Thursday, October 03, 2013


Lou asked about the phrase slapstick comedy.

It is a low form of comedy in which the humor is predominantly physical—people slipping on banana peels, getting doused with water, receiving a pie in the face, or unexpectedly getting slapped with a loud whack.

While we associate it with silent movie comedies, it goes back a couple of thousand years to classical plays in which clowns were beaten with sticks to the delight of the audience. The slapstick itself came into prominence when the character Harlequin began to use it in 16th century commedia dell'arte.

The slapstick was, quite literally, a stick used to slap a comic character. Consisting of two flat pieces of wood (laths) joined at one end, it made a very loud sound without actually hurting the actor.

                     [a musician with a slapstick appears ca.1:08]

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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