Laughing Bird

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  1. 1- ZAZ approach: One gag's completion lingers as new gag is set up. One gag segues into the next. Example 1: Car's airbags deploying - first the driver's side, effecting the gear change, then the passenger side, then after Frank jumps out of the way of the car, the car has back seat airbags deployed, then after car explodes, the trunk is being dragged. Then the car turns the corner and lingering effect of where is going to go and wreak havoc, as Frank tells cop to get the witnesses names. Example 2: The Swiss Army shoe is demonstrated and then while Ed is playing with the shoe, the next gag, the cufflinks is introduced and because of the lingering effect of the fascination with the shoe, Ed gets shot with the dart and passes out. Then next gag is set up, where Frank looks into the microscope and Ed comes to from the dart. Example 3: Tall lab guy comes with microscope for next gag. Audience can't see his head - he's so tall. He has a banana in his hand which in itself is funny. Frank is affixed on the height of the guy, looking up at him, tells him he has something on the side of his face. We imagine the banana on his face.... then, "no, the other side." The microscope becomes set up for the next gag as tall guy walks away. Example 4: Debin can't see anything in the microscope just as Ed comes to, feeling his neck and says, "Use your open eye Frank." He looks up and his left eye that he was looking with is closed. Next gag, where Frank adjusts the microscope so that the glass slide is crushed.... then he looks up and his left eye is still closed. It's so stupid, but I can't help but laugh because Leslie Nielsen pulls off the dead pan so well. Everyone is deadpan, serious about their importance as cops and crimefighters. The film parodies TV shows like Dragnet and Get Smart. There are elements of Marlowe films, so the movie has a mix of film noir and comedy and action. Like in the Marlowe films, the protagonist (Frank Debin) recounts the story in narrative, hardboiled style. 2- Compare Mel Brooks/Gene Wilder style with ZAZ style: Spoofs are similar in that there is a lot of deadpanning. Gags include ridiculous accidents that are elaborated on. They are different in the society of people involved- Pink Panther scene - elite society, Naked Gun - thugs. In both, the protagonists mask their mistakes. In both scenes there is a spy-like 007 influence - Naked Gun in the lab, Pink Panther, with the pool table, playing pool. 3- Clouseau wants to be more than he is - he is addressed with courtesy as Inspector Clouseau. Debin is pragmatic and he is called by his first name in the scene (Frank). They are both self-effacing and self-important (don't want to be centred out for their mistakes and have a one-focus mission. Debin is more Marlow style, hardboiled. Clouseau is more the romantic spy type.
  2. 1. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy? The final punch: Clouseau has fixed his tie, regains his self-composure, restores his dignity with “Well, we shall continue this at another time,” bows politely and elegantly, then walks into the wall on other side of the opened door. To repeat his drawing attention away from himself as when he blamed the cue rack designer, he scape-goats the absent architect. 2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character? He is a romantic, proud, cultured and polite, declarative, counfounding, clutsy, self-effacing, accusatory, dead-pan, begrudgingly compliant. 3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement? He has a well-developed sense of culture and politeness inspite of his ineptness. -Would you kill for her? “Ofcourse...not.” He’s a romantic, yet still true to is idea of being incorruptible. -Still you shot.... Yes... Vehement, must now draw in his reins. -Sees that cue is curved, but too proud to change it. -rips cloth – oops – tries to fix it, obviously impossible – then is self-effacing and apologetic - his presence as the heroic crime-fighting inspector gradually falls apart with each gag -the obvious response after servant says phone call is for Mr. Clouseau ... “Ah, that would be for me.” When he takes call, he is able to restore some of his dignity. -Well-honed manners and use of big words, like “I wonder if you would oblige...” And he always addresses Mr. Bellont when he talks to him. -Bellont asks Clouseau to put away his cue for him – Rather than being insulted, Clouseau is begrudgingly compliant. -Cues all come loose – he continues to try to gather them – great physical comedy. Polite again, when he thanks the servant. Then blames a third-party, non-present scape-goat- the cue rack designer. -fixes his tie, restores his self-dignity, says, “Well, we will continue,” bows and walks into wall.
  3. Laughing Bird

    Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 5: Playing Games

    Joe E Brown was funny! I think facial features like his are a gift to a comedian. His face was definitely his trademark. Whenever I turn the TV on - naturally tuned into TCM already - and I see Joe E Brown, no matter how late it is at night, I can't miss the movie. If it weren't for Leslie Nielsen's wonderful timing, I wouldn't find his comedy as funny - I would think it was hamming it up, but his timing is an art form. The brief pause, just right, the sequences building at a perfect pace, makes his physical comedy so successful. He's a great comedian.
  4. W.C. Fields has a melodic lilt to it, highs and lows, pitch changes. He slurs and drawls some words while others are very clear. He parodies male social interaction in the useless bits of advice he gives, sometimes introspectively. His gag lines sometimes are executed under his breath. He speaks with stiff lips, or out of the side of his mouth when he makes a commentary, seems almost like, to some invisible listener (really, his audience). His ouch sounds are hilarious, not what would be expected from a large man. He makes high-pitched ouch-sounds, sounds like a hurt baby tiger, He makes lots of little reaction sounds: eh! mmehh! ohhhh! uh-uh, and more. His little commentaries, as I mentioned, are what make his gags unique. Some of my favourite in the clip: 1. Daughter introducing her boyfriend to him: Daughter: Father, this is Og Ogilvie W.C. Fields (chuckles, hands the planter to Ogilvie) Og Ogilivie. Sounds like a bubble in a Bathtub- 2. (He enters the bar and bumps into a post) Say, you might try to Vaseline this place in here or move the post over. 3. I have a half interest in a cod liver oil mine..... We did a lot of boondoggling. You ever boondoggle, Joe? 4. Fields: These clothes are pretty dry - gotta sprinkle them with alcohol. 5. Then a customer comes in and sits beside him. After his lifting-the-hat surprise reaction, he talks to the guy out of the side of his mouth, asks him if he met him at the Elks club. Fields: Ever do any boondoggling? Guy says no, orders a beer. Fields: Never have, eh? Then he tells Joe to give him a pint of ???polish? Fields: Never done boondoggling --- must have been another fellow, I guess. Funny! Repetition of that funny word "boondoggling." His after-though commentary, "I guess." His jokes draw up impossible images... imagine a cod liver oil mine!
  5. I watched ​Midsummer Mush starring Charley Chase and (LOL) directed by Charles Parrott and laughed all the way through. I'd never heard of Charley Chase until I started this course, so I thank TCM, Richard Edwards and the whole gang for giving me this wonderful opportunity to study Slapstick Comedy. Charley Chase played the role of a boyscout leader taking his troop on an outing, and of course he gets into all kinds of slapstick situations. Prop: Two whistles - Boyscout leader blowing it to keep his boys marching and the cop trying to direct traffic. -Use of cars and people creating traffic jam. Then he enjoys a lick of icecream from a cone that a pretty lady holds out, and that's where the real fun begins. They all end up in the country where there is a large pond. Of course, there is love story imbedded, so as to attract female viewers such as myself. Then there's the repeated feature of slapstick - the pond. He definitely plays the exasperated fellow in this movie, but also the hapless, yet ever optimistic victim. One piece of dialogue I will share: Chase says to the guy who puts an apple on his fishing hook, "You can't catch a fish with an apple." The guy says, "There's a worm in it." I like how Chas is the set-up guy for the joke. He also uses the getting spritzed in the face gag. He wears glasses that have lenses in them and whenever the sun glares on him, it makes him look even more silly. I hope you can see it. I found it on youtube - Archivo DiFilm Charley Chase- Midsummer Mush 1933.
  6. Wow! What a new man. I begin to see the move to a different kind of comedian and he reminds me of John Cleese. In the Pip from Pittsburg, Charley Chase has several levels of mood, all that I am drawn into especially by his facial gestures. All the elements of slapstick are evident: Exaggerated in his reactions and his covert gestures to the antagonist. His moves define the opposite of subtle. He goes back to the fresh breath despenser repeatedly. And each time he gets better controlling it. The painfulness of having to deal with the antagonists is emphasized not just in his physical body reactions, but in his reacting body and facial gestures. I disagree with Gerald Mast's suggesting that his greatest emotion is exasperation. I think it is his cunningness. His exasperation is the lead-in to his revenge, even if it is only his behind-the-back, passive aggression. Sound is now very important in this clip. The orchestral mood music, being paused just barely, for gag sound effects to be heard. Now the editing room is beginning to really be a part of the success of the film. For example: the music break when the spray comes out of the dispenser. The music grows by modulating up into a slighter higher pitch each time he attempts another spritz. The clarinet music emphasizes his character. And again, a quick pause, when he points out the lunches, "see those lunches" the music plays again. The man reading the newspaper is just enough of a presence, but his full face is not shown - he becomes a sound effect... adding to the effect that Chase's cunningness goes unseen (except by his love interest) as he shaves using the display items. Then using shaving in the reflection behind which the man is still monotonously reading. Brilliant pioneering of future comedy, especially situational comedy. The slapstick adds just enough spice to the clip.
  7. Filming is on location and it looks to me like it is helped with natural lighting. I wonder, did they use story boards back then? They would have filmed before the amusement park was opened, or did they keep real visitors standing aside until the scene was shot? The clip opens at the entrance of the amusement park and the first focus is on the full-figured lady who is bent over. It is all very innoncent, but already the set-up is evident. Something's going to happen. Speedy and Jane are in the distance, approaching. They don't notice the lady. But the audience does. Everything seems so innocent and ordinary. Starting the beginning of the clip at the start of the park already creates anticipation of what will happen. The toy vendor, the lady, Jane and her purse that is dropped is already creating some tension, yet it all looks innocent. The crab claw is exaggerated in size, and the close-ups add to the humour. It's that same kind of slow pinch that's funny. The clip goes through lots of wheel-spinning attractions, with each scene marked with a spinning wheel that is dizzying in itself. Speedy brings his girl, Jane to enjoy the day with him - he cannot do it alone - he needs his sidekick. And she is just as physical as he is. Her reactions are equal in strength to Speedy's. I think this helps to make Lloyd's character more real, his reactions seemingly more aimed not at the audience, but at his girlfriend. I like how I was set up to anticipate one thing - he's eating and eating and surely going to get sick from all the food. Then we see his back that still reminds me of an earlier gag, where he leaned against the wet pain. Jane is patting him. By his action, I think he is throwing up, then "Ha! Ha! Tricked You!" Speedy is blowing into a tube in a game. I laughed. So now the set-up involves tricking the audience too, not just the antagonist.
  8. High Striker Game - Breakdown of a Gag Episode 3: From 1917 to 1920, the budget for filmmaking was getting bigger. I think it shows in the films in that Harold Lloyd's High Striker scene uses more actors, including a lady watching from the ticket stand or wicket. The guys helping to conked Lloyd up add to the common, likeable man that he played. I also noticed that Fatty Arbuckle enters the scene with his lady friend who picks up his hat after the conk. He also knows how to handle a cigar. So this is a man that already having a successful day despite the gag. But with Harold Lloyd, from the beginning of the scene, I find him endearing, especially since he is running after a cute dog and gets conked on the head in his effort to catch the pooch. Then the group of men straight away, go to his aid. There is so much more fullness in the scene already. I wondered what Lloyd's payoff was in the scene... The payoff is almost for the audience in that Lloyd was able to add the second amusement park attraction, and so make him even more endearing as he inspects his distorted image. Plus there is the audience interaction where they know what's going on, but he doesn't. We want to tell him.
  9. Daily Dose of Doozy # 2 - A Piece of Cake: Charlie Chaplin I finally figured out a way to watch the clips from home, and so I can now comment! I think the beauty of this early silent film scene was its pure simplicity. Before sound and voices were added, the viewer had more connection with the characters, as they could imagine what was being said, and what the character might of sounded like. Without voice, the viewer must give his/her full attention for risk of missing something. Social issues of the time are evident even in this clip, just as social issues are a factor in today's comedies. And the comedy reflects how much information and technology the viewers are exposed to. What's missing in today's comedies is what's missing in the golden classics - today our senses are bombarded, but then our senses could take in each moment. Now, there is too much visual "noise." Only the essentials are used to convey the message in this clip. There are no tongue-in-cheek add-ins, or secondary scenes going on. Music is in sync with the plot, defining the mood of each moment. It almost speaks saying: oh-oh or awe or yikes or shame-shame, etc. The clip starts out with fast-paced, "busy" music. The music changes to violin and harp when the Tramp and his dog enter the scene. The dog: Why the dog? The Tramp is stealing from the vendor and that should make him a bad character, but when I see that he has a dog and shows it affection, then I can't help but like the Tramp. The close-up of the dog playing with his leash, reminds me of eating and hunger. But the dog is not just a prop, he is a secondary character, the Tramp's friend. The vendor seems like a hard-worker, trying to keep his business going. He's not really the antagonist to me, but as there is conflict between the thieving Tramp and the cake-losing vendor, who shall I decide is the antagonist? It is only when the vendor gives the poor dog a nasty look that I decide he is the antagonist. Then, a third character appears - the cop who ups the stakes. The pan: It is almost always in the vendor's hand. I see foreshadow - that the pan will be the prop used to hit the Tramp in the end.... but no..... all along, there is the swinging sausage, going tick-tock-tick-tock throughout the scene. I am surprised then, when it is the sausage that the vendor grabs to hit the Tramp. There is a moment where all three characters (not dog) are in the frame, the cop in his own little frame in the background. Like a scene looking in on a scene. This scene is in itself has a beginning, a middle and an end. The Tramp enters from the right and exits to his right... like in almost every movie, then end scene is where the beginning scene started. Coming full circle kind of thing. The action is physical, the need is defined (the hunger), the protagonist takes action, there's a confrontation, there's a resolution - just like Syd Field has defined in the Foundations of Screenwriting. The formula is complete in this clip.

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