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Comedy in Film

Write the notes in Red

Film History Unit 3

What is comedy?
Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up,
but a comedy in long-shot. Charlie

Types of Early Comedy:

Comedy has many types and styles.
Originally comedy in the movies was
done through pantomime.
Since there was no sound, the actors had to
portray the comedy.
Because of this most of the early movies
werent very funny.
Click to Watch Edisons
Cripple Creek Bar Room

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was a Stage Actor.
He grew up in Vaudeville.
He performed Slapstick

A ferry owner asked him and his brother to

entertain the people in line.
A Producer saw him and asked him to act in-

Making a Living (1914)

He hated the movie and knew that he could
do better.

Charlie suggested to his director that they
use slapstick like on the Vaudeville stage.
His director wasnt sure- Chaplin created:
The Tramp In The Kid at the Auto
Races in Venice.

The Tramp
The Beginning Tramp was a drunk and a
He will change as Chaplin grows in the
As an Actor- The tramp was selfish and drunk
As a Director- The tramp became the little guy who
turns up at the right time for trouble or reward.
As a Producer- The tramp gained a soul and cared
about others.

Example of Chaplin as an
Mables Strange Predicament (1st Film
shown in theaters)

Example of Chaplin as a
The Champ Chaplins first film as a

Example of Chaplin as a
The Kid- New form for the Tramp- Selfish
man takes in a baby and raises it.
Chaplins best movie as a producer.
Click here to watch the movie.


Chaplin inspired a new forms

of movies:
Comedy was soon split between two
Slapstick Physical Comedy
Lampoon- Movies that made fun of
Government officials or politicians.

Chaplin did both.

The New Comedy

Comedians from Vaudeville were
snatched up by movie studios.
Many of them were successful, but
Chaplin was king.
One comedian: Buster Keaton went
further with slapstick and made the whole
set part of the act
He was also very popular.

Buster Keatons: One Week

From Stage to Screen . . .

Charlie Chaplin was the first and best
known comic film star.
The silent tradition lived on well into the
20th century through mime artists
like Marcel Marceau, and the physical
comedy of artists like Rowan
Atkinson as Mr. Bean.

Types of Comedy:
This section will cover the different types
of comedy that exist today.

1- Slapstick
Slapstick humor relies on
exaggerated physical injury and
body-humor, which is why it worked
well for silent films.
The Three Stooges are famous for
Charlie Chaplin used Slapstick in
his first film- It was a great success!

2- Lampoon
It criticizes an act by using
ridicule or sarcasm.
The comedies during Greek
time would mock celebrities
and/or any idea they hate
and poke fun at them. They
would portray them as
looking selfish and stupid.
There was criticism of these
types of movies as being

Other Comedy Types:

Other Comedy types evolved

as the movies progressed.

The Creation of the MPAA:

Some movies had humor that was not
considered appropriate.
It made fun of government officials (Not
There was too much PDA without marriage.
Slapstick was becoming crude. (Dirty jokes)

The Hays Code:

(We will talk more about this later on in class)
The short version:
The Government required that a set of rules be
put in place to clean up the movies
The Hays Code said that movies had to be
clean. People who werent married couldnt
sleep in the same bed, No dirty jokes, no
violence etc.
Movie Makers had to get creative.

Thou Shalt Nots:

Law must always win over crime.
Women shall not show the inside of their thigh, cleavage,
bellybutton, extreme shoulder, or considerable exposed skin.
No Lace Lingerie
People cannot be killed on screen nor may a dead body appear
on the screen.
No Narcotics, Drinking, Smoking etc.
No Gambling
No Swearing
No Pointing a Gun at Another Human Being
No Tommy Guns
Men and women cannot sleep in the same bed
No jokes about or on police officers, religious figures,
politicians, and any other figure of authority.
Likewise the above cannot ever appear corrupt or sinful.

Screwball Comedy
Screwball comedy derives its humor largely
from bizarre, surprising (and improbable)
situations or characters.
Screwball comedies often involve mistaken
identities or other circumstances in which a
character or characters try to keep some
important fact a secret. Sometimes screwball
comedies feature male characters crossdressing, further contributing to the

Example of Early Screwball

Arsenic and Old Lace:
Based on a very popular play.
Major elements of the movie had to be changed
for it to pass the Hays Code.
No dead bodies.
Mortimer and Elaine had to be married.
Elaine cant be seen in her nightgown- Notice
the heavy coat.
Notice the lack of guns and other weapons.

End of the Hays Code:

The Hays Code remained in place for over ten
years; however film makers began to ignore the
Watch the Long, Long Trailer.
Notice that there are still separate beds for the
married couple, but now you can see her
There are several other rules that are now
ignored- See how many are broken as you

Modern Movie Types:

With the end of the Hays Code- Other
subtypes of comedies began to develop:

Fish Out of Water

In a Fish Out of Water
Comedy Film, the main
character finds himself
in an unusual
environment, which
drives most of the
humor. Situations can
be swapping gender.

Parody or spoof
A Parody or Spoof Film is a comedy
that satirizes other film genres or
classic films. Such films employ
sarcasm, stereotyping, mockery of
scenes from other films, and the
obviousness of meaning in a
character's actions. Examples of this
form include Blazing
Saddles (1974), Airplane! (1980), Young
Frankenstein (1974) and Scary
Movie (2000).

Black Comedy
The Black Comedy film deals with
normally taboo subjects,
including death, murder, intimate
relations, suicide, and war in a
satirical manner.
Dark humor that makes light of socalled dark or evil elements in
human nature.
Examples include Arsenic and Old
Lace (1944), Heathers (1989),
and Burn After Reading (2008).

Gross Out!
Gross Out Films are a relatively recent
development and rely heavily on vulgaror
"toilet" humor.
Example: Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Super Troopers (2001)
The Ridiculous 6 (2016)

Romantic Comedy
The Romantic Comedy Film sub-genre
typically involves the development of a
relationship between a man and a woman.
The stereotyped plot line follows the boygets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy gets girl back
again sequence.
Examples of this style of film include I
Pretty Woman(1990
The Proposal (2010)
Little Black Book (

Sophomoric Comedy
Sophomoric humor aka
Juvenile Comedy is a comedy
that would normally be
expected from an adolescent.
This includes bathroom humor,
intimate relations humor, and
gags that are based on and
appeal to a silly sense of

Elements of Comedy Films

Verbal Irony: Saying one thing
and meaning another
Dramatic Irony: The audience
knows something a character
does not
Situational Irony: Something
unexpected happens

Comic Devices
Mistaken Identity: Either an intended act of
deception or an accident
Coincidence: Improbable chance happenings
or meetings
Surprise & Incongruity: To set up the audience
to expect one thing and then surprising them
with the unexpected (irony)
Hyperbole/Exaggeration: May be used due to
strong feelings or is used to create a strong
impression and is not meant to be taken literally

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