a humorous or farcical interlude in a dramatic film, usually provided by a buffoonish character, intended to relieve the dramatic, built-up tension or heighten the emotional impact by means of contrast Example: Walter Huston as a grizzly prospector - dancing a jig on ground laced with gold in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
In a tragedy, a short comic scene that releases some of the built-up tension of the play - giving the audience a momentary "relief" before the tension mounts higher. The "porter scene" in Shakespeare's Macbeth is an often-cited example; following the murder of Duncan, a porter jocularly addresses the audience as to the effect of drinking on sexual behavior. In the best tragedies, comic relief also provides an ironic counterpoint to the tragic action.
A humorous scene or incident that alleviates tension in an otherwise serious work. Often these moments enhance thematic significance of a story in addition to providing humor.