Thanks to Tim Eagle, aka Skinny Bean for this clip.
This isn’t just a presentation of great acrobatic skill, it is also a perfect example of how repetition in front of a live audience generates wonderful comic detail.
Larry Griswold’s sharp fumbles and pacey pratfalls are the result of years of adding new ideas and wittling away unnecessary flab – making this one of the sharpest routines I have ever seen.
From start to finish, you can see years of slight adjustments of timing and equipment to allow the act to be executed safely and at pace.
So what specifically is he is doing?
CASTING A SPELL
Right from the start, Griswold’s quick chatter creates instant excitement.
His declaration that he is a stand-in causes expectant laughter, and a brief mention of drunkenness makes us cheerfully alarmed.
Without waiting for any audience reaction, he sets off – and has whipped us into horror within seconds.
This type of attack on the senses early in a routine can be very useful for a performer. It’s a form of hypnosis – the striking pace and rhythm causes a clear physical reaction – even a hysteria. This makes his audience far more receptive to the rest of the routine. Performers can do this in many ways. In our childrens’ show, we have a very staccato introduction, giving abrupt instructions, and provoking quick short responses. It sets the tone for the children to react appropriately to the show. So from then on, we get strong, sharp bursts of laughter, but we don’t have to worry about it getting out of hand.
After his first fall, Griswold maintains the pace, quickly re-inforcing his likeable drunk character by confronting Sinatra, and before the laughs have subsided, he is at the top of the ladder again.
MAKING THE MOST OF MOVEMENT
His first fall appears to be enormous. His body rotates through a small area, but he lets his feet travel a large distance in an arc, exaggerating the size of the movement.
He immaculately executes gag after gag, not even using a one-two-three style set up.
The character is always directly trying to get diving – hindered by sharp, sudden interruptions of genuine incidents.
I don’t think I have ever seen such a perfect example of performer looking like they are in trouble!
When he hits his face on the board, his silence afterwards is a great professional touch – giving us a real sense that maybe something has gone wrong.
This is one of the greatest skills that a slapstick performer can have. A bit of doubt in the viewer’s mind is a wonderful thing to achieve. The laughs and gasps are so much better when it looks like it’s really gone wrong.
It is no surprise then, that all this fast, detailed work ends up in a routine of just 4 minutes.
But what a perfect 4 minutes!
IN A NUTSHELL
Being in trouble and danger makes for great comedy
Practice and repetition allows the impression of chaos
Vocal noise can give rhythm to a visual performance
Using an appropriate character adds to the fun
Keep character’s overall intention sharp
We want New Slapstick is a resource for everyone involved in visual comedy of any kind.
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