To quote Frost ,’forgive thy lord my little jokes on thee and I will forgive thy great one on me’. Everyone needs their share of humour in life . After all it is a reminder that no matter how high the throne one sits on, one sits on ones bottom. Since time immemorial we have seen various contenders who can lay worthy claims of resting their prized posterior on this throne. Be it Charlie Chaplin’s deadpan humour, Jerry Seinfeld’s witty observations or Russel Peter’s oh-so- in -your face wit, comedy too is serious work (pun intended). Mastering the art of tickling one’s funny bone is not as easy as it may seem. DU beat takes you through the meandering forms of comedy through the ages.
The Early 20’S
Slapstick: Think slapstick and an image of an over the top Hindi movie crosses the mind. I still shudder from my experience with ‘Ugly and Pagli’. However, it is one of the earliest forms of comedy. Stemming from a time when comedy was ideal for the early silent films, it was dependent on visual action and physical humor rather than sound. Infact, the very term slapstick was taken from the wooden sticks that clowns slapped together to promote audience applause. Ugly and Pagli certainly required that and much more. However with the arrival of Charlie Chaplin on the comedy scene, masterpieces like ‘The Kid’ and ‘The Tramp’ immortalized this genre forever. With his trademark bowler hat, baggy pants, funny cane and oversized shoes, his black and white demeanor belies the unrivalled colorful wit behind this underrated genius.
Deadpan?:This form of comedy was best exemplified by the expression-less face of stoic comic hero Buster Keaton. One of the great silent clowns of the early comedic period was Buster Keaton, known for acrobatic visual gags, physical action, and for his deadpan, unsmiling, expression-less “stoneface.”
The 30s Clowns
With the coming of sound, slapstick went into a bit of a decline and the flexible freedom of the earliest comedians was curtailed. Comedy was transformed, however, and began to be refined as an art form, with new themes, elements, and written characterizations.Visual comedy remained strong throughout the 1930s, but now witty dialogue and verbal comedy were added. Some of the great comedians or teams, included Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and Abbott.
Screwball comedy: This genre of comedy denotes lunacy, craziness, eccentricity, ridiculousness, and erratic behavior. A hilarious amalgam of farce, slapstick and witty dialogue , it often harped on frothy light hearted romantic themes with the clichéd happy ending.
The 50s and 60’s
This period witnessed an era of squeaky clean , ( yawn says Sex Amma) formulaic romantic comedies. Movies like the Father Of The Bride starring Spencer Tracy are the perfect example. The 50s also saw the rise of sitcoms and stand up comedians which subsequently dealt a blow to film comedy.
In the 60,s with the advent of the Pink Panther series, comedy reached another level. For those who have seen the 60’s panther series , may agree that they were the most brilliant of the lot ,when Peter Sellers in spite of his klutziness was not reduced to a mere buffoon
The 70s and the 80s
The 70’s ad 80’s saw the growth of a more self effacing, satirical humor in a quintessentially middle class setting, marked by Woody Allen’s hilarity and Mel Brooks comic madness. It also saw the emergence of rib tickling, side splitting spoofs. And here we were thinking MTV was being very original. So much for ‘Bechare Zameen Par’.
The 90’s turned out to be the era of widely divergent comedies with fantasy films like ‘Honey ,I Shrunk The Kids’ and fish out of water comedies like ‘My cousin, Vinny’ doing the rounds
21st Century that is the NOW
The turn of the 21st century had more raunchy( Sex Amma stirs)gross out flicks designed to appeal to both adults and teens alike eg. ‘American Pie’ or ‘There is Something About Mary.’ In today’s day and date, stand up comedy too has carved its own niche. Jerry Seinfeld, Dane Cook and more recently the ever popular Russel Peters have managed to capture a large audience with their fine sense of comic timing.
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