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TimHare

Slapstick - not just a man's game

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In "Tillie's Punctured Romance" I would venture to say that Marie Dressler and Mabel Normand did almost as many pratfalls, slips, and unusual physical moves as Mr. Chaplin ! 

Much as Margaret Dumont is essential to Groucho in many movies, these two were a big part of this movie, yet the general public hears little of them compared to Chaplin.

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We were just having this conversation last night, but were referencing modern female comics and the way that some of the physical comedy they do is less acceptable than a male doing the same bits.  

Even today female comedians get the short end of the (slap)stick. To look back into cinematic history we can see that has always been a part of the business.

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I was appalled by the Kalast post (and the comments that were attached, with one exception) never once mentioning a female comedian, despite the thrust of the piece being going beyond the “Big Three” and the existence of people like Mabel Normand, Jobyna Ralston, Olive Thomas and others.

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I wonder if violence, even when obviously done for laughs, just isn't as funny when a woman is the victim...or even the protagonist? How often do we hear "you NEVER hit a woman" for any reason?

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A recent email relates to this topic, as a present day filmmaker is inspires by tge slapstick greats, and tgat is clearly noted here.Medicine Show Theatre Guests

 

The New York Film Salon

continues

Tuesday, September 13th

New York Film Salon at Medicine Show

 

The mission of the New York Film Salon is to introduce the public to the New York based independent film community in the hopes of creating collaborative projects for film makers, students, actors and the public.

An independent feature is screened every second Tuesday of the month, followed by a Q&A session -- all film genres are welcome.

 

 

 

 

Shannon Plumb's cinematic studies of life's various roles and characters explore the complexities embedded in the ordinary and extraordinary. From the humble persona of a new mother to iconic figures from the silver screen, Plumb portrays these characters with zest and humor. Inspired by the curious spirit of slapstick comedy and the physical humor of silent film legends such as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, Plumb employs a low-fi aesthetic by using Super-8 film, stationary camera shots, long takes and hand-made props and costumes. Plumb is a one-woman show starring as all characters and acting as the creative force behind her films. The low quality production of the films and her elastic expressiveness as an actress adds to the charm of her work and pushes it beyond its obvious predecessors and influences.

 

Towheads

Penelope, mother of two boys and wife of a harried theater director, barely has time to create art, but she finds relief from domestic drudgery by dressing in drag, pole dancing, and acting as Santa Claus to maintain sanity.

 

Medicine Show Theatre

549 West 52nd Street, 3rd Floor

New York City, NY 10019

 

NYFS hosts filmmakers who want to show their work in a casual setting and obtain feedback in a Q&A session after the screening of their work. Films can be any length, genre, or experimental. 


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At Call4Paperz, I've proposed a Fan Panel on "Gender Equality in Comedy", to discuss this further. http://call4paperz.com/events/club-slapstick-fan-panel-1-what-is-slapstick/proposals/2414

Slapstick, with its vulgarity, is seen as "unladylike", unless the women themselves are "unladylike": too skinny, too fat, ugly (or at least not fitting the standard definitions of beauty), too tall, too short, and too aggressive/assertive.

Aggressiveness/assertiveness seems to be the most crucial characteristic. Laughter is a visceral, instinctive reaction, and when we laugh, we lose control of ourselves, to the person or thing that makes us laugh. If you can make someone laugh, you have power over them. Many people, mostly men, find this threatening, which explains why it's still harder for women to succeed in comedy than men.

If you watch Gail Singer's documentary "Wisecracks", and read the histories of comedy troupes, such as the Second City, "SNL", and "SCTV", or the histories of women in comedy, you'll see many stories of women having to fight to get their suggestions and material heard, let alone accepted.

Years ago, I took a comedy-writing course, taught by Joe Flaherty. I was one of a minority of women in the class, and we experienced this gender-bias first-hand. It was almost as if our comedy brains were wired differently from the men's---even in me and my best friend, who both love slapstick, and don't "get" so-called "women's comedy".

Joe summed it up succinctly---and shockingly: "Guys don't want to **** girls who make them laugh."

Why? Because if you can make someone laugh, you have power over them. As many a bullied child (and future comedian) has discovered.

Lucille Ball was one of the most beautiful women ever, but, to make her slapstick believable, she had to make her beauty exaggerated and clownlike (artificially bright red hair, unnaturally painted-on eyebrows, long false-eyelashes, and exaggerated bright red lips), and behave much more aggressively than typical 1950s housewives (who were expected to be beautiful and demure little housewives & mothers, and not challenge their husbands' authority by wanting to go out and work). Lucy challenged all of that, both in real-life and on her shows. Even more: Not only did she not care how ridiculous she looked, as long as it got a laugh, she eagerly plunged into it, starting with one of her first movies as an uncredited showgirl.

The film was "Roman Scandals", starring Eddie Cantor. Lucy was one of MGM's stunningly beautiful Goldwyn Girls, who played a bevy of gorgeous, scantilly-clad slave-girls. One scene called for one of them to get hit with a faceful of mud, so the director asked for a volunteer. All of the Goldwyn Girls recoiled in horror and outrage at even being asked...except one: Lucy.

Cantor was so impressed, that he predicted she'd become a star. The studio was so impressed, that Lucy was prominently featured on posters for the film.

Lucy's earlier movies showed that she could be breathtakingly beautiful, glamourous, and dramatic as well as funny. But she later showed that to be truly hilarious, she had to be less glamourous and more aggressive.

Edited by TCMModerator1
Edited For Language
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