept practitioners about that.

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. But, why is comedy so hard, especially on the stage. 

Leave your comments below, email us at colin@wnpr.org, or tweet us @wnprcolin.


  • Mike Reiss is a comedy writer and producer for "The Simpsons," co-creator of "The Critic," and a contributor to many screenplays. His plays include "I'm Connecticut" and "Rubble"
  • Heidi Schreck is a playwright whose new play, "The Consultant," is at Long Wharf Theater through February 9
  • Burke Moses is a stage, film, and television actor currently performing in Hartford Stage’s "The Underpants," a Steve Martin adaptation from the play by Carl Sternheim that runs until February 9
  • Didi Conn is a stage, film, and television actress also performing in the Hartford Stage production of "The Underpants"

Arts & Culture comedytheater
Colin McEnroe is a radio host, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, author, playwright, lecturer, moderator, college instructor and occasional singer. Colin can be reached at colin@ctpublic.org.
Chion Wolf is the host of Audacious with Chion Wolf on Connecticut Public.
Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.

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