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Week 4: Slapstick Comedy












Now...lets learn the art of slapstick. Slapstick can be called "loud violent humour".  Here's an article about the history of slapstick humour. Have a read!



The History of Slapstick.



Whether it is Charlie Chaplin wobbling into awkward situations, Victor Borge falling off his piano bench, or Jim Carrey contorting his rubbery face and body, this type of broad physical comedy is often called slapstick.


The phrase comes from a prop that was invented in the 16th century, but physical comedy has probably been around as long as there have been people. There are records of clownish performances in Egypt from 2500 B.C. and in China from 1800 B.C..


In ancient Greece, festivals began with a parade of masked characters, and ended with a comedy. In these comedies, characters wearing lots of padding would get laughs by performing larger-than-life mock violence. The word zany comes from zanni, the Greek work for these performances.


In the Middle Ages, companies of fools traveled around Europe to juggle, dance, perform magic, walk the slack rope, or present funny business. Even religious plays had humorous bits between Biblical

stories or within them. And the court jester, perhaps the best known fool of all, would joke, sing, dance, or tumble for kings, queens,nobles, and their guests.


With the Renaissance came Commedia dell'arte, a stylized form of theater that presented stock characters in absurd situations who often performed physical antics. Arlecchino or Harlequin was one of the characters, typically wearing a mask and multi-colored tights. One of his favorite props for causing comic mischief was the bottacio, a paddle made of two wooden slats. When he pretended to hit something, such as the rear end of another character, the slats would slap together and make a loud WHACK!


The paddle was still being used in the 1800s when clowns in circus and variety shows performed knockabout comedy and physical stunts. This type of comedy was very common in the English music halls and American vaudeville theatres of the late 1800s. It was around this time that the paddle and the humor associated with it became known in English as slapstick.


The silent films of the early 1900s often relied on visual humor such as madcap chase scenes and the outrageous antics of comedians like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Keystone Kops. Then came sound films with the physical and verbal humor of the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Lucille Ball, and many more.


Today, movies and television continue the tradition of silliness. Fools keep fumbling and falling, reminding us all that we are only human. 



Session 1



Warm up:


For our warm up we're going to look at some stage combat. All this must be done in slow motion, but it gives you gags that you can use in our slapstick exercises. First we'll watch a video on safety and then a stage slap we're going to learn in warm up. Get with a partner and watch this video...








































Now let's do the "hair-pull"



Now before we start working on our own slapstick presentation, we're going to write and take notes on a unique BBC film hosted by Mr. Bean himself, Rowen Atkinson. This film details the origins and workings of different styles of humour. Get out your notebooks and make notes when I stop the projector...some of this will be on a quiz!!!!





















Ok, now its the chance to do your own slapstick sketch. You are going to use your stage combat skills and work to come up with a slapstick scene that tells a story. Here are some of the settings for the ideal slapstick scene:


  • Construction Site.

  • Kitchen.

  • Shopping Centre.

  • School Yard


Here's what we'll do:


  • Divide into groups of 4.

  • Spend 20 minutes brainstorming situations and characters for your scene.

  • Write down what happens in each scene. Record at least five "gags" that you will use inn your scene.

  • Record each move of your gags in your book. Then IN SLOW MOTION run your gags. You may use sound effects from off stage to enrich the realism of your slapstick.

  • After you have rehearsed, we'll run through the scenes on stage.

  • Take the input of your classmates to make the scene better!


How you'll be graded:


  • Make sure that you have blocked your scene so everyone can see you on stage.

  • Make sure that you can be heard.

  • Make sure that you have rehearsed your scene so that the gags flow well with the action of the scene.

  • Make sure that you use your expressive skills to show character.

  • Make sure you maintain character throughout the scene!



Session #3:

In this class we will be called up at random to perform your scene. Remember, your books will be checked for proper notations! You may bring props and costume items from home to make your scenes more engaging!















Poster Assignment!


Put together a poster on an A-3 piece of paper detailing your favorite actor, director or artist. Your poster should be attractive and well presented. It should have the following...


  • 500 words on "Why I chose this star!"

  • Pictures and illustrations.

  • A complete list of their films, plays and creative works.

  • A bibliography of where you sourced your information.

  • Check for proper spelling and capitalization.


This is due on Friday week #7!



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