Slapstick, also known as physical comedy, can trace its origins to the Shakespearean Era and its name from a device called a slap stick. A slap stick was simply two pieces of wood loosely attached together to resemble a paddle. When struck against something rigid, say a table or someone's head, a loud, 'smacking' sound would emit, thus the term slapstick.
The slapstick/physical form of comedy is often described as over-the-top, zany, brutal and violent. Many actors, from silent film eras to the present have employed physical comedy in most of their works. Comedic greats such as Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Chris Farley, Lucille Ball and Jim Carrey built significant careers around slapstick.
Physical comedy may, on the surface appear as mindless nonsense, but in actuality, it's quite the contrary. If slapstick comedy was effortless to execute, there would be a plethora of actors specializing in the genre. In truth, actors who can pull off physical comedy are few in number. These especially gifted talents have an uncanny ability to deliver written lines of script with exact comedic timing, while at the same time manage to fall down a flight of stairs or have a swinging door aimed at their face. Comedic acting is widely known as the most difficult to perfect, add physical acting to the job and it is nearly impossible to pull off to perfection. That is why only a handful of actors, past and present are specifically renowned for it.
Programming aimed at the young audience, both television and movies are laden with slapstick comedy. Looney Tunes shows are some of the most violent ever aired, on the small screen or large. Nickelodeon and Disney often employ the use of slapstick in all of its productions. Films such as Home Alone, Are We There, Yet? and Matilda are just a few examples of many movies which use physical comedy to the extreme.
From the great Shakespearean comedies to The Three Stooges and Lucille Ball to Jim Carrey, Looney Tunes and Nickelodeon's Keenan and Kel, slapstick comedy has become an entrenched entertainment genre in our society, for all generations-for better or worse.