Comedy 101: Physical Comedy
The ongoing series of exploring different styles of comedy.
Performers are considered to be physical comic’s any time he or she uses his/her physicality to sell the joke to the audience as it’s one of the oldest forms of humor in human culture. Falling down, getting slapped, walking into walls or making funny faces are all examples of physical comedy. This style is not considered a low form of comedy as many comedians and actors exclusively rely on this technique.
Physical comedy is based on movement as action is one of the most primordial human forms of expression which predates language and verbal humor. The truth about audiences is that there are physiological secret pleasures in witnessing the misfortune or pain of a performer. Physical comedy often depends on this real or imaginary sense of play which continues to be popular for audiences of all ages.
Often times television sitcoms combine physical comedy into specific scenes for a source of comic relief. Usually, the scenes do not solely rely on this form as it does not normally forward the story. Try to watch one of your favorite shows and when things become intimate or more serious, see if physical humor makes an entrance and helps relieve the tension of the scene.
A circus clown who takes a punch to the back of the head or a comedian who makes an exaggerated entrance are examples of physical comedy that can be noted in many of our favorite comedic moments. Famous physical actors who employed physical comedy as a medium for their characters include Martin Short, Chevy Chase, The Three Stooges, Rowan Atkinson/Mr. Bean, Jim Carrey, Chris Farley, Robin Williams, Jaleel White/”Steve Urkel,” Dane Cook, Charlie Chaplin, and Conan O’Brien.
As physical comedy usually includes elements of slapstick comedy which include, the fall, the slip, the trip, the collide and the double take. Breaking down the form of physical comedy in great detail, Davis Rider Robinson wrote The Physical Comedy Handbook