Satire is a form of comedy that is designed primarily to poke fun at specific foibles or flaws in people or institutions, largely in an attempt to draw attention and, in some cases, evoke change. Comedy is a broad genre in literature, theater and art. It is often broken down into “high” and “low” designations based on the sophistication of the humor. Satire is usually considered a form of high comedy.
Comedy and satire are different in that comedy is a much broader genre. All satire is comedy, but not all comedy is satire. Comedy includes everything from intelligent, witty repartees and dark humor to slapstick and baseline jokes. Satire, on the other hand, is a literary genre primarily focused on highbrow social criticism.
Most satire is directed at politicians, religious leaders, and others in the public sphere. It often features characters who represent exaggerated versions of the person or persons being targeted. Satire is based on truth, but depends on irony, wit, and sarcasm to expose weakness and other flaws. The tone is usually light, and the overall message is designed to be entertaining. Unlike other forms of comedy, however, satire carries a serious message thinly veiled beneath its surface.
It could be said that satire is a means of using comedy and high humor to expose social problems and ills. The genre is often lauded as an intelligent form of criticism. Artists and writers use comedic devices to get their message through to audiences without resorting to bald statements. In this way, comedy and satire always go hand in hand. Most satire is witty, drawing on common perceptions and exploiting them in clever, high-handed ways.
The larger sphere of comedy and satire often overlap, as most satire incorporates other comedic elements. It is common for a satirical work to include some parody and exaggeration, for instance. The main goal is to use biting humor to make some statement or criticism of social life by capitalizing on literary form — but more often than not this cannot be achieved without at least some crossovers between genres.
This crossover goes both ways. Comedy and satire also converge in works that are not primarily satirical. A farce or a piece of dark comedy may include certain satirical elements without being characterized as full-fledged satires.
Much of how a comedy is defined depends on the overall message and larger tone. The sensibilities of the audience are also important. Comedy and satire often go hand in hand, but in order to actually be satire, the overall motive of the piece must be more serious, and the piece must be presented in such a manner that its comedic leanings are not as readily apparent as they would be in a more directly comedic genre.