All the types of comedy on Broadway

From stand-up to satire to slapstick to situation comedy, and plenty more in between, there are plenty of laughs to be had at Broadway plays and musicals.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

“Something for everyone – a comedy tonight!” That catchy song snippet from A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum takes on a different dimension when you consider that comedy isn’t a one-joke-fits-all kind of thing. Anything but.

Comedy is a genre that spans a wide spectrum. As the song notes, it can be appealing, appalling, convulsive, repulsive, and there’s a pretty good chance that liars, lovers, and clowns are involved.

When you’re in the mood to laugh and lighten up – whether at a musical, a farcical play, or a solo show – Broadway has got you covered in the comedy department. And that’s no joke.

Learn about the different types of comedy shows on Broadway right now, and get comedy tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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Slapstick comedy

Don’t come expecting subtlety, folks. This breed of freewheeling comedy, along with farce, is writ large and designed to be played likewise – even extra-large.

The Play That Goes Wrong

This slapstick show isn't on Broadway, but it enjoyed a two-year Broadway run from 2017-19 and is now at the Off-Broadway venue New World Stages, located steps from Broadway theatres. This show by the British Mischief Theatre Company follows a troupe of actors trying to stage a murder mystery. Key word is trying. As the title might suggest, wild and hilarious mishaps happen almost constantly.

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Situation comedy

It’s not just the stuff on TV. In this kind of comedy, the humor revolves primarily around the involvement of the main characters in a predicament or tricky set of circumstances. The most recent example on Broadway was The Shark Is Broken, inspired by the legendarily problematic production of Jaws and the below-deck — er, on-set — carping among the movie’s stars.

Satire

Some comedies set out to lampoon the way things are – and to turn stereotypes inside out. An example from the 2023-24 season is Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch, which indicts U.S. politics and the legal system through a hilarious story of a scheming priest trying to get his inheritance back from a greedy white landowner.

Musical comedy

Musicals tell stories through songs and dance, and they cover every conceivable theme: an unlucky-in-love queen of comedy in Funny Girl, a teen getting old before her time in Kimberly Akimbo, girl power stories in Six, & Juliet, and Once Upon a One More Time. Each, of course, comes with its share of humor. But below, discover musicals where the main motive is to crack you up.

Shucked

Praised for its “wall-to-wall silliness” in a four-star New York Theatre Guide review, the show imagines what happens when an isolated community of oddballs that survives entirely on corn has to reckon with the fact that their crops are dying. Add in romantic shenanigans, a script by Robert Horn stuffed with zingers and one-liners, and ear-ticklers by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. They know how to cook up a song that’s light, sweet, and, yes, a little corny.

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The Book of Mormon

This irreverent and often profane show by Avenue Q's Robert Lopez and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone follows the classic contours of an old-fashioned Broadway musical comedy. Then, it updates and expands the form with its own did-they-really-go-there daring. The Book of Mormon about two naive Mormon missionaries dispatched to spread their faith in a religion-averse Ugandan community. What could possibly go wrong?

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Back to the Future

Sure, the DeLorean-turned-time machine’s special effects get oohs and ahhs in this sci-fi fueled musical comedy. That said, the tale of Marty McFly, a teen who goes back in time and almost prevents his future parents from falling in love, is a lot of fun, and it's packed with cheeky '50s and '80s references. Plus, the fact that the entire plot hinges on a life-changing kiss makes Back to the Future the most romantic comedy on Broadway.

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Spamalot

The Arthurian legend gets lampooned every which way from Sunday – and chewed up by a killer rabbit – in this cheeky musical spoof by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. It’s drawn from the 1975 comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and it's back on Broadway for the first time since its 2005 premiere.

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Stand-up comedy

Comedians have a knack for churning life experiences – even dark, outrageous, and serious ones – into laughs. There are no stand-up comedy shows on Broadway right now, but lots of famous ones have appeared there, like Alex Edelman's Just For Us and Mike Birbiglia's The New One. Learn more about why stand-up comedy and theatre have more in common than you may think.

Top image credit: The cast of Shucked on Broadway. (Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

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