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The History of Comedy

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CNN Original Series examines the historic influence of comedy in an eight-part documentary. Archival footage and contemporary interviews with comedy legends, scholars and current stars combine to explore what makes people laugh and how comedy has affected history's social and political landscape. Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Jimmy Kimmel, Kathy Griffin, George Lopez, Keegan-Michael Key, Conan O'Brien, Patton Oswalt and Dick Cavett are among those interviewed. The series begins by profiling "blue" comics like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. Subsequent episodes detail women in comedy, political humor, parody and satire, comedy ripped from the headlines, the dark side of comedy, comedy in race and culture, and comedy found in everyday life.

Latest episodes

VOD available
The history between animation and comedy.
aired 219 days ago
How sexual humor, one of the oldest forms of comedy, pushes the limits of both comfort and political correctness.
VOD available
Examining the many different ways that comedy has lampooned and influenced politics over the years.
VOD available
Exploring family-friendly comedy and the struggles of abiding by strict network censors.
VOD available
Examining how comedians find humor in the simple daily experiences we all share to make us laugh.
VOD available
Exploring and celebrating the greatest female comedians of all time and how they were able to succeed in every genre where humor is found despite rampant sexism and prejudice.
VOD available
A look at groundbreaking comics, including George Carlin, Dick Gregory and Lenny Bruce, who embraced the risqué side of comedy and risked careers, prison, and even their lives to fight censorship.
VOD available
The history of comedic duos and the evolution of comedy teams.
VOD available
Exploring the evolution of racial humor; how comedy can cross cultural barriers to unite people.
VOD available
Exploring the passing of comedic legends and how the connection with their audiences makes the loss more significant.
VOD available
Exploring the fascinating mind of the comedian and the difficult road that many seem destined to take -- where mental illness and substance abuse are remarkably common.
VOD available
Demonstrating how effective and funny it is when something serious is twisted slightly.
VOD available
Tracing the origins of topical humor from the invention of the monologue to the fake news shows of today.
aired 359 days ago
Exploring the history of sketch and improv comedy and how it evolved into a significant part of comedic talent today.