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Slapstick, Setup and Visual Action Comedy


I am very interested in the depiction of both action and visual comedy, especially when the two are combined. Perhaps this seems immature, but I really enjoy those playful kinds of works that are ‘cool’ but aren’t afraid to crack a joke either!

This is something I have been looking into in my own time and so I felt like collecting some of the information I have found and putting down some of my thoughts as well.

A natural place to start is with work of classic slapstick clowns such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton….

Charlie Chaplin

Buster Keaton:

These and the other visual comedians of their era create humour in ways which seem rather inventive to my ignorant Millenial eyes, utilising the staging of the scene and their own physical acting for maximum comedic effect . The 12 principles of animation tie in rather nicely with this kind of comedy so it’s rather fitting that slapstick be such a mainstay of cartoons like Looney Toons and the like.

Then, moving on to specifically the union of Action and Comedy in cinema. For this I’ve looked at these two videos by Every Frame A Painting:

I agree with these videos, I think that not enough movies (of any genre) make use of these filmmaking principles. These kinds of methods have also been applied to animated works, as seen in these related video analyses:

I think the idea of building up tension and then giving the viewer payoff or release of that tension is probably what has stuck with me most from these video analyses. The idea of Building up Tension for a time > giving the viewer Payoff is a versatile principle can be applied to action scenes, simple gags and entire story arcs. I definitely think abotu it a lot when studying works. I even use it sometimes in just the way I write sentences!

This is another kind of setup > tension > payoff. From the moment you see or learn something of significance on the screen there is the expectation that this information will come in to play later in the film.

Again, this post is just a collection of scattered thoughts but I do think this is a topic I would like to use in my own work and revisit in better detail in the future.

2 thoughts on “Slapstick, Setup and Visual Action Comedy

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