One-Liners Day is celebrated every year on January 21 in honor of the classic one-liners that have left us stunned, momentarily confused, or rolling on the floor laughing with tears in our eyes. Did you know the first piece of comedy was written over 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece? One-liners are jokes or witty remarks or answers delivered in a single line or sentence. Comedians and actors in their acts usually employ this comedic method. Some of the most famous one-liners include: “I have nothing to declare except my genius” (Oscar Wilde), “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” (“The Godfather”), and “My precious” (“Lord of the Rings”).
HISTORY OF ONE-LINERS DAYThe history of one-liners is a history of comedy. Their appearance in literal form can be traced to ancient comedic plays before they were adopted in films.The first known set of comedic plays was written starting from 425 B.C. in ancient Greece by the comic playwright and satirical author Aristophanes. In his 335 B.C. work, “Poetics,” Aristotle explained the origin of comedy — from phallic processions and the light treatment of the otherwise base and ugly — and divided comedy into three sub-genres: farce, romantic comedy, and satire. Comedy took a different meaning in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was light-hearted and sometimes used to defy authority. An example of the former is Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the “Punch and Judy” show is an example of the latter. “Punch and Judy” went against the puritanism spirit of that period and went over so well with audiences that they were transformed into hand puppets, becoming popular in Britain. “Punch and Judy” was the equivalent of today’s political cartoons.The early 19th century saw the rise of pantomime, which included slapstick comedy and sketch comedy without dialogue. This form of comedy was developed by Fred Karno, English music hall comedian and theatre impresario, in the 1890s. Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel were two of the most popular comedians that worked for Karno’s company. This era also witnessed the first mainstream clown, Joseph Grimaldi.American vaudeville appeared in the 1880s until the 1930s, when it waned in popularity, and with its rise came the beginning of popular entertainment as big business. The introduction of cinema, radio, and television in the 19 and 20 centuries increased the popularity of comedians and allowed them to reach more people. Some of the prominent comedians of this era were Charlie Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson, and Bozo the Clown.
ONE-LINERS DAY TIMELINE
425 B.C.The First Comedic PlaysAristophanes, a comic playwright and satirical author of the Ancient Greek Theater, begins writing comedic plays in ancient Greece.1800sThe First Mainstream ClownJoseph Grimaldi becomes the first mainstream clown.1880s – 1930sThe Introduction of American VaudevilleThe American vaudeville emerges into the famous performance scene and features comedians such as Buster Keaton and W.C. Fields.19th – 20th CenturiesThe Rise of ComediansThe introduction of cinema and the invention of the radio and television increases the popularity of comedians and their global acclaim.