Follow TV Tropes



Go To

Kevyn: Define "funny."
Doctor Bunnigus: When it happens to you, rather than happening to me?
Kevyn: So... My bloodstream is full of slapstick.

Slapstick is the essence of physical comedy — people getting hurt or embarrassed in hilarious ways (e.g. slipping and landing face first in dog crap). 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 America's 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 even in the face of the infinite spring of funny home videos that are modern social networks.


For the Marvel Comics superhero character, click here.



    open/close all folders 

  • Boonie Bears utilizes a lot of slapstick humor, Logger Vick usually being the target.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, in its earlier seasons, is about the wolf Wolffy coming up with different schemes to capture and eat the goats residing in Goats' Village, only to be beaten up by his wife Wolnie by way of her frying pan whenever he inevitably fails. The series uses a lot of slapstick comedy that often involves the goats or Wolffy being tortured somehow, with the frying pan example being one of the most famous but certainly not the only one. This died down in later seasons when they started to focus on less slapstick-y plots.
  • Tik Tak Tail is a series about the tiger Tak and his sentient tail chasing after a rabbit named Tik. It utilizes a lot of slapstick humor based around Tak attempting to trap Tik and the latter outwitting the former.

    Anime & Manga 
  • City Hunter: Whenever Chivalrous Pervert supreme Ryo Saeba goes "pervert" in the presence of ladies, his companion Kaori Makimura shows up to comically smash his head with a big "100 ton" mallet to calm him down and protect said ladies.

    Comic Books 
  • Spanish comic book series Mortadelo y Filemón. Arguably the king of the trope in the entire medium.
  • Asterix 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.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Exaggerated physical comedy conspicuously occurs in a few stories.
    • In "The Ski Trip", Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino ride up a chairlift without a ticket, snitch a pair of skis, erratically descend down a mountain trail while tearing up its freshly groomed surface, and engage in a snowball fight.
    • In "The Cakes", the three pets engage in an all-out food fight, ruining the pastries Penny's mom had prepared for a bake sale.
    • "The Supermarket" sees the three pets make a mess of the title venue. Bolt and Rhino break eggs and olive jars while juggling; Mittens pushes pumpkins off a shelf to ward off an intruder, knocks over a stacked can display, and scatters apples off a bin she jumps onto; the three pets cause tables offering free food samples to overturn; and Bolt makes a run for the exit door while pushing a cart into assorted food displays and smashing into the front glass door.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Keystone Studios, the silent-film studio created and ruled by the above-mentioned Mr. Sennett, pioneered most of the listed sub-tropes in motion pictures.
  • The Three Stooges, which pretty much perfected this art in the '30s. Perhaps most famous for the comedic Eye Poke.
  • 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.
  • Jerry Lewis in all of his most famous films, both solo and with Dean Martin.
  • Advance to the Rear: Involving the bumbling escapades of several Civil War soldiers.
  • George of the Jungle rides on a similar joke with the original cartoon, as despite being a physically fit specimen the title character was actually The Klutz and while vine swinging would constantly crash into things.
  • 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.
  • Jackie Chan movies were based on Jackie's love of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin movies, as being silent films there was no language barrier. He came about in the Bruce Lee Clone era of the '70s, but always felt more interested in physical comedy rather than the more serious Martial Arts Movie. His action scenes are instead based on crazy stunts and Improbable Weapon User that makes the audience laugh more than cringe at the pain, such as in Jackie Chan's First Strike where he fends off an entire mob of enemies using anything and everything at his disposal, including very creative use of a folding stepladder.
  • There's quite a bit of physical comedy in Rags, from Lloyd smacking his head into a microphone to Charlie stumbling backwards into his janitor's cart while talking to Kadee. Kadee herself isn't immune either; she smacks her head into Charlie's and gets shoved off of a bench.

  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most of the handyman segments on Home Improvement. Tim's Amusing Injuries from Doom It Yourself modifications always resulted in chaos, but was said In-Universe to be a big appeal of Tim's cable show "Tool Time." Some examples include a high powered vacuum or wood lathe ripping shirts off the hosts, or making a 21-Gun Salute using nail guns but also putting it on a turntable.
  • 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.
  • The Studio100 series Kabouter Plop is mostly focused on slapstick with each of the characters. Mainly from Klus's pranks.
  • Lucille Ball in many of the classic I Love Lucy episodes, for example Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory.

    Music Videos 
  • The videos for Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock" and "We're Not Gonna Take It".
  • Russian Folk Rock band Otava Yo's video for The Street Cleaners is set in St Petersburg sometime pre-1914, and is deliberately presented as a silent movie comedy short, in which a Love Triangle plays out while the band take on the roles of lowly snow-shovellers watching and acting as a chorus on the action. As Slapstick Knows no Gender, indignities happen to the female lead.

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

    Puppet Shows 
  • A "Punch and Judy Show" is a very old (dating back to at least the 17th century, and with roots in 16th century Italian live theatre) type of puppet show that lives on grotesquely exaggerated violence for the sake of humor.
  • 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.


    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    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. Possibly the purest example: the "plot" of every Road Runner cartoon is, essentially, "Wile E. Coyote tries to catch the Road Runner and hurts himself in hilarious ways." This happens to other characters also, but it's the only thing that ever happens to Wile E. (except for a couple of cartoons that replace "the Road Runner" with "Bugs Bunny").
  • Felix the Cat: The B&W shorts featured a lot of slapstick in the vein of Charlie Chaplin movies along with a hefty load of urban surrealism.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures is essentially a mini Looney Tunes, deriving its humor from the much younger counterparts of the latter cartoon's respective characters.
  • Animaniacs really lives up to its name, what with the zany characters involved in over-the-top antics, many of who even end up on the receiving end of Amusing Injuries.
  • While most Classic Disney Shorts don't use slapstick that much compared to other studios at the time, their Goofy cartoons revolve all around violent slapstick. Goofy and other characters get punched in the face and hit on the head repeatedly, fall from high places while yelling the classic Goofy yell, crash into each others' cars, smoke cigars that blow up in their faces, get electrocuted, tip over, have their underwear exposed, get kicked in the butt, and suffer many other Amusing Injuries.
  • 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.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants naturally lives off of this. The humor revolves around the insanity of the characters (including the titular sea sponge himself) and over-the-top injuries that is mostly Played for Laughs.
  • Woodland Animations used this a lot in their productions: Postman Pat, Bertha and Charlie Chalk, particularly considering the latter of which revolves around a circus clown. The physical comedy in these shows is far less reliant on injuries, but would still provide considerable visual humour.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons rely heavily on slapstick, with characters getting hit on the head with mallets and other stuff, blowing up from bombs and TNT, getting Squashed Flat by heavy objects or bigger animals, and having their teeth fall out or shattering to little pieces after getting hit.
  • There was a lot of slapstick in Courage the Cowardly Dog: since the creator of the show, John Dilworth, is a big fan of classic Warner Bros and Tex Avery animation. Much of the gags in the episodes are a result of Courage outsmarting the Monster of the Week to save his family.