History of Comedy Comedy dates back to the era of silent film in 1895 where it first began to be shown in television programmes. With the absence of dialogue/speech it was very difficult for comedy to come across and between 1895 – 1930 silent film comedy relied heavily on slapstick and burlesque humour. Burlesque is theatrical entertainment which includes comical sketches and parodies aimed at an adult audience due to the explicit scenes that were shown, these included stripteases. Slapstick is quite different to burlesque as this includes very energetic comical conventions such as chases, collisions and very often practical jokes were played.
Slapstick The first known silent comedy film was called “Watering the Gardener” by the Lumière brothers in 1895. It was a simple sketch lasting on 49 seconds and contained the first slapstick comedy. It was about a gardener who was watering his plants when a boy jumped on the hose, stopping the water flow. The gardener inspects the nozzle and tilts it towards his face, as he does the boy releases the hose and the gardener gets drenched – this is followed by a chase. Lumière brothers “Watering the Gardener”
Famous Slapstick Directors Born on the16th April 1889, a master of slapstick was created. Chaplin revolutionised the slapstick era by self directing and creating his comedy films, and a career spanning over 75 years. Chaplin was famous for his slapstick acrobatics, and was unique in his styles when portraying to an audience. Instead of making something artificial happen, he would walk around in an environment until something natural occurred. That was his favourite way of locating humour. Chaplin’s first slapstick comedy film was called “Making A Living” (1914) and was about a swindler who stole a photo and claimed it was his own, and the rest of the film is about him being chased, and other funny scenes where the chaser is caught in a bedroom with someone’s wife. Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin “Charlie Chaplin”
How Chaplin Influenced Us... Chaplin was very intelligent in his approach towards slapstick comedy as he would only involve natural events, so in our approach of comedy we decided to include slapstick like him. In normal environments, for example riding a bike we incorporated that the character would have a flat tyre, it’s a natural occurrence just like Chaplin would have used. Another example would be burning the bread that is put in a toaster, it’s a natural occurrence, and something that an audience member can surely relate to. We don’t have to put anything in place, so that a character walks into the problem, we just use funny scenes that would happen normally. This shows that comedy used today, and recognised by people of our age has not been changed much since early 1900’s when it revolutionised television screens.
Another Famous Slapstick Director “Buster” Keaton, born in the same era as Chaplin, was too very successful for his silent, slapstick comedy films. Except his approach and trademark style was physical comedy. He liked to use his body to portray humour for example walking into walls, falling over. This style of comedy is quite similar to entertainment aimed at smaller children. Keaton was also renowned for his expressionless face, which he used in many of his films (pictured left). He was given the nickname “The Great Stone Face” for his subtle face. Joseph Frank Keaton VI ”Buster Keaton” Buster’s approach to comedy is simple and we were basing some of our ideas on the slapstick/physical comedy used. Our ideas up to now are inconclusive but we may still use the physical comedy e.g. Falling off a bike, to make the audience laugh. That’s why Keaton’s work was very influential in our short film.
1930-50’s Comedy With the silent film era quickly growing out of fashion, and with the addition of dialogue due to advanced technology meant that comedy was taken to a new level. Verbal humour was now in the essence and slapstick/physical was used less and less. Verbal humour consisted of onscreen puns, Innuendos, parodies etc. One of the first directors to use Verbal humour to its full advantage was William Fields, born in the USA 1880. He used many jokes and puns in his films such as “My Little Chikadee” he used the line “Whilst travelling through the Andes Mountains, we lost our corkscrew. Had to live on food and water for several days!“. The pun immediately referring to their absence of their bottle opener, they were forced to eat food and drink water.
Was the 1930-50’s Comedy influential on us? Short answer – No. We debated whether we would include the likes of verbal humour and dialogue, but we realised for our type of short film it wouldn’t be appropriate. This is because we are doing a sketch-like film where dialogue isn’t really used, and jokes wouldn’t be suitable in our scene types. If we were to use this we may include some sort of spoonerisms which is when words are mixed up for example, 'nosey little cook' instead of 'cosy little nook‘ , this would be appropriate for the character Joe Lump because he isn’t the brightest and could accidentally mix round his words.
The Next Step for Comedy... In the early 1960s the comedy became darker, and very serious in films. This included social commentary and spoofs, and these carried on throughout the next decade where success was finally found with spin offs films from comical British television series. The most popular being the Monty Python team and their brilliant and well coordinated comedy films. He used surreal comedy to captivate audiences and he did this by having consecutive humorous scenes which did not link together at all with no logical progression. For example in his film, “The Life Of Brian”, the main character is running away from the enemies, it is based in very far-back history, when he is suddenly abducted by aliens. It’s sheer strangeness is actually very humorous because it’s all surreal. But it’s the early 1990’s where our next inspirational ideas came from. The director John Hughes released one of his many films which elevated his status in film history. Surrealistic Scene John Wilden Hughes, Jr. (February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009)
Home Alone (1990) + Final Thoughts Home Alone was released in November 1990 and was very influential for our choice in comedy in our film. Home Alone featured a boy who was left at home accidentally and has to stop two thieves from breaking in. The film has very many short snippet comedy scenes, where he tries to stop the intruders. Its these short snippets and scenes we want to include in our Short film, unlike Monty Python we want to have logical progression in ours as its a journey from the character’s houses to school on a Monday Morning. This was our main influence and inspiration because today’s modern comedy usually involves romance/sex scenes which is something we thought was inappropriate for the task in hand. Black and vulgar comedies have been shown across our cinema and television screens such as Borat and its Sequel Brüno which had no resemblance and the comedy was far to outrageous to come anywhere near what our storyline consists of. So our final film consists Slapstick comedy from the early silent films era with a mix of snippet comical scenes from the likes of Home Alone and many more films in the 1990s.