For centuries, comedy has been at the forefront of entertainment. Whether it�s one of Menander�s comedic plays in Ancient Greece or an animated cartoon like Family Guy in this day and age, there are specific types of characters that have become standards of comedy routines. These characters are referred to as archetypes, meaning that they represent a certain type of person that�s been copied or emulated in various different forms of comedy. Let�s take a look at these archetypes in the way they are used in modern American sitcoms.
1) The Square: This character is usually the central protagonist of the story and generally serves to provide comedic moments based on his or her reaction to certain events or characters in the story. For example, Leonard in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory is never particularly funny all by himself, but when matched with a more goofy character like Sheldon or Howard, he is able to deliver some of the funniest lines from reacting to these other characters� words and actions.
2) The Wisecracker: This is the character that delivers the most one-liners and is rarely emotional or serious. His role is to poke fun at other characters and bring comedic relief in serious situations. A good example of this type of character is Frank from the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.
3) The Charmer: This character is generally one of the most lovable and tries to bring some harmony among the other characters. He can either be portrayed as sophisticated or not, such as Joey on Friends.
4) The Dork: One of the most recurring characters, the dork/nerd is usually the smartest of the bunch and tries to distance himself from the goofiness of the other characters. He is also the main victim of the wisecracker�s jokes. The most notable portrayals of this character are Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Ross Gellar from Friends, and Steve Urkel from Family Matters.
5) The Goofball: Often characterized as an air-head or a ditz, the goofball is the strangest character in comedy. Nothing is off limits when it comes to funny situations the goofball can get into. This is why the character is rarely employed, such as Kramer in Seinfeld or Phoebe in Friends. Slapstick is also a type of humour often associated with this character. He or she rarely delivers his humour through words, but rather with actions and situations he or she gets into.
Of course, there are many more comedic archetypes, such as The Bully, The Sage, The Bigmouth, and The Lovable Loser. These can also be found in sitcoms, albeit on a less prevalent basis. Stand up comedians also use some of these archetypes for their routines, most notably Woody Allen as The Nerd, Roseanne Barr as The Well-Meaning Blue Collar Worker, and Bill Cosby as The Sage, which he famously portrayed as the patriarch of the Huxtable family on the 1980s sitcom The Cosby Show. Throughout the years, these archetypes have become more than just simple characters; they are now universal symbols of comedy routines that have been and will continue to be portrayed over and over again through different angles for centuries to come.