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Everything posted by Chris_Coombs

  1. The settings were used in different ways to make different kinds of gags. In the rotating room, the lobster gooses everyone one by one until they all fly off. In the next gag, the attraction (breath tester) becomes the punch line in a reveal where we think he is vomiting. In the last gag he succeeds through accident. I think it's the different ways he can get jokes out of the setting is clever. Lloyd's character is more low key, than Chaplin's Tramp. The gags seemed to be ordinary situations in which humorous things happen. In Chaplin's comedy, The Tramp seems more active in his gags. In a dog's life we saw Chaplin avoiding police, sneaking the food, these are things in which he is actively doing something. The three examples in the Lloyd short show things happening TO him (lobster goose or the guy trying to hit him with the baseball). As for Keaton, the exaggeration doesn't come from the character, which is stonefaced, but from the outrageous situations. The latter can be true of Lloyd too, as his famous clock gag. Lloyd added a different type of slapstick comedy to the active, confrontational style of Chaplin, and Keaton's man being overwhelmed by situation.
  2. Camera placement makes the gag effective because it shows each bit as it plays out: The piano delivery man with Keaton, then the pully on the ceiling pulling down the second floor, and so on. Props help add to the comedy: the breaking ladder, and the wonderful bit when Keaton pulls the picket fence off the porch to use as a ladder. Keaton and Chaplin differ in these ways: Keaton is an every-man overwhelmed by situation, such as the building of a house, or a hurricane, while Chaplin is an underdog usually battling some sort of authority, whether it be a policeman, stern wife, or the butcher as we saw in A Dog's Life. In addition, Chaplin seems to act out, while Keaton seems acted upon. We can picture Chaplin kicking the piano man in the butt, for example.
  3. As for something missing in today's comedy films, that may not necessarily be true. As for a scene being shot in one master, with no edits, of course you get the gag and the reaction in the same shot. In this particular gag, the timing of the sneaks Charlie makes works better if it's not cut up. However comedies today sometimes still use a one-shot: In Christmas Vacation, there is a dialogue scene in bed between Clark and his wife. The joke is that he is trying to read a magazine and the sap from a tree makes this all but impossible, with pages being torn, sticking to his fingers, even his wife's hair and a lamp. It is in one shot and works because we see the wife's reaction to the sap. However in the same film there are visual jokes that require a cut. When Clark and his family stand around the perfect tree out in the woods, and his son says 'Dad, did you bring a saw?' [cut to] the car driving down the road, tree on top with the roots. That's a gag that only works because of the cut. So there are times for one-shots, and times for cuts. Also, I think sitcoms use the one-shot a lot, even if movies don't. What makes the gag effective is the impeccable timing, of both Chaplin and the butcher. The gag only works with split second timing. If we believe Charlie could have been seen, we don't buy into the scene. What this gag contributed first is a cliche, which has been repeated over and over again. How many times have we seen this gag repeated.
  4. I don't agree that 1912-1930 was the golden age of comedy. Perhaps the golden age of slapstick. I think the 30's and 40s would be a golden age, if you had to name one. That was the era of Abbot and Costello, The Marx Brothers, screwball comedies, and so on. When the documentary was made (1950), they would have looked back nostalgically at the teens and twenties. Movies from the 40's would have seemed 'recent' to them, and most people don't think of something recent as a golden age. Visual comedy has not left us. We see it all the time. Watch The Naked Gun, Top Secret, Me, Myself, and Irene, The Simpsons, The Pink Panther series... all have great visual gags in them. As for documentaries, they help introduce these films to an audience who may not have seen them. I watched a Martin Scorsese documentary once, and he talked about some films I never knew. I checked some of them out and loved them! That's what a documentary can do. Lastly, several people claim audiences have become 'more sophisticated'. I disagree with that. When the visual gags in 'There's Something About Mary', 'Christmas Vacation', or 'Ace Ventura' can score big with audiences, we see that people today can respond to slapstick. In another topic I recommended people watch a Dick Van Dyke skit from season one where he lectures about how modern audiences are too sophisticated for slapstick. It is absolutely hilarious. Check it out on Youtube.
  5. In this part we see how the same prop is used for 2 different gags by 2 different performers. It must have been a struggle sometimes to come up with ideas that were fresh. The next level of this is when we see the same prop used for different gags by the SAME performer, in the same film. In other words, how many funny gags can I come up with for this prop? A good example would be the pie fight from Battle of the Century with Laurel and Hardy. Each pie gag is done in a slightly different way. How many ways can we make throwing a pie different and funny? Even more extreme example is the conveyor belt from Modern Times. It is a very simple set up: tightening two nuts on each piece. But look how many gags Chaplin can mine from it. A whole segment of film can be built around one single prop. Jackie Chan, greatly influenced by Keaton, does the same thing. In a comic fight scene the prop is an aluminum ladder. And we see gag after gag after gag - all different. Just how many gags can you get from one prop?
  6. Of the two gags I actually prefer the earlier, as the wall pivots first, which is very funny. The Steamboat Bill Jr gag was imitated by Jackie Chan in Project A 2 I believe. Part of the fun of the gag is that the victim is unaware of what is about to happen. It's funnier to see him stand there, completely clueless, than if he saw it was about to fall. Which reminds me of a gag in The Gold Rush that had that same element of cluelessness: While journeying across treacherous mountain paths, a bear comes out of a cave, following right behind Chaplin. After a while, it heads back into another cave just as Chaplin looks around behind him, sees nothing, shrugs his shoulders and moves on. The point is what makes such gags funny is that the person is unaware of the danger. Another element of this gag that makes it relatable to audiences is that we ourselves have sometimes avoided injury by sheer luck. Perhaps not so grandiose as the Keaton gag, but it is an idea to which we can relate. And those kind of things always resonate with audiences.
  7. I disagree about the tramp being the 'epitome of the bad guy'. In truth, the Tramp is the person we identify with - the person we root for. The police in silent comedies was a standard bad guy - the person who was going to get on your case - the person you had to avoid. It's more about authority trying to clamp down on someone who just want to be left alone. In Payday, for example, the way he hides his pay from his overbearing wife because he wants a little spending money, how he has to sneak home after drinking. These are things we identify with. That's the difference between Tillie's Punctured Romance and future Chaplin films. People didn't like seeing him as the bad guy in Tillie, and identify with him as the Tramp. The Tramp is good-hearted, if bumbling. He is the underdog.
  8. The 1st gag - the banana peel - was executed flawlessly. Chaplin did it so naturally. It did not look forced at all. In addition the posturing before hand, the nonchalant pose with the cane. Again in the second gag, he makes the slipping look so natural. Interesting about the social commentary entering the third gag. I am sure at first it was a basic, generic rebellion against the authority figure. But as Chaplin went on it is clear he was saying things with his films. Which brings an interesting question. The bit about slapstick stopping the plot. If the slapstick carries a social commentary that is following the overall theme of the film, is that gag then PART of the plot, as it is delivering the message of the film? I remember the gag in payday where Chaplin hides parts of his paycheck from his wife, in his clothing and hat rim, and the skillful choreographing of that scene is comparable to the one we saw in 'A Dog's Life'.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. John Cleese talked about a gag in 'Faulty Towers' where he had to hit his broken down car with a branch. He said that if the branch was too small, or too big, too firm or too floppy, the gag wouldn't be funny. The branch had to be just the right size and firmness. Cleese said these details in the execution of a gag are important to how funny it is. The same is true for 'L'Arroseur Arrosé' - the amount and force of the water coming out of the hose for example. So I can agree that the boy being younger would make it funnier.
  12. This was clearly imitated in the Monty Python skit 'The Wacky Queen', which was supposed to emulate silent film footage of Queen Victoria, which would make it contemperary to 'L'Arroseur Arrosé'. Not to mention I have seen the gag in dozens of cartoons.
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