Recently The New Yorker wrote an article on the demise of physical comedy and the rise of verbal comedy. It’s an interesting notion, given that once comedy was nothing but slapstick with nearly no words. These days,it seems an audience is far more interested than a witty remark or snarky comeback. These old slapstick films took months and months to get every stunt just right, yet, these days Hollywood’s top writers seem to just rip out scripts like a production line. So I ask you, is physical comedy dead or can it be revived?
Chris Farley began to restore the physical side before sadly leaving us much sooner than he ever should have. Perhaps Adam Sandler or Chevy Chase had a touch of physical comedy earlier in their careers but they certainly have fallen into the more popular route of quick jokes at that is today’s comedy. Who else is there? I’m sure there are more “physical comedy stars” but lets be honest, no one quickly comes to mind.
It seems the transformation from slapstick-filled silent films to movies with nothing but witty and clever remarks is complete, but is physical comedy dead or will it be back? Will we ever see another Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin? Both nearly completely silent in their films yet still legends in the rise of comedy, or are we to remain in a world of Vince Vaughns?
So is Physical Comedy dead? The only conclusion I can come up with is not really. I mean not really because comedy works in cycles and right now the highest peak is word play. People (myself included) love Vince Vaughn and all the witty comebacks he shares in movies and that is why he’s thriving. However, someday the revolution of physical comedy will find its way back into the spotlight. Will it ever be to the level of, say Chaplin or Keaton? No. Comedy has become very reliant on word play and conversational jokes. However, another Chris Farley or Adam Sandler will come through and remind us of comedy’s more physical roots. Yes, talk is good but nothing will ever beat the original hilarious joke, someone falling down.