No Pain/No Gain - the provocation of laughter in slapstick comedy

Louise Sarah Peacock


This article explores the relationship between danger and laughter in the work of a number of what might be defined as slapstick or physical comedians. The notion of physical comedians risking life and limb in order to generate laughter from an admiring audience has a long history. The article establishes a model for analysing the provocation of laughter through which examples of slapstick comedy can be analysed. To what extent do we laugh because we understand that this is the response the performer desires? When we laugh at a comedian taking what we perceive to be physical risks, what are we laughing at? Is our laugh mingled with relief when the perceived threat is past? Are we responding with laughter as a pleased response to the performer’s skill?  Louise Peacock is a lecturer in Drama and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Hull in England. In 2009 her monograph Serious Play – Modern Clown Performance was published by Intellect.

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303