Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Variations On A Gag #1—The Comedian As Sanitarium Patient

Stealing is a time honored tradition among comedians, and God bless them, I say—thanks to their thieving ways, we can directly compare comedy acts with different styles and of different eras and get a sense of what each brings to the table.

This is especially true, I think, where as here, the players are not at the top of their games. Great work tends to transcend its source material, and even if it's still identifiably the work of its creator, largely becomes something unique. Merely good work, on the other hand, especially when done in a hurry for money, tends to reveal its creator's default tendencies.

In this case, Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle and the Three Stooges all check themselves in as patients in a sanitarium and in each case, you can see them race for the tried and true. Chaplin leans on repetition and rhythm, Arbuckle on pratfalls and cross-dressing, the Stooges on destructive ineptitude. All did better work, but none more typical.

Charles Chaplin in The Cure (1917).

Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in Good Night, Nurse (1918).

The Three Stooges in Monkey Businessmen (1946) (in two parts).


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

"Back home, where his dear wife is waiting ..." Mr. Who turned Ms. Who onto Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, and YES, finally, the Stooges ... Hey Porcupine, trace that wire!

Gentlemen: the Gymnasium!

Nothing but a quack? That means duck!

Miss Shapely! Miss Shapely! Where's that stupid guard?

He's in the laboratory with the new doctors!

Mythical Monkey said...

Wow, that's the ultimate compliment -- the Three Stooges are definitely a love 'em or hate 'em act (me, I love them). I'd say follow up with A Plumbing We Will Go, but quitting while you're ahead is also a solid choice.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

The fact that even as a grown man my idea of “contributing” to a film blog continues to be to blearily shout out (often inaccurately I’m sure) the stray lines I remember from my favorite Stooges bits is … troubling. In penance, I offer this heavily researched factoid: Miss Shapely is played by none other than the late, great … Jean Willes, ladies and gentlemen, Jean Willes!