Absurdity at its Finest

11 Jun

By  Parisienne

Most plays can be defined as tragedies or comedies but some plays due to the use of illogical situations, unconventional dialogue and minimal plots are used to express the absurdity of human life, which have been coined as being absurd. Martin Esslin gave the term the Theater of the Absurd too many plays that were written between the 1940’s and the 1960’s in France.  The writers of these plays are Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugene Ioneseco, Jean Genet, and Harold Pinter to name a few.  The term itself came from Albert Camus, a French philosopher who wrote about it in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus

In Waiting for Godot, written by Samuel Beckett, the play centers around two people waiting for someone named Godot.  Who Godot is and when Godot will appear no one knows. This play is an example of the lack of dramatic structure and the absurdity of life.[1]

When the plays first began their runs onstage audiences and critics alike were taken aback by the puzzlement of the play.  The playwrights would if questioned about their plays refuse to answer any questions that dealt with the play itself by saying that they were just expressing the view of the world as artists.[2]

This type of theater began to decline in the 1960’s and many of its conventions are now used in mainstream theater and in films.

 Around the decline of The Theater of the Absurd in 1960, in film, dark comedies were seen as an alternative exploration of the genre. There were attempts in 1949 with the film Kind Hearts and Coronets but dark comedies seem to really take root in the early to late sixties.  In 1967 The French film Belle de Jour analyzes modern sexuality with the main character refusing to have sex with her husband in favor of becoming a prostitute to satisfy her desires. In 1971 the dark comedy Harold and Maude deals with an unorthodox relationship between a boy and women old enough to be his grandmother.[3]  These nebulous situations can be directly attributed to Theater of the Absurd, which influenced literature, film and art during its heyday. Today dark comedies are a staple among filmmakers.  Here are some currently out in theaters. They include Midnight in Paris, Everything Must Go and out in theaters on July 8th Horrible Bosses. In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Dark Comedy film festival which is held in November 2011, is accepting screenplay submissions.

To learn more about the playwrights and the movement please view Engage in Theater History.



[1] http://www.wisedude.com/art_music/theatre_absurd.htm 

 [2] http://www.samuel-beckett.net/AbsurdEsslin.html

12 Responses to “Absurdity at its Finest”

  1. Littlebells June 11, 2011 at 3:32 PM #

    Great info, Paris! I swear, I feel smarter every time I read the articles here. 🙂

    Some of my favorite dark comedies are:

    Raising Arizona
    Lars and the Real Girl
    Burn After Reading
    Fight Club (would that be considered a dark comedy??)

    • Open Book June 12, 2011 at 8:17 PM #


      I love Burn After Reading and Fargo. Great list.

      Paris- Great article and discussion.

  2. Parisienne June 11, 2011 at 11:30 PM #


    Thank you! What about dark comedy appeals to you?

    • Littlebells June 11, 2011 at 11:50 PM #

      Other than the fact that I have warped brain cells?? 🙂 haha!

      Well, I don’t really know how to explain it. I like that the story lines are so absurd and almost tragic, yet get played out in a humorous way. Take Burn After Reading. I had no idea what to expect but that was NOT IT! However, I’m very certain that in this *beep* up world of ours, this wouldn’t be out of the realm of normal for some people. The movies I listed all have real life possibilities (if they already haven’t been played out) and it’s nice to see humor brought to them. Seriously, I don’t know how to explain it any better then I’ve got some marbles loose!!!

      p.s. I like thinking or saying out loud, “WTF??!!!” I. don’t. know. why.

  3. Francesa June 12, 2011 at 2:26 PM #

    What about War of the Roses or not really a comedy, but American Beauty?

    • Littlebells June 12, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

      Oh yeah! American Beauty! I will need to rewatch these films!

      What are some of your favorites?

    • Open Book June 12, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

      War of the Roses I love this film. Classic. LOL!!

      How about “Throw Momma from the Train?

      • Littlebells June 12, 2011 at 9:47 PM #

        You rock, OB! I’m making a new list now of movies to watch! haha!

        • Open Book June 14, 2011 at 3:40 PM #


          Another film I like to add is “Mars Attack” have u seen this film LB?

          Anyway, all three of these films “War of the Roses”, “Throw Momma from the Train” and “Mars Attacks” IMO are really mild dark comedies but still fit into the genre. Nurse Betty, American Beauty, Ingloriuos Bastards and Pulp Fiction are really truely dark comedies IMO.

          Paris & Francesca- What do u think? Do u think War of the Roses and Mars Attack are mild DC?

          P.S. LB! U are a comedian and film buff in the making.

          • comic relief June 14, 2011 at 5:54 PM #


            Wish I has said Mars Attacks.

            Two English films black comedies I liked were the original “Lady Killers” with Alec Guiness and the recent “In Bruges” with Colin Ferrel.

  4. Littlebells June 14, 2011 at 3:56 PM #

    hahaha! You are too kind! I’m no comedian and the film buff is working out. I started WotR yesterday. Definitely mild, but still good.

    I love, LOOOOOOOOVE Inglorious Bastards!!!! OMG, it is so…wow! I saw it before my husband and would not shut. up. about it. He watched it and it’s on his favs list too. I fell in love with Christoff in the first two minutes. Another reason why I couldn’t wait for WFE.

    Ok, between the book list you and Francesca have created (and from others on the OTHER site), and the film list here, I need to win the lottery and build my own theater room and library and go into hiding for about two months! hahaha!!!!

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