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By L. Peacock

Slapstick comedy has a protracted and full of life heritage from Greek Theatre to the current day. This e-book explores the ways that comedian discomfort and comedian violence are played inside slapstick to make the viewers chuckle. It attracts examples from theatre, tv and movie on either side of the Atlantic.

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Extra info for Slapstick and Comic Performance: Comedy and Pain

Sample text

270). This later play introduces the notion of a purpose in comic violence beyond simply making the audience laugh. Loot is described as a black comedy or dark farce and Orton was very explicit about having chosen a comic frame to draw attention to what he regarded as some of society’s failings and inconsistencies. Here we see a moral purpose in slapstick violence in that it is being used to draw the audience’s attention, in particular, to the corruption of the police force at the time Orton was writing.

For example if one is fat then the other is thin (Laurel and Hardy) and if is one is old then the other is young (Pantalone and Arlecchino or Homer and Bart). The double nature of the partnership gives the viewer two chances to identify with the characters and the natural opposition between the two partners creates a range of opportunities for the introduction of comic pain and comic violence. Comic pain and comic violence, which will be dealt with more fully in the next chapter, tend to go hand in hand in so far as the one is often the result of the other.

Johnson describes a sequence of events in which the clown treats the baby as badly as Punch treats his own baby and the description ends ‘catch hold of [baby’s] ankles, and swinging it round your head by its legs, thrash the Pantaloon off the stage with the baby, and throw it after him’ (cited in Frow, 1985, p. 86). This is far more violent than the slosh scenes with their relatively harmless throwing of ingredients such as flour and water. Throwing a baby connects with notions of excess discussed later and inevitably echoes the treatment of the baby in Punch and Judy.

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