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Humor and the Belly Laugh: How Slapstick Makes Us Laugh

Updated on September 19, 2012

I almost peed my pants

I was choking on my food, with tears of laughter, as I read the scenario and responses posed by Terri Meredith in the ‘humor’ department of entertainment. Although this question was posed 13 months ago, it is as funny today as I’m sure it was one year ago. That’s the great thing about humor-it doesn’t fade with time or lose its ‘in’ moment. True humor can live forever.

The Genius of Chaplin

And a hardy, har har, to you too

Do you ever find yourself in a humorous or silly situation in which you wondered how you landed there? Well, Dame of Comedy, Lucille Ball was famous for taking an ordinary event, i.e. a candy factory, and turning it into an epic slapstick situation.

Some people do not care for slapstick. Perhaps they feel it is ‘stupid’ and below their intelligence. I feel that way about the Three Stooges. I don’t find anything funny about three grown men knocking each other on the head or twisting each other’s noses, which is ongoing throughout these classic episodes, yet my father, brothers, and millions of other people would disagree with me. So, it’s a matter of preference: I find their antics offensive; others find them hilarious. Just as I love Jerry Lewis’s old movies, as well as Lucille Balls predicaments, and others find these comedians boring.

I have my theory about what makes slapstick tickle our funny bone and that is the identification that we find in the presentation. We connect with the circumstance that the buffoon finds himself in and, although we can laugh and point fingers at the absurdity of the exaggerated event, thinking that we could never be in that situation , yet, there are times that we do find ourselves in what I call, ‘the Lucy Ricardo’ moment.

Charlie Chaplin is deemed the comedic genius of the silent films changing the direction of comedy with his famous featured films: The Gold Rush, The Circus, City Lights and Modern Times. Using mime, gags and slapstick, Chaplin created the character: The Tramp and entertained audiences for decades. His early influence was Gabrielle Maximillien Leuvielle, or ‘Max Linder’, which was his stage name, a French comedian born into a wealthy Catholic family.

Other great comedians during the early and mid twentieth century were: Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Humor Example #1

What makes slapstick funny? The absurdity of the situation in which the characters find themselves and the depth of the trouble that unfolds. It is never a simply solved problem. Rather, the character will try to ‘outsmart’ the antagonist and thus, like the stain on the carpet that keeps spreading, get her into a bigger mess.

I go to the bank where I enter the ‘drive thru’ service. I remove the tube for my deposit and it slips from my hand. It was a ‘Lucy Ricardo’ moment as I froze in my seat gazing down from the window. Attempting to open my door, it hits the metal tube carrier because I had driven too close, (for obvious reasons). I decide I will have to drive forward, exit the car and retrieve it that way. As I do so, I hear the tire hit the tube and it goes flying across the drive and onto the grass next to the building. Again, that deadpan stare and a slow turn to look at the long line of cars behind me watching…and waiting. As I hurry to pick the plastic tube up I start to giggle, realizing that all of the bank tellers are staring out of their picture window watching my antics. I can’t stop giggling because of the absurdity of the situation. I don’t bother backing my car up to complete the transaction, but merely walk to the tube carrier, insert the tube and finish my banking outside of my car, while waving to the ladies in the bank.

Always looking for a laugh:

Class Clown 2026
Class Clown 2026 | Source

Golden Moments in Comedy

In each of our lives we have our comedic moments. Sometimes it is an individual within the family who seems to be the ‘clown’ getting the intentional laugh from other family members, like my three year old grandson, Alex, who apparently has acquired Uncle George’s ability to be the ‘class clown’ even before he enters school!

Sometimes it appears as if a whole family is involved with situational antics, such as the wonderfully endearing Griswold family, led through situation after situation by Papa Griswold, Chevy Chase. In my marriage to husband, John, there was never a dull moment and he fondly dubbed us, ‘The Retardos ’, a play off of the ‘I Love Lucy’ sitcom: the Ricardo family.

In response to Terri’s question: ‘What is the funniest thing you’ve witnessed, but couldn’t laugh outright because it would have been rude.’ I would have to say is the story about my husband, bowling, and Michigan winter.

Humor Example #2

It was a typical winter storm in Michigan. Freezing rain had been falling steadily in late afternoon and covered the ground in a thin layer. I was grateful the kids had already arrived from school and I was finishing my shift. As I pulled into the driveway and precariously made my way up the front walk with the mail, I was grateful there was nowhere to go that evening.

Shortly after I had started dinner, my husband pulled up and came into the house through the garage entrance, avoiding the slippery steps of the front porch. Before I could greet him with his meal he swept through the kitchen, gave me a quick peck on the cheek and, with bowling balls in tow, headed for the door.

An avid bowling enthusiast, John was a big guy and he carried the double bowling bag with ease. He was also on three leagues a week and I would frequently threaten him that one day he would be driving up to the house and find those bowling balls rolling down the driveway and into the street. He would just laugh-he had a wonderful, raucous laugh.

An argument ensued between us as I warned him of the storm conditions, pleaded for him to stay safe and cancel, and suggested that no one is going out in this weather-these are emergency road conditions.

He wasn’t buying any of my sensibility attempting to convince me of the valiant gesture he was making for the team. “They’re counting on me”; “Of course the alley will be open”; and, (my personal favorite), “Everyone’s going to be there”, what was he, twelve?

I had already changed from my work clothes into my pajamas and robe and had been looking forward to a nice, family evening snuggled around our fireplace. But, before I could warn my hardheaded husband about the ice on the front steps he had stepped onto the porch.

“Look out…” were all the words I could yell watching in horror as his foot hit the ice.

Do you remember the old Road Runner cartoons where the anvil comes slowly falling from the sky? It was like a Fred Flintstone cartoon, (John being Fred, of course). He took one step, lost his footing; his legs flipped out from under him and for a brief second his two hundred and fifty pound frame hovered in the air before landing smack down on the cold concrete, his head narrowly missing the edge of the step.

Running to his aid in my bathrobe and slippers, I attempted to suppress the laughter welling up inside of me as I pictured the hilarious scene I had just witnessed. Neighbors stopped chipping away at the ice in their driveways to watch as I struggled, slipping and sliding, to help John stand, now moaning, “Oh, my back…Oh, my head”.

I did not fare well with the suppression and all one could hear was, “oh, John…giggle, giggle… are you alright…giggle, giggle.” He was mad at me about that for a long time.

Soaking wet, we finally got into the house, where I checked him over for any head trauma. I offered to drive him to the ER for an X-Ray, but he refused and told me he was going upstairs to change out of his wet clothes leaving me, once again, to dish out his meal. Just as I set the plate on the table and turned to call him to eat he was entering the kitchen dressed in dry clothes and jacket, bowling bag in hand.

Please Vote:

Who is your favorite comedian?

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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hello Julie-thanks so much for reading and sharing this hub. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love comedy, humor and laughter. I think it is absolutely necessary for our mental health. It helped me pull out of a dark depression 20 yrs ago. :)

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      8 years ago from North-East UK

      Denise, enjoyed this hub. I do like a good laugh! I loved the Lucy video, I remember watching her when I was a young girl, my parents loved her!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      toknowinfo-you are so welcome. Thanks for visiting this hub b/c, as I read your response I found myself starting to chuckle again. BTW-the movie I last watched that brought out hearty belly laughs, much to my grandchildren's chagrin, was: Mirror Mirror with J. Roberts. While I am not a HUGE JR fan, she did a wonderful job displaying the character of this merciless queen. Apparently, by all the shushing that I got from my grandkids, I was 'too embarrassing' laughing out loud. But, as I explained to them as best I could between chuckles, "it's a comedy-the actors expect us to appreciate their work through laughter". If you haven't yet seen it, its worth the money. Thanks for reading / commenting.

    • toknowinfo profile image


      9 years ago

      Loved this hub. We have similar tastes in humor, as I don't like the three stooges slapstick but I find I laugh at the same things you do. I still laugh to myself at the image of seeing one of my co-workers fall down, even though it happened decades ago, so I can totally relate to your husbands tumble. Thanks for a good read and making me laugh.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh, Marcy-I remember that grape stomping scene-what a hoot! Thanks for reading and giving your feedback. :)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      9 years ago from Planet Earth

      Lucy is such a great example to use for your points about slapstick! I never tired of watching her art in the reruns, and I miss her. Even my kids (who were born long after that era) know of her and love her. I agree -there is something releasing and freeing about a good, strong belly laugh!

      The candy factory is a classic, by the way, and I also loved her grape-stomping episode.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Silver Poet for reading and the vote. LOL

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 

      9 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Now that's one determined bowler! Very good hub, voted up!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      LOL OMgoodness, Rosemary, I chuckled out loud reading the doctor story...yes, what a difference that would make in waiting rooms if we could all sit and find something humorous and lighthearted to keep us occupied. That's a great idea. :) Maybe we should install laugh boxes or something there and the dentist offices as well, LOL Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      9 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I loved this hub. Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and the Golden Girls are my favourites. There is nothing like a good howling laugh.

      I loved both of your stories, I can just visualise you chuckling away at the bank. Lol Yes we can all find ouselves in situations like this and its good that we have the ability tolaugh at ourselves.

      I once took my 15 yr old son to the doctors, my 11 yr old daughter was with us. I can't remember what was said or done but my son got a fit of the giggles, the more I said shush the more he giggled and it was an infectious laugh that just spread through the waiting room. Can you imagine the look on the doctors faces as they cam out to call 'Next' to see over 40 patients all sat there laughing away with absolutely no idea what they were laughing at. Best tonic there is.

      A great fun hub. Thanks for the chuckles. Voted up across the board

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for the read and the vote husband and I were always getting into situations. In fact, he used to refer us to Laurel and Hardy (He was Ollie-and could look the part!) :)

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      I enjoyed the Lucille Ball shows, she was so funny!

      Loved the bank story and the story about your husband, I always see the funny side of things and giggle when I shouldn't really....

      A great hub thank you and voted up.

      Best wishes Lesley

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Writer, thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts.

      Ruby-that Betty White is still going strong, isn't she? Nice to see you.

      Hi Alicia-I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and my Lucy moment.

      Dexter-you are the epitome of humorous hubs! Thanks for stopping by and yes, I agree re: Burnett. I'd watch the show and absolutely die laughing.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      9 years ago from United States

      Great hub, Denise! I find humor to be a wonderful thing! Carol Burnett is probably one of the funniest ladies. Especially when she was teamed with Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Harvey Korman.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      9 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the laughs, Denise. I used to love the Lucy shows, and I think the chocolate scene is so funny. Your bank scene was very funny as well!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      9 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is great Denise. I love to laugh, and the old shows on TV were the best. I guess there are good ones now but nothing makes me laugh as much as Lucy. The Golden Girls were one of my all time favorites..Thank you for sharing..Smiles..

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      9 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I loved Lucy at the time she was on T.V. Now I prefer Carol. Voted up and funny, Joyce.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for reading. :) Yes, wit is the HIGHEST form of humor. Shows intelligence. :)

      I'm just one to get myself into those 'Lucy' moments.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Dee, I could just picture the bank scene - funny! You know slapstick doesn't do anything for me,my humor leans more toward the dry wit, irony and puns.

      Did vote Carol Burnett as funnies, never cared much for Lucille Ball although I understand she was a very smart business woman.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      cclitgirl-I had to chuckle when I read your comment. I think a sign of a good relationship is evidence of "plenty of stories like that." It gives credence to the bonding that has occurred between a's part of their history. Thanks for reading.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      9 years ago from Western NC

      That second story really had me laughing. Between my hubby and I, we both have plenty of stories like that. Voted up and funny. :)

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Cara, what are you doing up at 3 a.m.? I thought of all of us as I recounted the story of dad. Oh, he would get so mad when I would tell people that story. hee hee.

      So, if you voted 'other' who was your choice?

    • cardelean profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Yes, my son is quite the comedian and he knows it! Fun hub, thanks for the walk down memory lane. :)


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