My 5 Categories of Theatre Humor

My 5 Categories of Theatre Humor

Anna Hubbel

OnStage Columnist

Amidst the crazed line memorization, stage crew chaos, and mad-eyed director antics, there is an underlying bond that keeps everyone sane during tech week: humor.

Based on personal experience, I’ve comprised a list of five “Theatre Humor” categories:

SpongeBob SquarePants

In my theatre group, SpongeBob SquarePants was randomly and frequently quoted, both during rehearsals and actual performances. Lines from a renowned SpongeBob episode were sporadically incorporated into a scene. For instance, we’d frequently add “…at night” after a serious monologue (see SpongeBob “Graveyard Shift” episode). Or one of us would start screaming “CHOCOLATE!” or “Is mayonnaise an instrument?” (Episodes “Chocolate with Nuts” and “Band Geeks”.)


I think it goes without saying that the world behind the curtain (or at least the high school or college curtain) is PG-13 (sometimes R). The flirting and sexual innuendos (all harmless, of course) are superfluous – playful winks, suggestive voice inflections during scenes, dry humping… When you spend that much time with the same group of people in sweaty costumes under the direct glare of stage lights…

These things just happen.

Happy Slip-ups

Sometimes a happy accident comes along and someone will speak a line strangely, drop a prop, or exit/enter the stage in an awkward manner, making the cast and crew double over for inexplicable reasons. These welcome moments of comic relief are the foundation of endless inside jokes that will bring you to tears nearly every time something or someone triggers the memory.

Playful Props

During a student performance of W.S. Gilbert’s Palace of Truth, I remember watching my fellow cast members rehearsing the scene where Chrysal and Zoram are dueling. At one point in the scene, the character Gelanor enters, attempting to pacify the two characters. As they continue to fight, a crunching sound is suddenly heard and the two turn to Gelanor, who has commenced eating from a baggie of Cocoa-Puffs. He looks up at them and offers, “Cocoa-Puff?”

So of course we kept the scene.  

Even if the audience didn’t laugh at the improvised scene every night, we sure did.


I am 5’ 8” and weigh about 115 lbs. So when our costume director tried to make me look like a very fat woman… I looked more like an odd lumpy pillow with twig legs. 

On another occasion, we used baby powder to attempt to give an actor gray hair. First night on stage, the actor swung his head in emotion, sending a puff of powder across the stage. 

Do you agree with my list? What categories would you add?

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