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By L. Peacock

Slapstick comedy has an extended and full of life heritage from Greek Theatre to the current day. This publication explores the ways that comedian discomfort and comedian violence are played inside of slapstick to make the viewers snigger. It attracts examples from theatre, tv and movie on each side of the Atlantic.

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Extra info for Slapstick and Comic Performance: Comedy and Pain

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Not all farces include comic What is Slapstick? 25 violence as an element but many do, from the simple slaps around the face in Labiche’s A Slap in the Farce (trans. Shapiro), to the repetitive wrestling of Charley in Thomas’s Charley’s Aunt, to the much more aggressive use of violence in Orton’s Loot, to the accidentally inflicted pain in both Frayn’s Noises Off and Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Trumpets and Raspberries. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of farces but rather to suggest that these plays provide helpful examples of how comic pain and violence is put to use in farce.

27 comfortable position. Without the clear signalling of a comic frame the violence is more threatening, more morally challenging and, therefore, less likely to produce laughter. In contrast the much lighter nature of farces like Noises Off and Dry Rot ensures that when characters fall through a hole in the stairs, fall off the back of a sofa whilst pretending to be a jockey, get stuck in bedrooms or cupboards and wound up in telephone cords, the audience is much more likely to laugh and may, in that laughter, be more likely to admire the skill of the performer in pulling off the slapstick action.

In The Simpsons both Bart and Homer are frequently on the receiving end of comic violence. The depiction of this violence has its roots in earlier theatrical and filmic forms of slapstick. The What is Slapstick? 35 establishment of the comic frame and the emphatic lack of reality in the employment of yellow animations as the central ‘human’ characters are reinforced by the exaggerated nature of the violence portrayed. Homer routinely strangles Bart. As he does so his hands grasp Bart tightly round the neck.

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