Dr. Rich Edwards

What is Slapstick? A Discussion of Definitions

222 posts in this topic

While slapstick is physical and exaggerated, I don't think I can buy into the  "ritualistic" definition.  It is repetitive and it is purposeful, but having purpose is not the same as having meaning.  Many of the gags in slapstick are spontaneous at first, then become calculated, and the purpose develops as a result of repetition.  But attempting to ascribe meaning to it is a bit of a stretch. Just my two cents. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At this point in the class, I can agree with the five common factors found in slapstick, but with some stretches in meaning.

Take Buster Keaton for example. He was loved by the Surrealists because his gags were often surreal. That made the audience aware they were watching a fantastical take on the real world even if all the other elements were commonplace. For example, every newly married couple sets up home, but none ever face all the problems he does in One Week (1920), like the bizarre image of a train driving through a house.

That last word commonplace leads me into expanding the definition of ritualistic. Yes, repetition is key to any comedy, verbal or physical. Slapstick gags can become very elaborate. Look at Laurel and Hardy's The Battle of the Century (1927). The same physical act is repeated over and over again by the same and an increasing army of characters, but there are variations in how and why people are throwing pies and what the end result is.

Aside from the repetition aspect of the word ritualistic, a lot of slapstick involves every day life for its characters. In the Bargain of the Century (1933), Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd's comedy starter is the bargain sale, a part of many people's lives, only the ladies' experiences and actions are more extreme at theirs. So ritualistic covers repetition and common life experiences from the mundane to rites of passage for me.

Perhaps a sixth factor should be that no matter how make believe slapstick is it offers something relatable to the audience? They get to enjoy watching the situation and action spiral out of control in ways they wouldn't want to happen to them in real life. They can laugh at slapstick antics not only because they're funny, but also the laughter releases them from the anxiety of the more mundane issues or anxiety they would or do face in that situation.

I'll have to think further if there are comedies that don't fulfill the five conditions!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You may be on to something there!

 

In an earlier comment someone said slapstick works because we care about the characters...  and it was Chaplin who stated that it was about the character's personality.

 

Most of the characters, whose movies I've turned off, haven't been at ALL likeable...  it was slapstick, but, IMHO, they weren't being slapped nearly as hard as they should have been!  hahahahahahaha

 

So, what else might make slapstick not work for you when it fails?

I'm going to jump from film to TV for a moment. I'm a woman, and I laughed so much at the antics of the characters in the BritCom Bottom (1991-1995). They're nasty, mean, and violent characters, but Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall played them for all their oddities and made them watchable. I don't think inherent likability has to be a factor in enjoying slapstick. The characters have to be entertaining, and their performers skilled.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Slapstick doesn't necessarily relate to the act of committing violence, but rather to the civilized conventions we developed to avoid violence. In caveman days, when one of our ancestors was bothered by another troglodytes obnoxious behavior, our ancestor probably picked up a club and committed murder. So when we see actors play out comedic aggression on the screen, it relieves us of pent up everyday frustrations we encounter without resulting to violence. We wouldn't kick a crying baby or push a slow walking elderly person down the stairs, but WC Fields did it for us and we laughed. All done of course in an exaggerated physical make-believe ritualistic manner. "If it bends it's funny." Crimes and Misdemeanors. 

 

Slapstick hilarity may still be achieved, but it's golden age has passed. After 100 plus years of cinema we've seen every physical bit invented by performers from commedia dell'arte to vaudeville, so we've become somewhat desensitized to the humor. The 21st century audience finds reflective stand up comedians, verbal satire combined with slapstick, or even deconstruction of slapstick (see early Woody Allen films) as our preferred laughter outlet. Action films however, with it's plotless explosions and gratuitous buckets of blood, provide a much more direct to our physical frustrations. "If it breaks it's not funny." Crimes and Misdemeanors. 

Multiple goodies in this post.

 

 

I think your excellent first comments on violence and avoidance also touch on the ritualistic aspect of slapstick. Ritualism is not only repetition, but also culturally meaningful. I'd argue that slapstick does indeed require violence. This is not necessarily interpersonal violence, it could be one person against the elements (or a banana peel). Otherwise you've got "physical humor". Think of the moment in "Bringing Up Baby" when Katherine Hepburn tears her dress and Cary Grant helps her disguise it by welding himself to her back(side) and marching across the room with her.

 

           

 

Several of the moments leading up to the stroll are slapstick - tearing clothes etc. - but the actual walk across the room is just a sublime moment of physical comedy.

 

 

Second, slaptick doesn't go back only to commedia. There are traces that go back to our earliest Western drama - the Greeks circa 400BCE were swatting each other with phalluses. No doubt our caveman ancestors were miming club fights around the campfire.

 

 

Finally, I'd like to note that stunt performers refer to stunts as "gags", I presume because of the overlap with slapstick comedies. These share many of the qualities of true slapstick gags.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was rather amazed to realize there are many levels to slapstick. I always thought a pie in the face was a pie in the face before the start of this course, but I am beginning to see that while Chaplin was subtle and elegant, the Three Stooges were broad and in your face and they both basically achieved the result--laughter. While comedy is ageless, everyone learns from those before them and broadens it so this course will be extremely interesting to follow as it progresses.

 

This is a perfect way to tie much of the discussion together...weather watching a Buster Keaton film, Abbott & Costello, or Young Frankenstein, there is a progression of visual comedy that has been handed down, decade after decade, to every new film maker to study. Slapstick is definitely one of the basic building blocks. Also included in the mix are, satire, situational, sometimes it is broad and sometimes subtle in delivery, but when done right, we always want to return to see how well it was done in those classic films....We have our favorites, we have those gags in certain scenes memorized in our head, and we go back to them often. For instance I watched "What's Up Doc" yesterday, and although a remake of "Bringing Up Baby", I always walk away thinking how funny it is to see again, and how Peter Bogdonovich got some much right in that film. Lots of slapstick, but very well done....so looking forward to catching up on more classics!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...A clip with 3 scenes from Laurel and Hardy's "Towed in a Hole" 1932...from YouTube, prime slapstick within a simple setting...what works best is Ollie breaking the 4th wall and letting us become part of the scene...

 

 

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Action + Comedy = Slapstick

 

In another post I referenced a video entitled, "

", which analyzes Jackie Chan's special form of Slapstick comedy.  The Author uses the term "Action Comedy" to denote the fact that Jackie's films are action movies, but that term stuck in my head.  Then later, I was going through scenes of the Marx Brother's classic, "A Night at the Opera", trying to find clips of slapstick scenes.  In the movie there are great comedy scenes, but they didn't all feel slapstick, Why?  Then it dawned on me, the ones that felt slapstick had to have some kind of Action associated with it.  Groucho has several scenes that if you blanked out the screen and just listened to the audio, it would still be hilarious, even though his facial expression due elevate the comedy.  The slapstick scenes, like the moving of the beds, just wouldn't be funny without the visual action.

 

I think both the Action and Comedy parts of this formula can be broken down into many sub-forms, but at it's most basic level, Slapstick must include Action and Comedy or it just isn't slapstick.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before I started the course I wondered where the term slapstick came from, so I looked it up in Wikipedia and got this definition: "Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity which exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy."  I love that--for me it begs the question, what exactly is "normal physical comedy"?  That question alone makes me laugh while I'm typing this.  It reminds me of a musicologist's description of the The Beatle's innovations as unexpected key changes and male voices singing outside their normal range.  That always made me laugh too.  (It echoed The Simpsons: "The Beatles, sir, were a British pop quartet from the 1960s." "Yes, I seem to remember their high-pitched caterwauling on the old Ed Sullivan show.")  

 

Who, exactly, gets to define the normal range of the male voice or the boundaries of normal physical comedy?  I mean, what is "normal physical comedy"?  I ask that seriously--couldn't any physical comedy be slapstick?  Or is there something different about comedy that incorporates (most of) the five elements of slapstick, things like ritual, exaggeration, and violence?  I don't think we have to have to have an ironclad definition (I don't care) but the elements did make me think.  For instance, nothing could be more ritualistic than The Three Stooges.  There were so many classic repetitive elements of their humor that got worked into every short--poking in the eye, pushing someone over an accomplice huddled behind them, all three Stooges trying to get through a doorway at the same time.  When you watch a lot of their shorts it gets to become familiar and comfortable.

 

I think repetition and ritual are an intrinsic part of art, as much as innovation.  The epic poem always contained formulaic passages that the bard repeated to give him time to think about what was coming next, just like The Three Stooges shorts contained formulaic gags to keep the pace moving forward to the new gags that were unique to the plot.  I even see this in music.  I have teen daughters and they have every Taylor Swift album and I've heard them hundreds of times.  I think she's a brilliant songwriter, and one of the things that intrigues me is how often she repeats a lot of her musical themes--melodies, chord changes, etc.  I normally would have thought of that as a weakness, but then I reflected on how one of my other favorite songwriters, Paul Weller from The Jam, did the same thing.  They both wrote a huge catalog of work.  If that involved borrowing from themselves and playing with the same musical ideas and seeing what new things they could express through them, then that's part of the art.  So I guess that's something I'll be looking for in slapstick--how do the rituals and conventions evolve.  

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was quite a coincidence that I went to a showing of "One Man, Two Guvnors" this very week. It's based on Commedia del Arte, acknowledged in the production itself, and the star tells the audience he is Harlequin. Also, it's pretty easy to imagine that James Corden is the reincarnation of Fatty Arbuckle!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me the way to pull off a great slapstick gag and make it really funny is all in the timing. If the timing is off by just a slit  second the gag missed it's opportunity to be really funny.Some of the great comics knew that and that's the reason they vwere so funny.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The definitions of slapstick in this course listed 5 elements. One of them was violence. I wonder if an absence of violence as well can be a condition of slapstick when all the other 4 conditions are met. Take the famous gag by Buster Keaton of the house front falling on him from 'Steamboat Bill Jr.'. We expect him to be hit by the wall and laugh at the miracle that he was saved by standing just where the window is. The comedy comes from our expectation of violence, which is, to our suprise, avoided. Yet I would think most people would consider that a slapstic gag.

 

Another example would be Charlie Chaplin skating blindfold in 'Modern Times', coming close to the edge of a drop, closer and closer, but unaware he is about to fall. We cringe and gasp each time he skirts disaster by inches, we are filled with suspense as we watch the girl struggling to reach and warn him, hampered by her poor skating skills. Then when he takes his blindfold off and sees what almost happens, he panics so much that he starts heading towards the edge again. The gag of the film is the expectation of a horrible violence that is again miraculously avoided.

 

Yet a third example of this is from Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush', where Black Larson and Big Jim struggle over the gun, as Charlie tries to get out of the line of fire. As the strugglers twist and turn, the gun always seems to point at Charlie, no matter how he dashes around the room to avoid it. Though the fight is a violence, the humor comes from the gun always pointing at Charlie no matter how he tries to get out of its way, and the suspense comes from fearing that at any moment the gun will go off and hit him. The payoff comes when the gun does go off and Charlie actually checks himself to see if he was hit.

 

All three examples seem to have the other criteria - exaggerated, physical, ritualistic, and make believe - but the violence is something expected but doesn't occur. So I wonder if this - the absence of an expected violence  - also fits in the definition of slapstick, or whether people would not consider those instances actual slapstick or something else.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

One of my main reasons for signing up for this class was to explore the question - why do we laugh at people getting hurt? And as I read the first couple of essays, it hit me like a rubber truncheon - because we're human, and humans are inherently violent, find violence entertaining, and seemingly always have, as far back as we can tell.

 

The Roman gladiators immediately come to mind. Russel Crowe's shout to the arena crowd in "Gladiator": "Are you not entertained?" Medieval knights stylized and institutionalized violence-as-entertainment with their jousts and tournaments, despite the Church's condemnation. Bare-knuckles boxing in the 19th century, with gloves added in the 20th, and MMA in the 21st. The ritual and theatrics of professional wrestling, with the Mexican variant really taking it over the top. Bull-fighting. Rugby, hockey, and football.

 

We're a violent race, and we like to cheer for our heroes and boo the villains. So what makes laughter replace cheering and booing? It's true that humor is like a frog or a watch - when you take it apart to see how it works, it stops working.

 

Something to think about.

I agree with the comments on human nature

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just thought of something else. Slapstick can be woven into other kinds of comedy seamlessly. It doesn't have to be to the excludion of other kinds of comedy.

 

A perfect example is the Hunting Trilogy by Chuck Jones (Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit! Duck!). They are situation comedies, with wordplay jokes, punctuated by extreme slapstick moments i.e. Daffy getting shot point blank such that his bill rotates around his face.) In this case the slapstick moment almost acts like a 'rimshot' to the punchline of the wordplay jokes.

 

Another example is Abbot & Costello, where wordplay banter back and forth ends in a punchline by Lou (which usually annoys Bud), causing Bud to Slap Lou. Again, the Slap acts like a 'rimshot' to the punchline.

 

On another note, there has been in the discussion references to slapstick as a crude form of comedy. It may be, but there is a hilarious Dick Van D_yke skit (Season 1 Episode 6) where Rob obstensibly lectures on how comedy has changed, and that modern audiences are more sophisticated and don't laugh at what their grandparents once laughed at. As he talk about how modern audiences don't laugh at people in pain and prefer sophistication, he invariably hurts himself accidentally in several ways, with letter openers, waste baskets, desk drawers, and so forth. It is one of the funniest slapstick routines I have ever seen, and all the while as he is explaining how we now prefer sophistication to the crudeness of slapstick. I recommend anyone who has not seen it check it out on youtube.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I concur with the offered definition of slapstick requiring the critical five elements of exaggeration, physicality, ritual, make believe and violence. To be true slapstick, all five conditions need to evident in a blended fashion. That is, the humorous action-bit within the fictional film [make believe] is a combination of  exaggerated physical actions, played by the actors with routine precision [ritual], and ends with a "punch" [violence]. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the term ritualistic can be the element of surprise which helps the gag promote the kind of hunor that slapstick is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree. Don't over think comedy. If it must be explained it loses it's humor..........................except for one sketch where the humor was explained and demonstrated. Try the short version on youtube - Monty Python - History of the Joke. I prefer the longer version as performed in "Live at the Hollywood Bowl", because, well, because there are more laughs! Notice how the audience anticipate the slapstick and laughs just the same. The "telegraphing" (knowledge of what is to occur) enhances, rather than detracts, from the laughter.

I really like what Dr. Edwards does as he does not say why it is funny, but how (in this case) Chaplin devises the joke. Dr. Richard Edwards

That "History of the Joke" sketch (AKA "The Custard Pie Sketch" goes all the way back to the Cambridge Footlights student revues, where Cleese, Chapman, and other British comedy greats first worked together. In the original version, David Hatch (who would eventually become head of the BBC) was the main victim.

 

The sketch has several layers. My favourite is the looks on the faces of the demonstrators, as they wonder how anyone could ever find this brutal, painful, messy stuff funny. This element isn't as strong in the later performances of the sketch.

 

Here's the sketch that the Pythons use as a test of a person's sense of humour: "The Fish-Slapping Dance". It's completely silly, with no rational reason for the action to be happening. Then comes the pause, followed by the payoff. It reminds me of "L'Arroseur Arrosé", in its brevity and structure, but sillier.

 

 

 

There's a terrific book by Roger Wilmut, called "From Fringe to Flying Circus", tracing the history of the new British comedy from the 1960s to the 1980s. My copy is very "well-loved".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The definitions of slapstick in this course listed 5 elements. One of them was violence. I wonder if an absence of violence as well can be a condition of slapstick when all the other 4 conditions are met. Take the famous gag by Buster Keaton of the house front falling on him from 'Steamboat Bill Jr.'. We expect him to be hit by the wall and laugh at the miracle that he was saved by standing just where the window is. The comedy comes from our expectation of violence, which is, to our suprise, avoided. Yet I would think most people would consider that a slapstic gag.

 

Another example would be Charlie Chaplin skating blindfold in 'Modern Times', coming close to the edge of a drop, closer and closer, but unaware he is about to fall. We cringe and gasp each time he skirts disaster by inches, we are filled with suspense as we watch the girl struggling to reach and warn him, hampered by her poor skating skills. Then when he takes his blindfold off and sees what almost happens, he panics so much that he starts heading towards the edge again. The gag of the film is the expectation of a horrible violence that is again miraculously avoided.

 

Yet a third example of this is from Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush', where Black Larson and Big Jim struggle over the gun, as Charlie tries to get out of the line of fire. As the strugglers twist and turn, the gun always seems to point at Charlie, no matter how he dashes around the room to avoid it. Though the fight is a violence, the humor comes from the gun always pointing at Charlie no matter how he tries to get out of its way, and the suspense comes from fearing that at any moment the gun will go off and hit him. The payoff comes when the gun does go off and Charlie actually checks himself to see if he was hit.

 

All three examples seem to have the other criteria - exaggerated, physical, ritualistic, and make believe - but the violence is something expected but doesn't occur. So I wonder if this - the absence of an expected violence  - also fits in the definition of slapstick, or whether people would not consider those instances actual slapstick or something else.

I like this idea: "the absence of expected violence."  I much prefer this aspect of near-miss (the hero ducks and the villain gets the pie) rather than the "bonk you on the head/poke you in the eye" retaliation / escalation violence of, say, the Three Stooges.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Multiple goodies in this post.

 

 

I think your excellent first comments on violence and avoidance also touch on the ritualistic aspect of slapstick. Ritualism is not only repetition, but also culturally meaningful. I'd argue that slapstick does indeed require violence. This is not necessarily interpersonal violence, it could be one person against the elements (or a banana peel). Otherwise you've got "physical humor". Think of the moment in "Bringing Up Baby" when Katherine Hepburn tears her dress and Cary Grant helps her disguise it by welding himself to her back(side) and marching across the room with her.

 

           

 

Several of the moments leading up to the stroll are slapstick - tearing clothes etc. - but the actual walk across the room is just a sublime moment of physical comedy.

 

 

Second, slaptick doesn't go back only to commedia. There are traces that go back to our earliest Western drama - the Greeks circa 400BCE were swatting each other with phalluses. No doubt our caveman ancestors were miming club fights around the campfire.

 

 

Finally, I'd like to note that stunt performers refer to stunts as "gags", I presume because of the overlap with slapstick comedies. These share many of the qualities of true slapstick gags.

 

 

Your post got me to thinking about how much screwball comedies owe to physical comedy in general and slapstick in particular. Those elements often provide the atmosphere of chaos often featured in the genre.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I concur with the offered definition of slapstick requiring the critical five elements of exaggeration, physicality, ritual, make believe and violence. To be true slapstick, all five conditions need to evident in a blended fashion. That is, the humorous action-bit within the fictional film [make believe] is a combination of  exaggerated physical actions, played by the actors with routine precision [ritual], and ends with a "punch" [violence]. 

 

I watched The Desperadoes (1943), a western with a young Glen Ford,  Randolph Scott,  and Claire Trevor.     Like a lot of westerns there was a saloon brawl scene and this featured a lot of slapstick.   This scene matched the final sentence in the above post to a 'T'. The scene was near the start of the film with the brawl between the good and bad guys but no one was really hurt.   The scene got the plot point across (i.e. set up for a later showdown) with a good mix of action and humor in the form of slapstick.

 

At the end of the film the good and bad guys are back in the bar and the audience knows this scene will decide the final outcome.  This time there were guns a blazing and men being shot \ killed BUT there was still a high degree of slapstick throw in.    This time it just didn't work for me.   The slapstick was just a distraction from the outcome of good overcoming evil and wasn't funny or very dramatic.   It fell really flat.    

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"....slapstick needs to be aligned with the worlds of make-believe in order to operate. So filmmakers have to figure out ways for the audience to know that the physicality and the violence of slapstick is not "real" and that no one is actually getting hurt from this excess of violent actions."

 

Do you still find this to be true?

 

I think, as audiences have become more accustomed to screen (both large or small) portrayals that filmmakers no longer tend to do this as far as the make-believe queues.

 

Of course there are still the outlandish sound effects, but slapstick itself is seamlessly melded into established action so frequently that it's become accepted.

 

The audience knows that whatever they're watching isn't real to begin with... Batman (with West & Ward), The Monkees, Blazing Saddles....

 

I wonder if this criteria is now more of a "it once needed to be..."  rather than the concrete "needs to be aligned" position it currently holds.

 

 

With all the violence going on in our world today, I believe it's more important than ever that there is no doubt in the viewer's mind that it's all unreal and not injuring others. Otherwise, the humor of the situation will be undermine by feelings of revulsion.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With all the violence going on in our world today, I believe it's more important than ever that there is no doubt in the viewer's mind that it's all unreal and not injuring others. Otherwise, the humor of the situation will be undermine by feelings of revulsion.

This would be my thesis going into this. Today violence has taken on a whole new meaning. We are very aware of violence and it definitely changes our impressions of slapstick as quaint, cute, mildly amusing, etc. I don't look at these comedians as saintly. I look at them as entertainers possibly Chaplin being the exception, but they did it because it was their livlihood. Chaplin redefined slapstick and the medium but not instantly and not even overnight. He's the perfect model for interpreting the evolution of slapstick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With all the violence going on in our world today, I believe it's more important than ever that there is no doubt in the viewer's mind that it's all unreal and not injuring others. Otherwise, the humor of the situation will be undermine by feelings of revulsion.

This would be my thesis going into this. Today violence has taken on a whole new meaning. We are very aware of violence and it definitely changes our impressions of slapstick as quaint, cute, mildly amusing, etc. I don't look at these comedians as saintly. I look at them as entertainers possibly Chaplin being the exception, but they did it because it was their livlihood. Chaplin redefined slapstick and the medium but not instantly and not even overnight. He's the perfect model for interpreting the evolution of slapstick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I agree that these five elements serve to describe or distinguish slapstick comedy, I don't believe that all of them are necessarily required in order for a gag qualify as SS. Although  some folks will argue that  violence, being the original basis of SS, must be part of the routine or the category changes to physical comedy. I think that over time the two have merged, and we have masters such as Chaplin and W.C.Fields who have served to facilitate that. The rhythm and timing of fields putting on his hat and catching it on his cane, and then in another moment crashing his car. Or Chaplin's attempt to make it across a crowded dance floor carrying a tray atop which is a large Turkey roast, and in another scene slipping and falling on a highly waxed floor. Even Abbott and Costello"s  Manual of Arms routine from Buck privates- it's physical, yes, but the mood is decidedly slapstick. In the hands of the greats even the most violent gags come across as innocuous. And that's the point, by making it look so easy SS becomes physical comedy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I agree that the characteristics of slapstick include physicality, exaggeration, make believe and ritual, I wonder if violence is really embodied in all slapstick. I think that there are clear instances where violence is a pivotal element (Three Stooges, Looney Tunes, Monty Python). In other instances, conflict seems to be more pervasive. The Marx Brothers historically pit class against class ( any Marx brother against Margaret Dumont). Chaplin also embraces conflict (Tramp vs. police in his silent films, Tramp vs industrialization in Modern Times, etc).

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only definition that I'm having a difficult time with is #3. Slapstick is ritualistic. Webster's definition of ritual is, "any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner."

While I understand that there are certain elements that go together in order to form a slapstick gag, the term ritualistic seems to imply that there can't be any variance in the way a slapstick gag is set up. Maybe the word structure or commonality would fit better.  The comedian structures the gag a certain way to get the results he or she wants, but it leaves the door open for change.  If Moe slaps Larry and Curly, the term ritualistic implies that  he has to do it exactly the same way each and every time.  But, if he slapped them from the left to the right instead of from the right to the left, would the success of the gag suffer?

 

 

While “Many slapstick gags appear more than once in a film, and organize, or, at a minimum, affect our understanding of a character's personality, or situation, or worldview.”  I can’t help but think of  Groucho Marx.  His one-liners weren’t the only gimmick he used to define his personality. Neither were the movement of his eyebrows.  Would it have been any less definitive had he only done one of them?

 

 Perhaps I’m misunderstanding the meaning here, but to me, slapstick isn’t ritualistic, it’s planned.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us