Thursday, April 12, 2012

Oh, A Wise Guy, Eh?

Detail from The Three Stooges' Columbia Intro Card

With the upcoming Three Stooges movie coming out this weekend, it's got me thinking about my childhood enthusiasm for the Stooges and their crazed antics, outrageously violent. It's weird to imagine the outrage that would ensue nowadays, if the television broadcasters scheduled such "antisocial" material, intended for child viewing. ;-)

Well, I'm not such a fan of "slapstick" or buffoonery any more, but, sometimes, I'll come across old reruns of these films. There's a guilty pleasure when I pause to give a quick viewing. I'll appease my shame over the lowbrow enjoyment by exclaiming it to be unbelievably imbecilic, mind-numbingly stupid.

But, I have to admit, though my complaints are perfectly justified, there's something authentic to physical humor. Buffoonery is an ancient form of comedy, transcending culture and language.

"Don't worry! I got it!"
Three Little Beers (1935)

I guess that the lack of sophistication makes it easily accessible. The physical mishaps, the pratfalls and slaps, these all speak directly to us in a visceral and inarticulated manner. Yet, there is certainly an art to setting up the joke, managing the expectations, building comedic tension.

"Ok, buddy, it's your tooth."
All the World's a Stooge (1941)

When the Stooges are left to their own devices in a dentist's office or stacking barrels on the back of a truck, you know something both absurd and atrocious is going to happen.

Am I suddenly a fan of slapstick? No, but I think it's alright to acknowledge that it is a form of comedy that has a unique and ancient appeal. If you're open to suspending disbelief in the situation, it can be good for a few laughs. And the Three Stooges were definitely among the best performers of good ol' buffoonery.

"He's full of high voltage!"
They Stooge to Conga (1943)

In any case, here are some vids:

Compilation of random mayhem from Hoi Polloi (1935)

The cake scene from Uncivil Warriors (1935)

The iconic pie fight scene from In the Sweet Pie and Pie


Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

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