By Caroline Austin
Commedia dell’arte has impacted modern pop culture tremendously. Audiences can see stock characters and huge physical movements throughout pop culture. Many movies and TV shows stem from the roots of commedia dell’arte.
One example of commedia dell’arte in modern pop culture is SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Starr are the classic Zanni. These lovable and naive clowns stumble through life with optimism. Squidward embodies the arrogant Pantalone, tormented by the antics of his bumbling counterparts. SpongeBob SquarePants depicts commedia dell’arte with its vibrant characters and out-of-control humor.
The Muppets, the lovable characters Jim Henson created, embrace commedia dell’arte elements. From Kermit’s expressive gestures to Miss Piggy’s grand entrances, The Muppets have a playful spirit. The Muppets break the fourth wall with quick sharp one-liners like the traditional style.
Many commedia dell’arte archetypes are in pop culture, even if the show doesn’t fit the style. In The Princess Bride, Westley exemplifies the heroic lover with his dashing swordplay and witty banter. In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Captain Raymond Holt serious demeanor is similar to the stock character Pantalone. In The Office, Dwight Shrute’s extreme reactions is an example of the Il Dottore character.
These are just a few examples of Commedia dell’arte’s impact on modern pop culture. The theatrical style continues to entertain audiences worldwide. See it with our production of The Servant of Two Masters until July 2.