From 1900BC toilet humour to Shakespeare: 10 things you didn’t know about comedy | Top 10 Facts | Life & Style

1. The great American comic Sid Caesar was also born on September 8 in 1922. 

2. US comic actor Zero Mostel broke the pattern by dying on September 8, 1977. 

3. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, the word “commedia” was applied to any stage play with a happy ending. 

4. Dante’s Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy) was completed around 1320 and told of the afterlife in Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. It wasn’t funny at all. 

5. In 1586 Sir Philip Sidney described comedy as “an imitation of the common errors of our life”. 

6. The word “comedian” was first used in English in 1580 for a writer of comedies. 

7. “Sitcom” (situation comedy) appeared in 1964. “Romcom” (romantic comedy) arrived in 1971. 

8. According to research in 2008, the world’s oldest joke was toilet humour dating back to 1900BC. 

9. In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night Olivia asks Viola “Are you a comedian?” Written in 1616, this is one of the earliest examples of “comedian” used to mean “comic actor”. 

10. “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious,” (Peter Ustinov).

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