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Dr. Rich Edwards

Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 1: Chaplin's Physical Comedy

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First of all, I want to say just how BRILLIANT I think this presentation is - using the whole sports breakdown scenario is engaging and entertaining.  And of course breaking down the elements of physical comedy works well as one does an analysis of a sports play. Genius!

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Make sure you take the opportunity to watch the Thames production of Unknown Chaplin. This three part program can be found at https://archive.org (a treasure trove of film). The insight offered along with behind the scenes footage is well worth watching and really lets us see many hidden aspects of the great Chaplin and his work. I think I've watched it at least a half dozen times.

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It was interesting seeing the progression of complexity in Chaplin's gags and how he choreographed them to entertain and get his points across. Of course, you had to fall just right to not get injured. Chaplin also conveyed characterization in his gags and bit of business. There is loses going on and this analysis helps to see and appreciate many of the elements.

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Fascinating Breakdown on the physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin (presented by Professor Edwards of Ball State and Vince Cellini of TCM's sister broadcast unit, Turner Sports).  If you look closely at the first breakdown (of Chaplin's Banana Peel gag from his 1915 silent, "By The Sea"), after the gag too place (when Chaplin's bowler hat comes off)- it looks like that there is a string attached to his hat- something that I've never noticed before!

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Fascinating Breakdown on the physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin (presented by Professor Edwards of Ball State and Vince Cellini of TCM's sister broadcast unit, Turner Sports).  If you look closely at the first breakdown (of Chaplin's Banana Peel gag from his 1915 silent, "By The Sea"), after the gag too place (when Chaplin's bowler hat comes off)- it looks like that there is a string attached to his hat- something that I've never noticed before!

 

I just had to take another look, and it seems obvious once it's been pointed out.

 

Now I wonder: Does this take anything away from the gag? I'm going to wait a while before I see Chaplin's banana peel gag again. Then I'll decide!

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Chaplin's physical comedic skills are credible and beyond entertaining. You can clearly see his experience from vaudeville. He was able to vary the level of output. He could do a small, real world person stunt or gag, acts of a clown, or incredible acrobatic feats.

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I just saw the first video lecture. I love this format. It is so helpful having the dialogue about what we need to focus on and then seeing a clip. Pausing the clip while pointing out a particular scene of note is fantastic. With this format you can show us the progression of slapstick such as in the film clips of Chaplin. I enjoyed this very much. Ty

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Chaplin's ability to add pathos to his "Tramp" character gave a dimension that immortalized him.  I always found watching Chaplin's "Tramp" complete enjoyable hilarity and profound enthusiasm.

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Chaplin's physical comedy is showcased by his entire body! I was able to see "A Dog's Life" and "Circus" and the more I watch, the funnier it all becomes.  What a delight to learn this way and thank you so much Professor Edwards and Vince Cellini for setting the scene of each performer and what was occurring at the time with comedy, slapstick and silent films.  

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What is so magnetic and inspirational about Chaplin comedies, is that he has a unique style that sometimes takes people by surprise. As the Tramp, Chaplin is a lovable, clumsy character that we most of the time relate to. He always takes his bits to the next level and leaving those who have think they've seen all of the stereotypical gags, left surprised as he presents and responds to the gags or bits with his type of style or grace and we are all left on floor. This episode was a really well done breakdown on how Chaplin measured the perfect outcomes of his gags and made a complicated situation have more of a response to his audience.

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As a comedian, Charlie Chaplin had perfect timing with his comedic acts. I began to admire him in

A Dog's Life (1918). I found this scene excellent as he use his wits on two policemen. Eventually, he evades them. 

 

post-60817-0-09616100-1473590661_thumb.jpg

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The idea of a video lecture is great, but this macho sports news format is revolting. It acts as a parody of itself, which keeps me from focusing on the actual clips. I'm not saying that you need to Ken Burns it, but can't you tone down how obnoxiously self-serious it is? Now I'm cringing at the thought of trudging through the rest of them. This is going to make me hate every comedian they champion, but hopefully they at least hand out trophies at the end. Truly horrible hosting and setup.

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Needless to say, I am learning SO much from this course; not only about Slapstick, but about filmmaking in general. But, while so doing, I'm also becoming a critic! In Wes Gehring's comments about Charlie Chaplin, he should have said that "Shoulder Arms" was a comedy about WWI. I distinctly heard him say "WWII." In 1940, "The Great Dictator" will be about Hitler; but Shoulder Arms is WWI vintage!

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An interesting point remembered by Mr. Edwards on this first episode is that the first two clips were made by Chaplin as an employee, so the liberty he had at that time was really limited. When he achieved a point of artistic independence he was able to develop his character and go deeper on the slapstick situations, creating scenes that would last generations and make him one of the greatest of all time.

 

All the situations shown here were really physical, based on real-living situations and exagerated to give the audience the laugh they are expecting (or sometimes not).

 

A brief - but yet great - analysis, congrats!

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Chaplin was a school on his own! He could take a simple act and create a huge wave of sudden events that could take on the whole scene. He used his body as a mime to tell his story every single movement he did had its meaning and its effect on the story! A banana peel or a wet floor it was just the tip of an iceberg!

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I loved seeing the difference between Chaplin as an employee and Chaplin in charge! You can see so much more freedom in his performance and more play! He was truly one of the greats! 

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       It is interesting to see the evolution of the gag in three short years, demonstrated through the work of Charlie Chaplin in these three clips.  Just as the slapstick "evolved" from a physical object that was a tool of the comedian to an entertainment concept that created a long-lasting genre, the gag evolved from an isolated humorous incident that interrupted the narrative flow, to a more involved gag that advances the narrative.   In "By the Sea" (1915), we see the gag in its most simple form, a slip on a banana peel.  It adds humor but does not advance the plot.   In "Tillie's Punctured Romance" (1915), the gag (slipping on soap) is more complex and assists the story line by interrupting a marriage proposal.   Finally, in "A Dog's Life" (1918), a now-independent Chaplin advances the gag (evading & kicking a cop) further, by having it drive the "opposition to authority" element of the story line.   

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