A special program relevant for Drama teachers popped up on BBC2 over the recent Christmas holiday period. The Story of Slapstick is a 60-minute documentary on the history of the form, neatly blending the origins of slapstick in 16th century Commedia dell’Arte, through silent and then talking films and popular televsion, without sounding too instructional or historical. Aha! The perfect combination for enjoyable “learning by stealth” in the Drama classroom.
The Story of Slapstick covers various masters of the genre, but from a refreshing British perspective. Naturally, short video clips are in abundant supply in this documentary, something that will no doubt please those Drama students of yours hungry for the visual entertainment their generation knows all too well.
Artists/characters/comedy teams featured include Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean, Monty Python, The Goodies, Michael Crawford in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, The Young Ones, Morcambe and Wise, Vic and Bob, and French and Saunders.
This documentary interviews several well-known British comedians, young and old, and covers many of slapstick’s vital ingredients such as violence and the innocence of the characters. The Story of Slapstick also dismisses slapstick’s stigma as being an unsophisticated form and interestingly highlights its additional success on the radio (The Goon Show) and its transition today out of formal scripted sketches into our own living rooms, with everyday slapstick caught on camera then posted on popular websites like YouTube etc.
Worth a watch.