You know those crazy masks with the long noses? Yeah, those ones. Those come from the commedia dell'arte, a 16th-century Italian theatrical form that was based mostly on—you guessed it—masks.
A few important things to know about this rather hilarious form of theater:
The most famous "type" that was developed by the commedia dell'arte was probably Arlecchino, the comic servant (zanni) who wasn't the brightest crayon in the box but could do somersaults with the best of them. Ever heard the word harlequin? Yeah, that's our boy.