Kinds of American Film Comedy: Six Core Genres and Their Literary Roots by Wes D. Gehring

Available now from McFarland

“Gehring remains supreme in film comedy scholarship”

– Choice

“Anything with film historian and media writer Wes D. Gehring’s name on it will be of quality.”

– Cinema Retro

Story: Ralph Greco, Jr.

In his 42nd book, prolific writer and scholar Wes D. Gehring presents the well-researched and intricately crafted Kinds of American Film Comedy: Six Core Genres and Their Literary Roots. Gehring breaks down six core comedy genres in an accessible style, yet academic enough for classroom use. This time, he ties in the predecessor of comedic cinema: print humor.

Gehring states, “This study needed at least a lengthy, if compressed, opening chapter survey upon which to build. It is keyed on several important pressure points, which in their totality, provide a basic foundation for the film-focused chapters to follow.” And in this chapter, he is able to succinctly introduce the foundations of U.S. comedy that underpin the genres of cinematic comedy.

Dr. Ashley Donnelly, Professor of Media at Ball State University, says, “Though knowing him as a film scholar in the truest sense, I’ve always considered Gehring’s work to be rooted in social history. His works take the people, the genres, and the history of cinema and intertwine them with the stories of the period he’s exploring, the complexities of his subjects’ lives, and the events and moments in time that touched the world, leaving generational, unconscious connections between the screen and the most important moments of human history.”

This groundbreaking film study begins with a survey of American print humorists from eras leading up to and overlapping the advent of film—including some who worked both on the page and on the screen, like Robert Benchley, Will Rogers, Groucho Marx and W. C. Fields. Six comic film genres are identified as outgrowths of a national tradition of Cracker Barrel philosophers, personality comedy, parody, screwball comedy, romantic comedy and dark comedy.

Gehring says, “The goal here is to place between two covers an updated in-depth look at a still too frequently neglected subject-the core comic film genres, and their integral ties to print humor. Moreover, at some level, comedy is most often about blowing “raspberries” at the world around us. And if one is at all engaged, you are a humor activist a reminder that you are not alone.”


“A tour de force. Ranging in depth over the subcategories of a mainstream genre, Gehring brings a wealth of research and detailed analysis to this outstanding and model discussion of the varied contexts and formal characteristics of film comedy. The volume includes a most welcome and original survey of the links between print and screen humor. It will appeal to general film-loving readers as well as to scholars and specialists dedicated to film comedy.”

– Peter William Evans, Emeritus Professor Of Film Studies, Queen Mary University Of London


Format: Softcover (7 x 10)

Pages: 242

Bibliographic Info: 39 photos, notes, bibliography, index

Copyright Date: 2024

pISBN: 978-1-4766-8899-2

eISBN: 978-1-4766-5049-4

Imprint: McFarland


Wes D. Gehring is a distinguished professor of film at Ball State University and associate media editor for USA Today magazine, for which he also writes the column “Reel World.” He is the author of over 40 film books, including biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise, Red Skelton and Charlie Chaplin. He was also an on-camera scholar for Turner Classic Movies’ online classes in the late 2010s and CNN and Forbes ranked Genre-Busting Dark Comedies Of the 1970s one of the “100 Best Comedy Books of All Time.”

Ralph Greco, Jr. is the devilishly clever nom de plume of professional writer/musician Ralph Greco who lives in the wilds of suburban New Jersey. He is also a podcast co-host, but as everyone has a podcast these days, this fact is of very little consequence.Ralph can be reached by writing


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