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Funny Plays, Including Dark or Black Comedy

These plays are considered comedies. I can’t vouch for their humor, because what individuals find funny varies, but these selections have been enjoyed by audiences. There’s a separate section at the bottom for darker comedies. See also:

The Bear by Anton Chekhov (1 Act)

Popova is still mourning the death of her husband from seven months ago. Her elderly servant, Luka, urges her to go to a ball, or at least to go outside. Even though her husband wasn’t always good to her, Popova is determined to be faithful forever.

This play can be read in the preview of Delphi Complete Works of Anton Chekhov. (62% in)

Sure Thing by David Ives (1 Act)

Betty is reading at a café when Bill approaches, asking if the chair opposite her is taken. She shuts down any interaction. The scene proceeds with multiple iterations of their conversation, as it continually gets reset when they hit a sticking point.

This play can be read in the preview of All in the Timing: Fourteen Plays(25% in)

Everybody Black by Dave Harris

A man introduces himself as a Black Historian. He’s been offered a lot of money by a group of white historians to write a definitive account of The Black Experience™. They want to know everything. The Black Historian accepted the offer, but there are problems—he’s mad, doesn’t know history, and has never met another Black person.

Several scenes from this play can be read in the preview of Humana Festival 2019: The Complete Plays(56% in)

Noises Off  by Michael Frayn (3 Acts)

The cast of a play called Nothing On is running through a technical rehearsal. It’s a farce and satire about a house for rent and the shenanigans of the people involved. The second act shows the behind-the-scenes action during a performance of the play. The third act shows the audience’s perspective during a performance.

The beginning of this play can be read in the preview of Noises Off(40% in)

A Thousand Clowns by Herb Gardner (3 Acts)

Murray Burns is an unemployed writer living in a small Manhattan apartment. He takes care of his nephew Nick, who was abandoned by his mother six years earlier. Child Welfare representatives are visiting soon to assess Nick’s living situation. Murray isn’t worried about the kind of impression he will make.

Tartuffe by Moliere (3 Acts)

Orgon is a wealthy Parisian who lives with his family and various other guests. He invites Tartuffe into his home, offering everything he has to the man. He is impressed by Tartuffe’s piety, and wants his daughter to marry him. Other people view Tartuffe as a hypocrite, and his daughter is intent on marrying someone else.

The Foreigner by Larry Shue (2 Acts)

Froggy, a staff Sergeant, and Charlie, his visiting friend, are staying at a fishing lodge. Charlie is sad and reticent, so Froggy tells the owner, Betty, that Charlie is a foreigner and doesn’t understand English. Charlie gets roped into this scheme and ends up hearing a lot of private information. Betty is in danger of losing the lodge and some guests plan to buy it.

Hot l Baltimore by Lanford Wilson

The residents of a hotel are notified that it’s being torn down; they have a month to leave. Some of the residents include two prostitutes, a hustler and her brother, an argumentative old man, and a college student. They figure out what they’re going to do.

Once in a Lifetime by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (3 Acts)

Vaudeville performers George, May, and Jerry head for Los Angeles to get into the movies. With the movies now having sound, they figure actors who know how to use their voices will be in demand. They also plan to open a school of elocution. On the way, they meet Helen, a prominent film critic and Susan, an aspiring actress.

The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder (3 Acts)

We’re informed of some theatre news and world news, as well as the fact that Mr. George Antrobus has invented the wheel. It’s set in the Antrobus home in New Jersey. The maid, Sabina, gives a speech to the audience. A dinosaur and mammoth are in the house. George comes home and brings some wanderers with him.

Workout by Wendy Wasserstein (1 Act)

A woman in athletic wear puts on music and starts leading an exercise class. While exercising, she urges her class on and talks about herself. She’s got a lot going on—with her work, husband, kids and hobbies. She seems to be living an exemplary and fulfilling life.

• Dark or Black Comedies •

Do You Feel Anger? by Mara Nelson-Greenberg

Sofia is an empathy counselor hired by a collection agency. The first employee she meets is Eva, who says she gets mugged at the office. She warns Sofia everyone will hit on her. Eva talks about her ex-boyfriend—she has trouble remembering his name and what he looked like. Sofia then meets the boss, Jon, who’s staggeringly clueless about empathy.

The first two scenes of this play can be read in the preview of Humana Festival 2018: The Complete Plays(51% in)

Alfred and Lily and Their Marvelous Tank in the Forest by Tara Meddaugh (1 Act)

Alfred and Lily, frogs, are a married couple. They live in a forest, but in a tank rather than a pond. They notice there isn’t much water in their tank. Alfred thinks it’s been two days since they were moved from the pond. They see an eagle fly overhead with something in its beak. Alfred is alarmed.

This play can be read in the preview of The Best New Ten Minute Plays, 2020. (45% in)

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