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A comedian (comedienne is used sometimes if female) or comic is a person who seeks to entertain members of an audience, primarily by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting a fool, as in slapstick, or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comic.

A comedian can be distinguished from a clown because clowns most often use slapstick, wear costumes and makeup, and engage in buffoonery, whereas comedians most often focus on a more verbal style of humor, telling jokes.

A popular saying, variously quoted but generally attributed to Ed Wynn, is, "A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny," which draws a distinction between how much of the comedy can be attributed to verbal content and how much to acting and persona.

Since the late 1980s, a new wave of comedy, called alternative comedy, grew in popularity with its more offbeat and experimental style. This normally involves more experiential, or observational reporting, e.g. Andy Kaufman, Alexei Sayle and Malcolm Hardee. Alternative comedy is now arguably the mainstream.

As far as content is concerned, comedians such as Tommy Tiernan, Des Bishop and Joan Rivers draw on their background to poke fun at themselves, while others such as Jon Stewart, Bill Hicks and George Carlin have very strong political and cultural undertones. Contemporary comedians include Conan O' Brien and Jay Leno.

Many comics achieve a cult following while touring famous comedy hubs such as the Just for Laughs festival in Montrealmarker, the Edinburgh Fringe, and Melbourne Comedy Festival in Australia. Often a comic's career advances significantly when they win a notable comedy award, such as the if.comedy award (formerly the Perrier comedy award). Comics sometimes foray into other areas of entertainment, such as film and television, when they have become much better known. eg. Dara O'Briain

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