Created By: Xtifr on August 2, 2011 Last Edited By: Xtifr on September 4, 2011
Troped

The Pratfall

Man falls on his buttocks. Hilarity Ensues.

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Seen It a Million Times! Needs More Examples, Needs an Image

Rolling Updates No Launching Please

Index: Comedy Tropes, Nothing Butt An Index

A pratfall is better than anything.
-- Preston Sturges, Eleven [Eleven!] Rules for Box Office Appeal

The buttocks. The ass. The fundament. The behind. The sitter-downer. Whatever you call it, it's inherently funny. Falling down and landing on it? Comedy gold!

The Pratfall (named for an archaic word for buttocks) is a staple of Slapstick humor and one of the most fundamental forms of Schadenfreude. Many comedians have built entire careers around variations on this theme. A stock gag for the circus clown, the pratfall dates back at least to the days of vaudeville and music hall theater, making this Older Than Radio, and it was very popular in early silent films. It may well be as old as comedy itself. One suspects our primitive ape-like ancestors may have enjoyed watching the goofy ape hop around and then deliberately fall down on his sitter.

The humor often comes from the exaggerated nature of the fall, and many physical comedians practice their pratfalls carefully to make sure they are funny enough. (Online lessons are available.) The humor may also be associated with what the character lands in or on.

May involve a Banana Peel, dog droppings, or just a slippery surface.

Subtrope of Amusing Injury.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Ah! My Goddess (1993 ver.) - Keichi has a pretty good one in the second episode.
  • Excel performs an excellent one during the intro to Excel Saga.
  • Death Note: When discovering about the true nature of Kira, L is so surprised he falls out of his chair. Word of God confesses that this scene was drawn just for the visual image of L flat on his ass.

Film
  • Charlie Chaplin used this in many of his early movies when playing the character The Little Tramp.
  • Buster Keaton perfected the pratfall and even made a variation of it called the backward roll, where he would fall on his ass and continue the momentum, flipping backward over his head and back up to his feet
  • Silent film stars Laurel and Hardy were also fond of this trope.
    • There's even a Laurel and Hardy fan magazine called Pratfall.
  • In Bringing Up Baby, David slips on an olive Susan dropped and falls really hard on his butt.
  • In Clockwise, John Cleese (playing an uptight overstressed headmaster) gets a car stuck in the mud, and when he gets out, furious, he kicks it, slips, and ends up sitting in the mud himself.
  • Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello was a master of the technique.
  • Curly Howard of The Three Stooges also made regular use of it.
  • Kevin James in Zookeeper performs an excellent flying one after running into a large metal crossbar with his head.

Live Action TV
  • The intro to The Dick Van Dyke Show features Dick performing a very tricky full somersault version after tripping over an ottoman.
  • In the first season of Saturday Night Live Chevy Chase did this a lot when doing his "impression" of Gerald Ford.
  • Manuel on Fawlty Towers would sometimes perform these when Mr. Fawlty got mad and started pushing him around.
  • The classic Monty Python sketch, Upperclass Twit of the Year Awards, features some unusual, highly stylized, and deliberately awkward pratfalls.
  • Amateur versions are regularly featured on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Newspaper Comics
  • In Peanuts, the famous sequence where Lucy would pull away the football at the last second always resulted in Charlie Brown landing on his backside.
  • In Bloom County and its sequel Outland, Opus would often perform pratfalls out of sheer surprise, as when he got a letter from his long-missing mother.

Western Animation
  • In Futurama, resident klutz Amy Wong is prone to this.
  • The Simpsons: Bart awakens after falling, to find himself staring into the eyes of an attractive young girl.
Bart's brain: She's beautiful! Say something clever.
Bart: I fell on my bottom.
Bart's brain: D'oh...

Video Games
  • Used as a game mechanic in Super Smash Bros. Brawl -- there's a random chance of pratfalling whenever the control stick is hit, discouraging excessive dashing and pivoting.
  • The "Pratfall Cheat Code" for Saints Row 2 allows players to perform pratfalls and faceplants for their own amusement.
  • The Bouncywild enemies in the first Kingdom Hearts game throw out Banana Peels that cause Sora to fall on his ass.
  • In Dragon Quest 9, the Minstrel class can unlock the Pratfall Ability, staging a slapstick fall for the amusement of the local Slimes, hopefully depriving the enemy team of a turn as a result of side-splitting hilarity.
  • The classic (and classically hard) track and field Flash game QWOP is so difficult that pratfalls are virtually inevitable.

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • August 2, 2011
    madelinemary
    In Bringing Up Baby, David slips on an olive Susan dropped and falls really hard on his butt.
  • August 2, 2011
    PhoenixRising1
    Ah! My Goddess! (1993 ver.) - Keichi has a pretty good one in the second episode.
  • August 2, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In the first season of Saturday Night Live Chevy Chase did this a lot when doing his "impression" of Gerald Ford.
  • August 4, 2011
    JonnyB
    Buster Keaton was also known for them. Also Laurel And Hardy, Lou Costello, Curly Howard... Pretty much a silent film and early talking film comedy staple.
  • August 4, 2011
    JonnyB
    Dick van Dyke was also famous for them.
  • August 4, 2011
    Xtifr
    ^^ I've only seen a couple of Keaton's films, but they didn't strike me as being overly slapstick. Not like Chaplin. Maybe it's just the ones I saw. Do you have some specific examples? (I've got The General in my Netflix queue, so maybe I'll bump its priority.) The other examples I agree with.

    ^ I know he falls in the intro to The Dick Van Dyke Show, but I thought that was more head-over-heels. Maybe I'm misremembering? I'm not really familiar with any of his other work. Can you give me a couple of specific examples? Or at least a clue whether I should put him in TV or Film or both?
  • August 4, 2011
    JonnyB
    Keaton perfected the pratfall and even made a variation of it called the backward roll, where he would fall on his ass and continue the momentum, flipping backward over his head and back up to his feet. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V86ODBSXtZs

    Quite a few more Keaton pratfalls in this short also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2r5KGIGpBs
  • August 4, 2011
    JonnyB
    Btw there's also a Laurel and Hardy fan magazine called "Pratfall."
  • August 4, 2011
    lukebn
    Used as a game mechanic in Super Smash Bros Brawl -- there's a random chance of pratfalling whenever the control stick is hit, discouraging excessive dashing and pivoting.
  • August 4, 2011
    Xtifr
    Thanks, guys, great stuff. Keep it coming! Also wouldn't mind some suggestions for alternate names for searchable redirects.
  • August 5, 2011
    Sackett
    Isn't this The Klutz just as an action instead of the character?

    Maybe that's okay. Just'd like so discussion on that issue.
  • August 6, 2011
    Xtifr
    ^ No, this is about a specific action played for humor. It may or may not involve a klutz, and often doesn't. It can involve a victim of bullying, for example, who is pushed and falls down. No klutziness required. The important thing is that the fall is played for humor. The Little Tramp wasn't particularly klutzy, though he was awkward and walked funny. The John Cleese example is another one who definitely wasn't a klutz.
  • August 10, 2011
    Xtifr
    Bump. I've added several new examples since the last comment, but I'd still like more before launching.
  • August 12, 2011
    toydragon
    I love the name, because it's kinda punny. Sort of.
  • August 12, 2011
    Xtifr
    It's a standard English word found in any dictionary. That said, it is rather amusing. :)
  • August 15, 2011
    Xtifr
    Bump -- technically this is probably launchable, but I know there's a ton more examples out there!
  • August 15, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    In Dragon Quest 9, the Minstrel class can unlock the Pratfall ability, staging a slapstick fall for the amusement of the local Slimes, hopefully depriving the enemy team of a turn as a result of side-splitting hilarity.
  • August 16, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    Isn't this just Amusing Injuries?
  • August 16, 2011
    Xtifr
    ^ It's a subtrope of sorts, certainly. A very widely known, widely used variant. Probably the only variant that has its own entry in the dictionary and online classes in the art. I think that makes it distinct enough to be a valid subtrope.

    edit: actually, it's not always an injury. Sometimes it's just falling down, amusingly, for whatever reason.
  • August 16, 2011
    ThePope
  • August 17, 2011
    Xtifr
    ^ cute and a skillful demonstration of how it's done, but what's that from? edit: never mind, figured it out.
  • August 23, 2011
    JonnyB
    The classic (and classically hard) track and field Flash game "Quop" is so difficult that pratfalls are virtually inevitable.
  • August 23, 2011
    nitrokitty
    Because this specific action is a staple of classic slapstick comedy, I think it merits a mention beyond Amusing Injuries.
  • September 1, 2011
    Xtifr
    Still hoping for more examples here before launch (I haven't given it a hat myself yet).
  • September 1, 2011
    TheRedDuke
    Every single episode of "America's Funniest Home Videos."
  • September 2, 2011
    Clambake
    Preston Sturges' Eleven [eleven!] Rules for Box Office Appeal: A pretty girl is better than an ugly one. A leg is better than an arm. A bedroom is better than a living room. An arrival is better than a departure. A birth is better than a death. A chase is better than a chat. A dog is better than a landscape. A kitten is better than a dog. A baby is better than a kitten. A kiss is better than a baby. A pratfall is better than anything.

  • September 2, 2011
    dotchan
    Death Note: When discovering about the true nature of Kira, L is so surprised he falls out of his chair. Word Of God confesses that this scene was drawn just for the visual image of L flat on his ass.
  • September 2, 2011
    Xtifr
    ^^ heh, great quote. I put the last line as the page quote. (I tried the full thing, but this seemed better.)

    This is probably good enough to let Wiki Magic take over, so I'll be launching tomorrow. Still haven't found a good picture, but that can wait.
  • September 3, 2011
    IronLion
    The Simpsons: Bart awakens after falling, to find himself staring into the eyes of an attractive young girl.
    Bart's brain: She's beautiful! Say something clever.
    Bart: I fell on my bottom.
    Bart's brain: D'oh...

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=tz5wg06zoh00hw5ntwsswj3k