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What is Slapstick?

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Abstract

Examples of what might be defined as slapstick can be readily recognised from Greek theatre onwards but the notion finds its fullest early expression in commedia dell’arte. However, the question of exactly what slapstick is, has still not been addressed in existing literature. As the concept is central to this book, before we go any further it will be helpful to establish a working definition of what is meant by the term slapstick. This in itself is no mean feat. As slapstick has rarely been considered in any detail by academia such definitions as do exist must either be drawn from dictionaries or from more anecdotal or biographical texts. This lack of consideration and analysis would seem to be the outcome of a broadly held opinion that slapstick is lightweight and un-intellectual. As with many popular forms of performance, slapstick has been enjoyed by many but explored and analysed by relatively few. Equally such academic writing as exists does so across a range of media and the definition thus far offered of slapstick on film is necessarily different from (and much more extensive than) the way in which slapstick might be defined on the stage. What is needed here is a definition of slapstick that can be understood in relation to all the modes of performance considered in this book.

Keywords

Comic Performance Light Bulb Sound Effect Performance Frame Physical Skill 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Louise Peacock 2014

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