The Three Moments of Comedy

  • Robert PfallerEmail author
Part of the Performance Philosophy book series (PPH)


The standard situation of comedy occurs when characters on stage (or on screen) have to start acting out something (for example, being lovers) for other characters on stage. As redoubling is typical for comedy as such, the principle of theater itself appears to redouble here: the spectators off stage get the chance to observe theater in which certain characters turn the others into spectators in order to fool them. This displacement of the illusion from the real spectators to the acting spectators is the secret behind one of comedy’s basic principles: success. The main characters’ endeavors, their silly tricks and comedy maneuvers, are always successful. This is because the real spectators team up with the actors on stage and want them to fool the other actors. If it were about their own illusion, spectators would be more hesitant to accept this silly spectacle. However, the same does not go for the tricking actors. They are serving other people’s illusions, but in this process they themselves become completely caught up in them. As a result, they end up succumbing to an illusion that they never believed in—which is possibly comedy’s most hilarious moment.


Belief Faith Theater within theater Illusions without owners Drive for self-preservation Erotic drive Death drive 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Art and Industrial DesignLinzAustria

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