The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Black humor (black comedy)
Black humor (black comedy): A dark, disturbing, and often morbid or grotesque mode of comedy found in certain, generally postmodern, texts, especially antinovels and Absurdist works. Black humor often concerns death, suffering, or other anxiety-inducing subjects and usually goes hand in hand with a pessimistic tone or worldview, expressing a sense of hopelessness in a wry, sardonic, and grimly humorous way.
EXAMPLES: Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961), Thomas Pynchon’s V (1963), John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), and the works of Kurt Vonnegut. Little Shop of Horrors, originally a Roger Corman film written by Charles B. Griffith (1960) that was made into a musical (1982) and then remade as a movie (1986), is rife with black humor. Noted films utilizing black humor include Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964); Heathers (1989); Pulp Fiction (1994); Fargo (1996), Bad Santa (2003); and Birdman (2014). Children’s authors known for black humor include Roald Dahl; Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), whose A Series of Unfortunate Events (1999—2006) contains thirteen books; and Edward Gorey, whose book The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1962), presents each letter of the alphabet via the name of a child who met an untimely death: “A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil, assaulted by bears… .”