The Performance of Standup Comedy Through the Centuries

By  //  February 11, 2023

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Since the new millennium, we’ve cracked up at the raunch-coms, rom-com, and improv comedy. Comedy has seen a change in structure over the past decades. 

In the early rise of its origin, comedy was seen through plays in ancient Greece, written by playwrights, including Aristophanes, Pericles, Demosthenes, and Plato.

In the Elizabethan era, comedy was marked by happy endings. Shakespeare’s comedy was far more light-hearted than his dramas. In the 19th century, diversification occurred in comedy, and music became a supplementary part of it. Musical comedy became the most popular type of comedy in the late 1890s. 

In the 20th century, comedy was presented in the form of silent films, which brought many exceptional talents to the big and small screen, such as Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. It marked the beginning of comedy’s stardom. 

In 1938, comedy slowly evolved from silent films to sound films. Through time, comedy in films had an evolution of its own.  Eventually, it took the shape of the all-time favorite standup comedy. 

When it comes to the most beloved style of comedy, people’s votes often go to standup comedy. It is a simple form but is almost universally beloved by fans of the comedy genre. Standup has been a major evolution in terms of comedy delivery. Comedy was historically delivered through the written word or theatrical performances. 

In the 21st century, standup comedy has taken the world by storm. Many people across the world have started their journey in standup comedy, one of whom is William Lee Martin. Martin is an exceptional standup comedian, writer, producer, actor, and philanthropist.

Born in Blue Mound, Texas, on May 21, 1966, he always had a unique way of storytelling. He was just five when he started writing songs and stories. With the burning desire to learn more, he signed up as a drummer in his middle school and college bands. 

Before starting his career as a storyteller, he worked in the advertising industry for nine years. In 1996, Martin decided to give comedy a try and began his comedy career under the pseudonym Cowboy Bill.

Within three years, Martin started headlining the most prestigious comedy clubs, including the Improv, Catch a Rising Star in Vegas, Déjà Vu, and the Funny Bone. He became a regular in Las Vegas and would go on tour with comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, and Larry the Cable Guy.

In 2015, Martin had his first national American television debut on the Country Music Television (CMT) network with his first one-hour special, Cowboy Bill Martin: Let the Laughter Roll. Over 1 million households watched it. The project was self produced. In 2017, he dropped his stage name.

Cowboy Bill, and reverted to William Lee Martin. In 2019, he had two more specials on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and the Comedy Dynamics Network titled, William Lee Martin: Standing in the Middle and William Lee Martin: The Nutcracker – A Christmas Story based on a Vasectomy. In 2019, Martin also made his actoral debut in an independent film, 300 Savage and in 2022 appeared in the comedy film, When Will Jesus Return (W.W.J.R).

Along with being an exceptional standup comedian, Martin has also written numerous songs, including “I’ll Stand for You” and “400 Horses.” In 2011, Martin and his wife, Michele, launched a non-profit organization named Cowboys Who Care. Through the organization, they donate cowboy hats to children with cancer and life-threatening illnesses.

Martin was also awarded by BEEF Trailblazer Award in 2019 for his philanthropic work. He has done several shows, including, Rolling with the Punches, Standing in the Middle, and Nutcracker – A Christmas Standup Spectacular. Martin definitely knows the art of getting people’s attention.