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 make 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.
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, while 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, silent movies directed by figures Mack Sennett and Hal Roach and featuring such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and the Keystone Cops. 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 Goofy 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 Drive and in the United States used in the two 1960s TV series, Gilligan's Island , and Batman .
Slapstick continues to maintain a presence in modern comedy that draws upon its lineage, running in film from Buster Keaton and Louis de Funès to Jerry Lewis and Mel Brooks to the television series Jackass and comedy movies by the Farrelly Brothers, and in live performance from Weber and Fields to Jackie Gleason to Rowan Atkinson. In England, slapstick was a main element in television series such as Fawlty Towers and The Benny Hill Show . Slapstick has remained a popular art form to the present day including The Simpsons and the hit web-cartoon CartoonMania "Slapstick is a concept that occurs in most classic cartoons. Animating it is not easy though, it's more complicated than setting up a mousetrap."
Laurel and Hardy were a comedy duo act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of Englishman Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). They became well known during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous bully Hardy. The duo's signature tune is known variously as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku", or "The Dance of the Cuckoos". It was played over the opening credits of their films and has become as emblematic of the duo as their bowler hats.
British comedy, in film, radio and television, is known for its consistently peculiar characters, plots and settings, and has produced some of the most famous and memorable comic actors and characters.
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.
The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company was an early American motion picture studio. The studio was founded in 1907 and based in Chicago, and later had an additional film lot in Niles Canyon, California. Its stars included, Francis X. Bushman, Gloria Swanson and studio co-owner, actor and director, Broncho Billy Anderson. It is probably best known today for its series of Charlie Chaplin comedies. In the 1920s, after it merged with other studios, it was absorbed into Warner Bros.
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 popularizing 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 part 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.
The Rink, a silent film from 1916, was Charlie Chaplin's eighth film for Mutual Films. The film co-starred Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell, Henry Bergman, and Albert Austin, and is best known for showcasing Chaplin's roller skating skills.
Billy West was a film actor, producer, and director. Active during the silent film era, he is best known as a Charlie Chaplin impersonator.
Postage Due is a 1924 silent comedy film starring Stan Laurel.
Near Dublin is a 1924 American silent comedy film starring Stan Laurel.
In a modern sense, comedy is a genre of fiction that refers to any discourse or work generally intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, television, film, stand-up comedy, books or any other medium of entertainment. The origins of the term are found in Ancient Greece. In the Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theaters. The theatrical genre of Greek comedy can be described as a dramatic performance which pits two groups 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 that pose obstacles to his hopes. In this struggle, the youth is understood to be constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to take recourse in ruses which engender very dramatic irony which provokes laughter.
Fred Evans (1889–1951) was a British music hall and silent film comedian, who became famous around the time of the First World War for portraying his character Pimple in more than 200 short movies. He was described as "second only in popularity to Chaplin in Britain at the height of his career," and as displaying "a proto-Pythonesque humour of the absurd." Critic Barry Anthony wrote that "in many ways the topical skits of Pimple have more in common with The Crazy Gang, Benny Hill, the Goons, Monty Python or topical sketch shows like French and Saunders and The Fast Show than with the classic Hollywood silent comedies."
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).
Fred Kitchen was an English music hall star, comic and entertainer.
Billie Ritchie was a Scottish comedian who first gained transatlantic fame as a performer for British music hall producer Fred Karno—this, a full decade before Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin took a similar career path. Ritchie is best recalled today for the silent comedy shorts he made between 1914 and 1920 for director/producer Henry Lehrman's L-KO Kompany and Fox Film Sunshine Comedy unit.
French comedy films are comedy films produced in France. Comedy is the most popular French genre in cinema.
American comedy films are comedy films produced in the United States. The genre is one of the oldest in American cinema; some of the very 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".
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