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How to Do Slapstick

Cartoon of man slipping on banana peel.
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Some of the greatest performances in history incorporated slapstick comedy. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges all used pratfalls and fake physical violence to construct classic comedic scenes. More recently, actors like Jim Carrey have employed this art form with great success and lots of laughs. It looks effortless, but can be difficult to master. Here's how you can slap your comedy partner like the legends.

Watch the greats in action to get an idea of what good slapstick looks like. Learn to differentiate between a good use of slapstick. Slapstick is funniest when the gags are incorporated into normal situation, like wallpapering a room.

Find a willing partner and decide which one is the "straight man" and who's the "gag guy." The straight man is the more intelligent of the two and falls victim to the gag guy's idiocy.

Perfect your banter and figure out the right spot to end a conversation with an eye-poke, hair-tug or good old slap across the face. Start a conversation normally but write the gag man's role with absurd logic that is guaranteed to frustrate the straight man.

Engage in a serious conversation with a stuffy authority figure. When the situation escalates, hit the man in the face with a pie and make your escape as he's momentarily blinded by cream.

Employ doors, walls, cabinets and any other hard surfaces. Develop a scene where your partner engages in two distinct activities in the same space. Have one character close a door and turn around, only to have the other person re-open the same door for the first person. The disconnect of moving objects and rearranging furniture creates countless opportunities for good slapstick.


Don't underestimate the power of a cream pie. The pie-in-the-face tricks of one of slapstick's greatest and is guaranteed to win you some laughs.

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