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Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 7: Making Old Gags New (Again)

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#21 Marianne


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Posted 22 September 2016 - 12:18 PM

The Great Race . . . also echoed back to the 20's with the suffragette movement. Even the credits, with hissing and cheering, seemed to recall the old days.


I think the time period of The Great Race is during Teddy Roosevelt's presidential administration (1901 to 1909) because, if I recall correctly, Maggie DuBois tells Baron von Stuppe of Pottsdorf that he will have to answer to President Teddy Roosevelt after the baron imprisons her.


Someone mentioned that the period presented in The Great Race predates the classic era of silent film, and if my memory is accurate, that would be true.

#22 Chris_Coombs


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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:42 AM

The Great Race was an homage to the old slapstick films. It presented a clear good guy (all in white) and clear bad guy (all in black, with the mustache twisting). Running with that was a modern element - the equality of women - which was big in the 1960's but also echoed back to the 20's with the suffragette movement. Even the credits, with hissing and cheering, seemed to recall the old days.

The pie fight (and the bar room brawl) are iconic slapstick things which it payed tribute to, and tried to out do.


The running gag of Leslie remaining immaculate throughout the fight is one of the things that makes it different. The very colorful pies was another thing that made it fresh. The pie fight could still be used even 10 years later (Blazing Saddles) in still fresh ways. Hedly, fleeing from the good guys, walks in on a huge pie fight. He quickly ducks back behind the door, and comes out again with pie on his face as a disguise! A very funny gag. So you can see how comics keep coming up with new twists on old gags.

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#23 ln040150


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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:19 AM

Perhaps it was at this point that comic filmmakers--and filmmakers in general--began to understand the pure distinction between "homage" and "remake" to the point where many of their own tastes took a turn for the better. Or, at least, forced them to consider new ways of searching for comedic forms. (Of course, studio execs often didn't feel this way, which is why we still see debacles like "The Magnificent Seven Redux." Rule: we should only see remakes of poorly made films, never remakes of perfectly made films.) The pie fight scene, as colorful and playful as it may be, is simply over the top for the sake of being over the top. Unlike Lucille Ball and a handful of others who knew how to take an original gag and wring something new out of it, this was merely playing something out over and over ad nauseum while the actors involved--some of whom could often be coaxed into really fine comedy--flopped about like fish out of water. The one great thing to come out of it was the era of creativity that followed, even with all of its brashness, stumbles and great fumbles, forced by this seeming emptiness.
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#24 savaney


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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:13 AM

I really enjoyed the explanation of how television changed the medium of slapstick comedy. The clips with The Three Stooges with the hammer gag has been done to death, but there something special about it, where it takes the right people to execute it well. It shouldn't work and it should be considered ancient, but it is apart of comedy history. The famous pie fight in "The Great Race" represents lunacy at its finest. Everything and everyone is covered in food, and looking at it closely, it seems like they have a really great time filming it and making sure that it came off as realistically as they could. 


By the way, the famous pie fight is like the lost scene from "Dr. Strangelove", which was cut because it was too silly. In a way, it is like they edited it back in, but in a different film. 

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#25 Dubbed


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Posted 22 September 2016 - 08:56 AM

As television began to rival film, it also ignited an influence over film as a medium, as some major stars lent their talents to the "small" screen and vice versa. An attempt is made with The Three Stooges in bringing them into the forefront of the modern times in the clip from Have Rocket, Will Travel. Their gag is still the traditional knockabout routine involving a hammer and, of course, the heads of each Stooge.

However repetitive, these types of gags always bore a relevance and never veered into an antiquated territory of comedy. Which brings me to the second clip presented, The Great Race, and the classic pie in the face.

This particular comedic routine I liken to a pie in the face gag on cocaine. It's an entirely silly, high octane scene involving tens of characters, some of which, are irrelevant to the plot. The multitude of people is purposed to create a massive feel of this quintessential gag. The characters are used to craft, then heighten the epic scaled pie war, additionally queued by inciting slapstick(esque) music.

Evolving gags also evolved with film and television, as noted by Dr. Edwards. This rousing pie battle is colorfully amusing with its bountiful richness of the rainbow-like spectrum. Television and film merged seemingly into one big spectacle during the 1950s and 60s, as the past paved way to the future.
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Posted 22 September 2016 - 06:28 AM

I loved the video by giving the audience a visual history of how gags could become new again in a different twist. I have not seen The Great Race because my mom was occupied with the television last night, but it certainly looks delightful after watching the clip on the video. I believe the analysis and examination of these gags helps me to understand what the comedian of filmmaker was going for in this type of field.

#27 Wampus



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Posted 21 September 2016 - 11:24 PM

Man, Vince Cellini really flubs one of the great jokes at the end of this!


Two examples of modern revisiting of gags come to mind when watching this episode.


1. Don't know if there is a direct antecedent to this gag, but the setup and payoff could've been done in 1901. From one of the funniest TV shows in recent history, Broad City.



2. Can't find the clip from Jackass Number Two, but there is an homage to the facade of the house falling around Buster Keaton. In the version at the end of the movie, it works the same as the Keaton gag but then a wrecking ball hits him. Funny enough. But in the end credits, they show the one where the house falls and HITS Johnny Knoxville who is then stunned and in deep pain. Just years after seeing narrow escapes, seeing the one time it fails is a shocking twist.

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#28 Russell K

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 10:47 PM

Interesting to note from the attached from Wikipedia that the Stooges were first on ABC in 1949, but did not enter syndication until 1958. Again, studios holding out, until they saw that money could be made.   (see Television section of the article)




Also that they did several other space movies prior to Have Rocket Will Travel (a pun on the TV show - that ran from 1957 to 1963)


- from https://en.wikipedia...ges_filmography (see below)


1957 1958
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#29 Dr. Rich Edwards

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 10:25 PM

A discussion thread covering clips from The Three Stooges and Blake Edwards on reusing or recycling classic gags. 


This Breakdown of a Gag is part of Module #4.


Enjoy discussing this Breakdown!

Richard Edwards, PhD

Ball State University

Instructor: TCM Presents: The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock (2017)

Instructor: TCM Presents: Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies (2016)

Instructor: TCM Presents: Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir (2015)



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