Thursday, June 30, 2005

I got a little list...

The Set-Up: This 44 year old male was young enough back in the day to savor hours and hours of television before the days of the Infomercial on commercial television, and the antique road shows of public television. In the days of the the 70's, WGN in Chicago ran streams of 1930's, 1940's black and white movies from Warner Brothers, Paramount, Columbia, and Universal; while WTTW the public station ran a foreign film every night. So my cinematic references became Raoul Walsh, Howard Hawks, Leo McCarey, the earlier David Lean, George Cukor...got to see Michael Powell too, Fellini, Bergman as well.


The American Film Institute has released lists on Best Films. Best Love Stories, Best Comedies, Best Songs, Best Lines of Dialogue...all set at 100. I am trying to compose a list of 100 best pieces of shtick - hoary old sight gags that never seem to pale, when performed by a deft comedian. Strictly, from a Yiddish word meaning piece of a whole as in a crust of bread--the little gag implies something greater about the character, I suppose.

Does anyone wish to contribute? Here is my preliminary shtick list:

  1. Falling on your backside
  2. Two people trying to squeeze through the same door at the same time
  3. Pie in the Face
  4. Answering the door, seeing who it is, and slamming the door shut in the face as they begin their greeting
  5. THE SLOW BURN
  6. Man trying to retrieve vital object from a woman' cleavage
  7. Inept man trying to change a baby diaper
  8. Mistaken identity greeting

I'll need to go through my favorite DVDs on this...I'm surprised how I built up a strong Howard Hawks collection...my "boring old black and white movies" as my family opines. Going over this list, I note how much funnier they are when the social setting is higher. The tonier the country club, the more elite the characters, the bigger the laugh.

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