Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy.Slapstick may involve both intentional violence and violence by mishap, often resulting from inept use of props such as saws and ladders.
The term arises from a device developed for use in the broad, physical comedy style known as commedia dell'arte in 16th-century Italy. The "slap stick" consists of two thin slats of wood, which makes a "slap" when striking another actor, with little force needed to make a loud—and comical—sound. The physical slap stick remains a key component of the plot in the traditional and popular Punch and Judy puppet show. More contemporary examples of slapstick humor include The Three Stooges , The Naked Gun and Mr. Bean.
The name "slapstick" originates from the Italian batacchio or bataccio—called the "slap stick" in English—a club-like object composed of two wooden slats used in commedia dell'arte . When struck, the Batacchio produces a loud smacking noise, though it is only a little force that is transferred from the object to the person being struck. Actors may thus hit one another repeatedly with great audible effect while causing no damage and only very minor, if any, pain. Along with the inflatable bladder (of which the whoopee cushion is a modern variant), it was among the earliest special effects.
Slapstick comedy's history is measured in centuries. Shakespeare incorporated many chase scenes and beatings into his comedies, such as in his play The Comedy of Errors .
In early 19th-century England, pantomime acquired its present form which includes slapstick comedy: its most famous performer, Joseph Grimaldi—the father of modern clowning—would partake in slapstick, with the Smithsonian stating he "fought himself in hilarious fisticuffs that had audiences rolling in the aisles".Comedy routines also featured heavily in British music hall theatre which became popular in the 1850s.
In Punch and Judy shows, which first appeared in England on 9 May 1662, a large slapstick is wielded by Punch against the other characters.
British comedians who honed their skills at pantomime and music hall sketches include Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, George Formby and Dan Leno.The influential English music hall comedian and theatre impresario Fred Karno developed a form of sketch comedy without dialogue in the 1890s, and Chaplin and Laurel were among the young comedians who worked for him as part of "Fred Karno's Army". Chaplin's fifteen-year music hall career inspired the comedy in all his later film work, especially as pantomimicry. In a biography of Karno, Laurel stated: "Fred Karno didn't teach Charlie [Chaplin] and me all we know about comedy. He just taught us most of it". American film producer Hal Roach described Karno as "not only a genius, he is the man who originated slapstick comedy. We in Hollywood owe much to him."
Building on its later popularity in the 19th and early 20th-century ethnic routines of the American vaudeville house, the style was explored extensively during the "golden era" of black and white movies directed by Hal Roach and Mack Sennett that featured such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Three Stooges, and Larry Semon. The "pie in the face" gag, in which one person hits another with a pie, became common in this era.Silent slapstick comedy was also popular in early French films and included films by Max Linder, Charles Prince, and Sarah Duhamel.
Slapstick also became a common element in animated cartoons starting in the 1930; examples include Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck shorts, Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker and The Beary Family, MGM's Tom and Jerry , the unrelated Tom and Jerry cartoons of Van Beuren Studios, Warner Bros. Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies , MGM's Barney Bear , and Tex Avery's Screwy Squirrel . Slapstick was later used in Japanese Tokusatsu TV Kamen Rider Den O, Kamen Rider Gaim, Kamen Rider Drive , by Benny Hill in The Benny Hill Show in the UK, and in the US used in the three 1960s TV series, Gilligan's Island , Batman , The Flying Nun and I Love Lucy.[ citation needed ]
Use of the slapstick in public places was a fad in the early 20th century.[ citation needed ]
During the 1911 Veiled Prophet Parade in St. Louis, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The slapstick, so long indispensable to low comedy, found a new use among the crowds . . . they used the slapstick to the extreme embarrassment of many women. The carnival spirit, for the most part tempered by high good humor, at times verged on rowdyism. Girls used a stick ripped with feathers to tickle the faces of young men, and they retaliated vigorously with the slapstick.
An editorial in the Asbury Park Press, New Jersey, said in 1914:
Slapsticks are the latest "fun-making" fad for masque fetes. . . . Orders to stop the slapstick nuisance should be issued by the police and the Asbury Park carnival commissioners. Any device that cannot be operated or used without inflicting unmerited pain and injury should be excluded . . . .
Harlequin is the best-known of the comic servant characters (Zanni) from the Italian commedia dell'arte, associated with the city of Bergamo. The role is traditionally believed to have been introduced by the Italian actor-manager Zan Ganassa in the late 16th century, was definitively popularized by the Italian actor Tristano Martinelli in Paris in 1584–1585, and became a stock character after Martinelli's death in 1630.
Lazzi are stock comedic routines that are associated with commedia dell'arte. Performers, especially those playing the masked Arlecchino, had many examples of this in their repertoire, and would use improvisatory skills to weave them into the plot of dozens of different commedia scenarios. These largely physical sequences could be improvised or preplanned within the performance and were often used to enliven the audience when a scene was dragging, to cover a dropped line or cue, or to delight an expectant audience with the troupe's specialized lazzi.
Laurel and Hardy were a British-American comedy duo act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema, consisting of Englishman Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). Starting their career as a duo in the silent film era, they later successfully transitioned to "talkies". From the late 1920s to the mid-1950s, they were internationally famous for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy, childlike friend to Hardy's pompous bully. Their signature theme song, known as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku", or "The Dance of the Cuckoos" was heard over their films' opening credits, and became as emblematic of them as their bowler hats.
Throughout film, television, and radio, British comedy has become known for its consistently peculiar characters, plots, and settings, and has produced some of the most renowned comedians and characters in the world.
A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting foolish, or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comedian.
Harlequinade is an English comic theatrical genre, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "that part of a pantomime in which the harlequin and clown play the principal parts". It developed in England between the 17th and mid-19th centuries. It was originally a slapstick adaptation or variant of the commedia dell'arte, which originated in Italy and reached its apogee there in the 16th and 17th centuries. The story of the Harlequinade revolves around a comic incident in the lives of its five main characters: Harlequin, who loves Columbine; Columbine's greedy and foolish father Pantaloon, who tries to separate the lovers in league with the mischievous Clown; and the servant, Pierrot, usually involving chaotic chase scenes with a bumbling policeman.
Slapstick films are comedy films using slapstick humor, a physical comedy that includes pratfalls, tripping, falling, practical jokes, and mistakes are highlighted over dialogue, plot and character development. The physical comedy in these films contains a cartoonish style of violence that is predominantly harmless and goofy in tone.
Frederick John Westcott, best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was an English theatre impresario of the British music hall. As a comedian of slapstick he is credited with popularising the custard-pie-in-the-face gag. During the 1890s, in order to circumvent stage censorship, Karno developed a form of sketch comedy without dialogue.
Physical comedy is a form of comedy focused on manipulation of the body for a humorous effect. It can include slapstick, clowning, mime, physical stunts, or making funny faces.
Stan Laurel was an English comic actor, writer, and film director who was one half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. He appeared with his comedy partner Oliver Hardy in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles.
Silent comedy is a style of film, related to but distinct from mime, invented to bring comedy into the medium of film in the silent film era (1900s–1920s) before a synchronized soundtrack which could include talking was technologically available for the majority of films. Silent comedy is still practiced, albeit much less frequently, and it has influenced comedy in modern media as well.
A mime artist, or simply mime, is a person who uses mime, the acting out of a story through body motions without the use of speech, as a theatrical medium or as a performance art. In earlier times, in English, such a performer would typically be referred to as a mummer. Miming is distinguished from silent comedy, in which the artist is a character in a film or skit without sound.
Kasperle, Kasper, or Kasperl is a famous and traditional puppet character from Austria, German-speaking Switzerland, and Germany. Its roots date to 17th century, and it was at times so popular that Kasperltheater was synonymous with puppet theater. Kasperltheater includes the following characters: Kasper, Gretel, Seppel, Grandmother, princess, king, witch, robber, and crocodile. The older, more traditional Kasperle shows are very similar to "Mister Punch". There are also "Kasperle versions" of the Grimm and other fairy tales and of "modern fairy tales".
Comedic device refers to a kind of device used to make a statement more humorous. In layman's terms, it is what makes things funny.
Comedy is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, television, radio, books, or any other entertainment medium. The term originated in ancient Greece: In Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was influenced by political satire performed by comic poets in theaters. The theatrical genre of Greek comedy can be described as a dramatic performance pitting two groups, ages, genders, or societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye depicted these two opposing sides as a "Society of Youth" and a "Society of the Old". A revised view characterizes the essential agon of comedy as a struggle between a relatively powerless youth and the societal conventions posing obstacles to his hopes. In this struggle, the youth then becomes constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to resort to ruses which engender dramatic irony, which provokes laughter.
Commedia dell'arte was an early form of professional theatre, originating from Italian theatre, that was popular throughout Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries. It was formerly called Italian comedy in English and is also known as commedia alla maschera, commedia improvviso, and commedia dell'arte all'improvviso. Characterized by masked "types", commedia was responsible for the rise of actresses such as Isabella Andreini and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. A commedia, such as The Tooth Puller, is both scripted and improvised. Characters' entrances and exits are scripted. A special characteristic of commedia is the lazzo, a joke or "something foolish or witty", usually well known to the performers and to some extent a scripted routine. Another characteristic of commedia is pantomime, which is mostly used by the character Arlecchino, now better known as Harlequin.
Bert Tracey was a British silent film and talkie actor. He also directed one film, Boots! Boots!, in 1934 which marked the film debut of George Formby as an adult. Tracy was born on June 16, 1889, in Manchester, England. He acted in 47 silent films including The Kentucky Derby (1922) and Law or Loyalty (1926).
American comedy films are comedy films produced in the United States. The genre is one of the oldest in American cinema; some of the first silent movies were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. With the advent of sound in the late 1920s and 1930s, comedic dialogue rose in prominence in the work of film comedians such as W. C. Fields and the Marx Brothers. By the 1950s, the television industry had become serious competition for the movie industry. The 1960s saw an increasing number of broad, star-packed comedies. In the 1970s, black comedies were popular. Leading figures in the 1970s were Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. One of the major developments of the 1990s was the re-emergence of the romantic comedy film. Another development was the increasing use of "gross-out humour".
Walter Groves (1856–1906) was a British actor, comedian, music hall artist, and writer of the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras.