Consider the role of violence in physical comic forms (e.g. slapstick). How are the effects of violence militated against to provoke laughter?


Humor with mix of violence has always been part of comics known as slapstick humor. Be it the plays of Shakespeare like ‘The comedy of errors’, the ‘Punch and Judy’ show, the US production like Tom and Jerry, Charlie Chaplin and classics like Bug Bunny.  Even, the show Mr. Bean is also replete with the use of violence for purpose of humor (Richards, 2014). Violence has been used in many forms like using guns, body moves to hurt or trick the opponent, and head bangs to name a few. Although these acts are categorized as violent but they are not life threatening and are only painful for comic purpose. They can incite different feelings in the viewers like disgust, make one laugh, or cringe. They were majorly used at times when movies were silent. Thus, they made movies look visually funny. Moreover, in comedy it is very important to keep a balance between the comic violence. This is done by using different type of comedy like Black comedy and farce with mix of Slapsticks. The purpose of such an amalgam is that although violence is used but it should make the viewers laugh rather than get sorrowful. In this assignment the role of violence in comedy will be dug deeply and how these effects of violence are militated against to create laughter.

Role of Violence in Physical Comic Form:

Surprise amazes anyone, same is the case with violence in comedy. It comes at a time when no one is expecting it in the scene. This result is the creation of a laughter, because it is the most obvious response when one sees a funny scene accompanied with some physical violence. For instance, a person walking seriously in a street lost in his thought, suddenly slips over a banana peel is obviously going to make one laugh. The viewer can differentiate that this scene is both real and unreal. They feel empathy for the actor but they are aware that there must be some precautionary measure already taken to male him safe from severe injury. Therefore, rather than feeling sorry over the slip, one tends to laugh over this violent act (King, 2006).

The violence is used as a source of ‘comic relief’ as O’ Connors says about the use of violence in ‘Mystery and Manner’, “Either one is serious about salvation or one is not. And it is well to realize that the maximum amount of seriousness admits the maximum amount of comedy. Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.”

Therefore the readers for moment gets distant from the character due to humor, and when the seriousness in the content gets maximum, one don’t feels it. Thus, with the transformation from humor to violence, a relief is provided to the readers (Sustana, 2017).

Violence in comic produces a mayhem. In real life, no one wants to experience this mayhem. However, having it in the fictional form is acceptable and one can have an experience of it too. It is an alluring experience to see organized things approaching destruction and disorder.  If one have to face such things in reality, the after effects makes one uneasy. Thus, giving comic hews of violence is an easy way to make audience experience what is unacceptable in reality. These violent acts enables one to face his fears in different form, which otherwise, in reality sounds very frightening (Collin, 2013).

In order to through light on controversial issues that are taking place in the society, the use of violence scene in humorous way is one of the best way. One such example is of Monty Python’s Life of Brain movie. The scene was ended with the mass crucifixion and the people who were dying were singing a jolly song “Always look on the bright side of life’. This mix of violence and humor made the scene easy to digest for the viewers. At the same time it helped in unleashing the harsh reality and a controversial issue of how a Jew person was treated (McKittrick, 2017).

Lastly, nothing is more satisfying than seeing evil reach his demise. Thus, violence like slapstick is a best way to attain this motive in comic. The villain is made to face some suffering so that justice is best served. Although, the scenes created are not very harsh, but to some degree that the villain faces some sort of revenge – on and off. Although, there is no personal grudge of the reader or audience with the villain, but the majority favors the lead role. Therefore, they become possessive about him. In such situation, seeing a bad guy suffer like falling in muddy puddle makes one satisfied and laugh over him at same time (King, 2006).

Ways to militate against the Effect of Violence to Provoke Laughter:

It is very important to lessen the effect of violence to instigate laughter in scene. However, the question arise as through what means this can be done. 

The first step is in bringing a balance when putting in violent scenes. Too much of it can make one frustrated rather than making him laugh. It becomes a tragic content rather than a comedy if the scenes are bombarded with excessive violent scenes like death of villain. The first and foremost aim of comedy is humor. The scene in Charlie Chaplin is one of the best example of slapstick where although there is funny violence, but most of amusement is made by exaggerating the funny part. Moreover, in such comedy that has element of violence the writer should have a psychological equivalent to maintain humor. It means that there should be limited doses of scenes of slapstick. In reality it is vague to consider that people are always throwing banana peels around. Therefore it is recommended to keep a desired balance (Gottschalkanne, 2014).

Black comedy is also a way to emphasize the ignored realities and at the same time in a humorous way thus pacifying violence. The sarcastic tone of this comedy helps in militating against violence and provoking laughter in audience.  Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War classic satire from a script by co-writer Terry Southern is one of the best example of such comedy. Although it have presented a violent message but in a very passive way and have made the audience laugh (Buffam, 2011).

Furthermore, there can be a mix of farce and slapsticks to provoke laughter. In such a setting, those who acts immorally are subjected to comic pain or violence. The role is mostly played by a cartoons or caricature so that the audience don’t have to feel the pain same as realistic creation. Thus in this way neither the pain nor the character is real. This makes the audience more likely to laugh over the comic pain scene. Moreover, with using such dummies, the intensity of the scene of pain is greatly lessen and the audience tends to laugh with much empathy with the character. Thus, the violence is made much subtle and laughter is induced through use of farce and slapsticks (Peacock, 2014).

Lastly, the stunts and acrobats in the comedy are also source of making one laugh despite the violent scenes that are taking place. In such a scenario, the viewers are although shown serious scenes, but at same time they are made to feel that the pain faced by the performer is not real. In case, if the viewer had a feeling that the pain is real, it would have resulted in sympathy and sorrow for the performer rather than laughter. But, the scene is created in such a way that the audience are forced to emphasize more on the humor part rather than the pain (Peacock, 2013). 


Comedy is an important part of art and the use of violence in physical comic forms has an old history. Although, apparently, violence is not a good feature in the reality but when it comes to using it in comedy gets acceptable due to certain reason. It helps the viewers to get the feeling of a sudden surprise when they see the actor facing it suddenly. It also makes one experiencing the feeling of mayhem, a comic relief and a sense of satisfaction, seeing their villain getting punished. Thus violence plays important roles in physical comic forms for the viewers and writer. Furthermore, it is important to keep a balance between violence scenes so that it can serve its purpose in comedy and provoke the laughter in viewers and readers. For this purpose a mix of black comedy and farce with slapstick is the best tool. In this way the scenes are not over bombarded with the violent scenes. In addition to this, the use of cartoons in scenes can also make the viewers laugh because in this way they will feel that both the pain and character are not real. In short, violent is an important part of comedy and humor, but it’s important to keep it in balance so that it don’t overshadow the purpose of comedy- laughter.


Buffam, N., 2011. Comedy. [Online]
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Collin, R., 2013. Film violence: why it’s worth fighting for. [Online]
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King, C., 2006. Effects of Humorous Heroes and Villains in Violent Action Films. Journal of Communication, p. 5–24.

McKittrick, C., 2017. What is a “Black Comedy” Movie?. [Online]
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Peacock, L., 2013. Conflict and slapstick in Commedia dell’Arte – The double act of Pantalone and Arlecchino. Comedy Studies, p. 59–69.

Peacock, L., 2014. Slapstick and Comic Performance: Comedy and Pain. UK: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Richards, J., 2014. The Golden Age of Pantomime: Slapstick, Spectacle and Subversion in Victorian England. London and New York: I.B.Tauris Publishers.

Sustana, C., 2017. Humor and Violence in Flannery O’Connor’s ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’. [Online]
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