Reduced Shakespeare Company Nov. 14

Edison presents 'The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)'

The Reduced Shakespeare Company returns to Edison Theatre Nov. 14 with “The Complete History of Comedy (abridged).” Hi-res image upon request.

It’s all been leading to this.

They’ve shrunken Shakespeare, condensed Christmas, abbreviated the Bible and pruned and pared great works of poetry and prose. Now, at last, The Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) will tackle the subject it was born to abridge: “The Complete History of Comedy.”

At 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14, the RSC will present its raucous cheat sheet to humor through the ages — from Aristophanes and Moliere to whoopee cushions, “The Daily Show” and Anthony Weiner — as part of the Edison Ovations Series at Washington University in St. Louis.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company. Hi-res image upon request.

‘The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)’

“We want to deconstruct the history and practice of comedy,” said Reed Martin, who co-wrote the show with Austin Tichenor, discussing the premiere at Cincinnati Playhouse.

“We think that comedy is underappreciated,” Martin added, noting that Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Groucho Marx never won Academy Awards. “Everybody thinks they can tell a joke. ‘Any monkey can do it.’ We prove that every night.”

Yet there is a skill to comedy, as well as deep, almost mystical questions. Why, exactly, did the chicken cross the road? And who, in fact, is there?

More seriously, what are the mechanics of telling a joke? What’s funny in different cultures? And was Abraham Lincoln any good at stand-up?

“All of our shows are the complete history of comedy,” Tichenor said. “We are always bringing all of the weapons in our comic arsenal. High brow, low brow, a smart joke … Falling down, verbal patter, puns, comedy songs, parody songs, pantomime bits …

“For me, the challenge is going to be, now that I’m writing about comedy, what’s the subtext of that?” Tichenor said. “In our other shows, I’m writing about history, so the subtext is comic.”

Here, Tichenor said, “I’m trying to make the subtext the text, which is a weird sort of challenge.”

The Reduced Shakespeare Company. Hi-res image upon request.

Tickets and sponsors

The Reduced Shakespeare Company presents “The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)” at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14. Tickets are $36, or $32 for seniors, $28 for Washington University faculty and staff, and $20 for students and children.

Tickets are available at the Edison Box Office. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd.

For more information, call 314-935-6543, e-mail or visit

Edison programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors.