Blog Post #6: Because Physical Violence Can Be Funny… Slapstick Comedy!

After continuously reading about gags in Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons every week, I found one that I was particularly interested in. Slapstick Comedy, a form of “exaggerated physical violence and activities which exceed the boundaries of common sense”, which was first used in Roman and Greek theater and perfected in film by comedians like Charlie Chaplin. This form of comedy became involved in animation as a gag since its conception. Slapstick is a useful and easily done gag to induce laughter and amusement in animation.

My first example of an animation that uses slapstick effectively is Tom and Jerry.

Tom and Jerry features a normal house cat (Tom) who is tormented by a mouse named (Jerry). This cartoon has little dialog and tons of physical violence. In this particular cartoon Jerry is stealing Tom’s milk and after Tom repeatedly attempts to hit and encase Jerry he decides to poison and kill him. This attempt backfires when the milk poison Tom makes actually turns Jerry into a super-mouse and he beats the crap out of Tom. Slapstick gags from a fire poker that is bent repeatedly over Super-Jerry’s head to repeated tail snapping of both characters highlight the amusement related to Tom and Jerry. The humor is based only on the physical violence Tom and Jerry inflict on each other.

Another good example would be Warner Brother’s Looney Tunes.

In this particular Looney Tunes Elmer Fudd plays Cupid and goes around shooting other animals with arrows that make them fall in love. Particular violence of interest is when he shoots the dog chasing the cat and the dog proposes. Afterwards the cat is disgusted and commits suicide 9 times, highlighting its 9 lives. More violence ensues as Fudd attempts to shoot Daffy Duck but Daffy has other plans.

Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry are great examples of what makes slapstick such an amusing hit. Both of the series were insanely popular even though they were violent in nature. It just goes to show that violence can be funny.

I commented on Danyael Rose’s blog and Kristina Wade’s blog.

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Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 3:07 PM  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Slapstick comedy is mostly based on over-the-top collisions, chases, and timing, seen in film through the work of people like Charlie Chaplin or Chris Farley. It does not necessarily include violence, but as you described, many times it does. For me, this has always been an area of fascination. Unlike me, my parents are very against violence, yet they let my little sister watch things like Tom & Jerry. I think it’s a perfectly fine cartoon, but in all honesty, it is a bit sadistic in its violent sense of humor. When I see it, I can’t help but think of Matt Groening’s ultra-violent parody of Tom & Jerry, called Itchy & Scratchy. When the Simpsons watch Itchy & Scratchy, it seems outlandish, but many times what we view as slapstick in many cartoons is actually quite violent.

  2. […] commented on Myca Taylor and Brandon Trimble's blogs] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Post #3: The […]

  3. I have to agree with the above comment,. I have met many parents who are against violence in video games, movies, and animations. however they were perfectly ok with this over the top slap stick comedy. They never concerned themselves with characters falling off cliffs into a poof of dust. I think the line comes with over the top versus blood and graphic violence.


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