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Slapstick Comedy

Slapstick comedy was a particularly strong form of silent movie comedy because it did not rely on words but on physicality and on the interaction of performers with the world surrounding them. The slapstick comedian took his cue from the circus clown more than the comic stage actor of the time. Chaplin developed his Tramp character and costumed that character with baggy pants and oversized shoes not unlike the circus clown costume. Chaplin also "was consciously modeling himself on the American tramp" (Musser 43). Chaplin reflected issues of labor and work through this character, but Walter Kerr states that this was a philosophical and not a social statement (Musser 42).

Chaplin interacted with the world in a way that showed him to be an outsider trying to understand and adapt to the working of that world. His emphasis on work and labor followed the development of the Tramp character, for being a tramp included a certain relationship to work as an intermittent activity indulged in to get food. One aspect of slapstick comedy is disruption as the interactions of the comedian with the world lead to destruction and chaos. Chaplin showed this with the way his tramp character would try to do the job assigned and would encounter problems leading to more destruction than production.

Chaplin came out of the tradition of the British music hall, and he adapted that tradition to the screen by emphasizing elements of movement and physical interaction over verbal humor. Buster Keaton was a different sort of comedian who developed his own screen persona, derived in part from American vaudeville. He is often contrasted with Chaplin, and the comedy of the two is similar in terms of its reliance on physicality while being very different in terms of social commentary and philosophical structure. Chaplin's Tramp was a more romantic figure who saw the world in a romantic light in spite of the trials and tribulations faced by the Tramp. ...

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Slapstick Comedy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:06, March 26, 2019, from