Slapstick

For the Marvel Comics superhero character, click here.

Kevyn: Define "funny."
Doctor Bunnigus: When it happens to you, rather than happening to me?

Slapstick is essentially physical Comedic Sociopathy—people who aren't you getting hurt in obscene ways (e.g. falling into open sewers and dying); that's comedy. The defining feature of slapstick is its highly exaggerated nature, combined with a lack of serious physical consequences. The Pratfall is a staple of slapstick humor.

The name comes from a prop in the Commedia dell'Arte: the battacchio, or "Slap Stick", is two pieces of wood that sound more like punching than punching does, without causing any physical damage; making this Older Than Steam. It has been a staple of Vaudeville and Burlesque; and a consistent thread in many types of comedy, most notably the Farce. Exemplified in the modern era by artists like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Laurel and Hardy; and continued by recent performers such as the British comedy team of Rik Mayall and Ade Edmonson, and Canadian actor Jim Carrey.

While slapstick is present to some degree in many comedic works; examples should be works that depend entirely or predominantly on this form of exaggerated physical comedy for their humour.

An interesting bit of neurological trivia: finding slapstick funny is very deeply seated in the brain. A study was done of patients who had previously sustained head trauma who were shown comedy clips of varying types. It was found that while many had lost the capacity to "get" puns and higher humor, almost all still found slapstick funny. So while some people still complain that a show like Americas Funniest Home Videos where people repeatedly fall and get hit in the crotch is not amusing, it's not really surprising that the show still continues to be popular across all demographics for well over 20 years.


Subtropes:


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • The first season of Pokémon. Which has a lot of people being electrocuted, burnt with flame breathe, caught in explosions, and Brock is often subject to physical violence for awkwardly hitting on older women... Which makes it really weird in comparison to the other seasons.

Comic Books
  • Spanish comic book series Mortadelo y Filemón. Arguably the king of the trope in the entire medium.
  • Astérix is about about a couple of overpowered separatist terrorists defeating hundreds upon hundreds of notoriously powerful soldiers, but keeps it all child-friendly and cute due to how all the violence is slapstick (such as the iconic scenes of the Gauls punching Romans out of their sandals). The Gauls also pick on Cacofonix like this a hell of a lot.

Film
  • The oldest surviving slapstick film is The Curtain Pole (1909), in which Mack Sennett's character attempts to obtain and bring back a very long curtain pole. A curtain pole that is way too long to fit inside the carriage he's riding, thus sticking out both sides. Sticking out both sides of a carriage moving at high speeds. Hilarity Ensues as Sennett and his pole strike or antagonize everyone and everything they pass.
  • The Three Stooges: Which pretty much pioneered this art in the 30's. A common form involving one of them punching the other two for doing something stupid. Alternately they'd hit each other with a blunt object. Plenty of pratfalls and amusing injuries too.
  • Laurel and Hardy also had their share of Amusing Injuries, pratfalls, Escalating Wars, etc. This is one of the things the duo is primarily remembered for-even after they switched to sound and slapstick began to make way for verbal humor, they still used lots and lots of slapstick in their shorts and features, which is why they are still funny with modern day audiences today.
  • Buster Keaton's and most of Charlie Chaplin's works are built on this trope.
  • The Pink Panther films, particularly the later '70s ones.
  • Strange Psychokinetic Strategy uses slaptick comedy to keep itself entertaining. Watch it in the mind of a series of slapstick scenes held together by a larger (and largely irrelevant) plot, and you'll wet yourself laughing at the cast's loony antics.

Literature
  • In Discworld, the Fools' Guild has actually weaponised slapstick in the form of a martial art called sloshi, as seen in Making Money. One historical practitioner famously killed seventeen men with just a ladder and two buckets of paste.
  • Almost everything in How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse, which parodies tropes commonly used in zombie apocalypse scenarios and takes it Up to Eleven.

Live-Action TV
  • The Muppet Show: A deliberate homage to the days of vaudeville. Jim Henson also famously opined that if you couldn't think of an ending for a sketch, have a character blow up or eat the other.
  • The Young Ones, as well as its Spiritual Successors Filthy Rich & Catflap and Bottom, all featured healthy amounts of (mostly) Rik Mayall getting punched, stabbed, mutilated, electrocuted, falling down stairs, dropped off rooftops, set on fire, having all his teeth punched out and getting killed in funny ways. Notable for pushing the envelope even on British TV and getting some ire from Moral Guardians.
  • The Mighty Boosh loves exaggerated comedy violence, usually directed at Howard, who is often hit with something equivalent to a stick.
  • One of the other more common kinds of videos on AFV, usually a Groin Attack.

Music Videos
  • The videos for Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock" and "We're Not Gonna Take It".

Pinball
  • In Hurricane, making key shots during Clown Time frenzy will show clowns performing assorted slapstick antics.

Theatre
  • A staple of circuses, from Ringling Brothers to Cirque du Soleil, via their clowns.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • Tom and Jerry: A lot of the humor comes from Jerry's abuse of Tom, by causing Tom's schemes to catch him to backfire. On occasions Jerry and other characters will fall victim to it as well.
  • Looney Tunes similarly is a Trope Codifier for Amusing Injuries, usually with the cartoon's antagonist falling victim to cartoon abuse from either their opponent or their own stupidity.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: There's a lot of the slapstick humor in this show, usually because one of Eddy's Get Rich Quick Schemes either fails spectacularly and causes them to get beaten up during the episode, or the things they build for their schemes cause them to get hurt. The Eds will inflict slapstick on each other a lot too.
  • Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender is the common victim which involves being the practice dummy, the one who always gets beaten up, always lands face first, getting hopped up on cactus juice, getting hit in the head (especially by Katara when he says Kyoshi has an alibi when Chin the Conquer was killed in the Clear My Name Episode), the one who always gets Chi-blocked by Ty-Lee, etc.