The London theater “system”—composed of actors, playhouses, managers, and playwrights working under the influence of audiences and critics—played a role in the evolution of comedy in the period between the late 17th century and the early 18th century. In this era, the genre of comedy was transformed as a result of the interplay between the participants of the system.
Audiences of the era, for instance, enjoyed the Restoration style comedies that reveled in the reopening of the theatres in 1660 after 18 years of banning of the public stage performances through sexual explicitness and bustling, carefree plots.
But because some critics preferred much more moral comedy, playwrights, managers, and actors had to pay attention to both; they needed to cater to the audience’s taste in order to sustain the theaters (profitability), but they also had to adapt their works to appease the critics who pushed moral values and threatened to imprison onstage defectors.
Despite attacks claiming that the restoration comedies corrupted the audiences, some playwrights such as George Farquhar continued to produce plays they knew would be popular; managers such as Colley Cibber edited and produced morally acceptable plays to accommodate audience tastes while also protecting his theater from critics’ wrath; and actors came to represent an increasingly important position as they evolved into specific character roles. This interconnected theater "machine" is proof of the increasing influence of audiences and critics at the time in the evolution of comedy.