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Published:July 8th, 2013 13:32 EST
Farce: A Type of Comedy

Farce: A Type of Comedy

By Tiffany Rothman

Farce is one type of comedy and, in some respects, it resembles an efficiently operating machine in which the various parts work in well timed coordination. Often, farce begins with a premise that is not believable; everything else that subsequently occurs flows from that premise with an almost mathematical logic.

According to, Farces are believed to have originated in the 15th century in France, and it was first used to describe acrobatics as well as caricature as a form of entertainment.

In the article The Early Career of Farce in the Theatrical Vocabulary by Leo Hughes ( 07-08-1940) (Extract from PC I Full Test, published by Pro Quest  Information and Learning Company), the word Farce is derived from Latin, Farcise, meaning to stuff or fill. The word appears to have been used by the British in the context of cooking. Cookbooks in the medieval and renaissance period speak farcing a goose, a turkey and a pie.

However, farce was not for long confined to the kitchen.

Farce was adopted into the stage vocabulary after Restoration. It was used to describe a confusing array of things with great abandon.

In addition, farce, by the end of the Restoration, was used to describe almost any kind of stage performance which does not meet with the approval of the devotees or supporters of literary drama.

Subtle underacting, so often a virtue, is not suitable to farce. In farce, the actor must be daring enough to risk the pitfalls of overacting.

Some notable film farces are:

1)      The Awful Truth (1937)

2)      The Lady Eve (1941)

3)      Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

4)      Some Like It Hot (1959)

5)      A Fish Called Wanda (1985)

6)      Noises Off (1992)          

According to Wikipedia, a farce in theatre is a comedy that aims at entertaining  the audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant and thus improbable.

In The Awful Truth, the Irene Dunne character pretends to be her husband`s sister, acting outrageously to shock the relatives of her husband`s prospective fiancĂ©e, in order to win back her husband`s love.

In the The Lady Eve, the Barbara Stanwyck character is caught being a gambling conman; without any attempt to disguise her appearance, she re-emerges in the male protagonist`s life, pretending to be an English aristocrat.

In Arsenic and Old Lace, we are asked to believe that two sweet spinster aunts are serial killers who bury their victims in the basement of their Brooklyn Heights home.

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are in drag in Some Like It Hot. They travel from Chicago to Miami Beach by train with an all women musical band without being detected.

Both "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Noise Off" employ the mechanisms of classic theatrical farce_ characters becoming embroiled in situations that need to be hidden from other characters; doors opening and closing with pinpoint precision as characters just barely avoid being found out by others characters.             

By Tiffany Rothman, Actress