In literature, a humor character was one in whom a single passion predominated; this interpretation was especially popular in Elizabethan and other Renaissance literature. One of the most comprehensive treatments of the subject was the Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton. The theory found its strongest advocates among the comedy writers, notably Ben Jonson and his followers, who used humor characters to illustrate various modes of irrational and immoral behavior.
See N. Arikha, Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours (2007).
In early Western physiological theory, one of the four body fluids thought to determine a person's temperament and features. As hypothesized by Galen, the four cardinal humours were blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile). The variant mixture of these humours in each person determined his “complexion” or temperament and his mental and physical qualities. The ideal person had the perfectly proportioned mixture of the four fluids; a disproportionate amount of one humour created a personality dominated by one set of related emotions (e.g., a choleric man was easily angered, proud, ambitious, and vengeful).
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Humour marked by the use of morbid, ironic, or grotesquely comic episodes that ridicule human folly. The term came into common use in the 1960s to describe the work of novelists such as Joseph Heller, whose Catch-22 (1961) is an outstanding example; Kurt Vonnegut, particularly in Slaughterhouse Five (1969); and Thomas Pynchon, in V (1963) and Gravity's Rainbow (1973). A film exemplar is Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1963). The term black comedy has been applied to some playwrights in the Theatre of the Absurd, especially Eugène Ionesco.
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Non sequiturs often appear to be disconnected or random comments, or random changes in subject, especially socially inappropriate ones. When non sequiturs are used frequently for comic effect this can be called "absurd humor".
The non sequitur can be understood as the converse of cliché. Traditional comedy and drama can depend on the ritualization and predictability of human emotional experiences, where the Theatre of the Absurd uses disjunction and unpredictability.