What is alternative comedy 2023? Definition and examples

Hey, comedy enthusiasts! Have you ever wondered what makes alternative comedy so alternative? In a world saturated with predictable storylines and repetitive jokes, alternative comedy stands out as the rebellious, free-spirited cousin of the comedy universe.

In this blog, Rachelparris discusses What is alternative comedy, elements, features, and more.

What is the definition of alternative comedy?

What is the definition of alternative comedy?

Alternative comedy, a term coined in the 1980s, is a unique genre of humor that intentionally deviates from the mainstream comedy style of its era.

This form of comedy originated in the United Kingdom as a reaction against the conventional stand-up comedy popular in working men’s clubs, which often featured unoriginal jokes interjected. and elements of sexism and racism.

Alternative comedy seeks to offer a fresh perspective, moving away from such stereotypes and instead focusing on intelligent, thought-provoking humor.

Overview of alternative comedy

Overview of alternative comedy


Alternative comedy can take many different forms, including plays, films, and stand-up performances. It is characterized by intelligent humor, with comedians such as Maron and Garofalo being notable figures in the genre.

The content of alternative comedy can range from taboo and dark topics to geek culture and other unique topics. However, it consciously avoids racial, scatological, stereotypical, and other mainstream humor.


Picture this: clever humor, a little left-wing anti-establishment vibe, and a little triumph in the face of adversity. It’s what you can expect from alternative comedy.

It’s like the cool kid on the comedy block, choosing to focus on sharp, thought-provoking humor and not shy away from addressing real issues.


One of the main characteristics of alternative comedy is to avoid reliance on the standard structure of a series of jokes with punchlines. Instead, it explores different types of material, often subverting the conventional form of joke telling.

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For example, some alternative comedians use unusual presentation styles such as music, PowerPoint presentations, or acting out sketches.

Others may focus on character-based humor or surreal humor, as opposed to observations of daily life or polemical topics.

For example

A prime example of alternative comedy is the Comedy Store club in London, which opened in 1979. This club played a key role in shaping the alternative comedy scene, providing a platform for comedians performing stand-ups are not racist or sexist.

The Comedy Store Club stands in stark contrast to traditional comedians who often rely on jokes aimed at women and minorities. This change leads to what Arthur Smith describes as Comedy version of punk music.

Alternative comedy also has a strong presence in the stand-up comedy genre. Comedians like Marc Maron and Janeane Garofalo are known for their smart comedy, while others like Demetri Martin and Slovin and Allen have been recognized for their unique presenting styles.

Alternative comedy venues, e.g Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCB), Magnetic TheaterAnd Creek and The Cave in New York City, providing a platform for these comedians to experiment and express their creativity.

In South Africa, alternative comedy tends to avoid humor based on stereotypes or race, instead focusing on taboo, dark, non-sequitur, wacky topics and more. .

Comedians like Mel Miller, who is considered not suitable or radical during the Apartheid era, are considered pioneers of the alternative genre in the country.

How alternative comedy differs from mainstream comedy

How alternative comedy differs from mainstream comedy

Audience appeal: Mainstream comedy aims for broad, mass-market appeal, while alternative comedy often seeks to appeal to niche or specialized audiences.

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Content and Topics: Mainstream comedies typically revolve around universally understandable topics and avoid controversial or sensitive topics. Alternative comedy, on the other hand, often deals with unconventional, controversial, or taboo topics.

Style and delivery: Mainstream comedy tends to follow traditional comedy conventions and classic joke structures. Alternative comedy is more experimental, often breaking away from the established story format and exploring different ways of conveying humor.

Conformity vs rebellion: Mainstream comedy often conforms to societal norms and expectations, while alternative comedy can be seen as a form of rebellion against these norms, providing commentary or criticism on the social convention.

Predictability and unpredictability: Due to its adherence to established conventions, mainstream comedy is often predictable. On the contrary, the experimental nature of alternative comedy makes it more unpredictable and surprising.

Alternative Comedy FAQs

Alternative Comedy FAQs

How is alternative comedy different from traditional comedy?

Unlike traditional comedies, which often rely on common jokes and can sometimes contain sexist and racist elements, alternative comedies are often more original and avoid controversial topics. argue like that.

It also tends to explore different types of material and does not rely on preset expectations about the audience or vice versa.

Who are some notable alternative comedians?

Notable alternative comedians include Tony Allen, Alexei Sayle, Mark Steel, Dan Harmon, Dave Gorman, Linda Smith, Jeremy Hardy, Ron Sparks, Alan Davies, Ben Elton and Jo Brand

Where did alternative comedy come from?

The term alternative comedy was first coined in the 1980s and the genre is often associated with the opening of the Comedy Store club in London in 1979. However, since then it has spread across the world. bridge, with prominent settings in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

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What are some characteristics of alternative comedy?

Alternative comedy often includes taboo subjects, inappropriateness, juxtaposition, and wordplay. It may also feature character-based humor, surreal humor, or unusual presentation styles, such as music, PowerPoint presentations, or sketches.

How has alternative comedy evolved over time?

Alternative comedy has evolved alongside changes in mainstream comedy. As mainstream comedy changes, what is considered alternative also changes. The genre continues to push boundaries and explore new forms of comedic expression.


In a world where laughter often crosses the line between genuinely funny and annoyingly vulgar, alternative comedy serves as a refreshing oasis.

With a commitment to intelligent, boundary-pushing humor and a resolute avoidance of harmful stereotypes, alternative comedy continues to captivate audiences with its bold human experience.

So whether it’s in the underground comedy clubs of London, the theaters of New York City or the vibrant scenes of South Africa, one thing remains clear: alternative comedy is here to stay. here, challenge our views and stimulate our humor the most. unexpected ways.

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