Defining slapstick comedy!

Last week, the year 7s were exploring the concept of humor in general and what makes something ‘funny’. This week, we shifted our focus more on slapstick comedy and attempted to define/explain it. The lesson started with two warm-ups: Family Portraits and Mirror Exaggerations! These two warm-ups were selected to get the students thinking about some key concepts in slapstick: exaggeration, imitation, physicality/movement, and characterization.

The students were then seated in groups. One group member from each group was asked to bring their iPads and access this Google Form embedded on the class’ Edmodo page. Of course, some students forgot their usernames and passwords, but that’s the beauty of Edmodo, the teacher can reset the students’ passwords anytime.

The students then watched 5 short clips from ‘Looney Tunes’, ‘Home Alone’, ‘The Three Stooges’ and ‘Dumb’N’Dumber’. These clips were chosen to get them to think about how negative personality traits are accentuated and exaggerated in slapstick comedy, how status relationships are challenged and flipped (e.g. young smart Kevin vs. older bigger robbers in Home Alone), how slapstick humor relies a lot on showing comedy through exaggerated actions, movements, facial expressions and body language; and how ‘comic’ accidents play a very important part in creating slapstick humor. Below are screenshots of the Google Form used and some student responses.

The next part of the lesson was a discussion centered around the students’ responses. The Google Form responses were projected on the screen and we used it as a prompt for further discussion, with the aim of ultimately formulating a class definition of slapstick humor and what make it different from other types of humor. Below is a picture of the whiteboard after formulating the definition/explanation of slapstick comedy.

Next week, we will start exploring specific slapstick techniques that can be incorporated in skits and plays in the drama classroom! I can’t wait!

2 thoughts on “Defining slapstick comedy!

  1. Just copy the questions onto a brainstorming worksheet and the students brainstorm on poster paper, the you can hang it on whiteboard to show their thinking to the class. You would also need a projector just to show some video clips of slapstick comedy examples.

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