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That-a-way presents “Pipe Down!” – a two-act slapstick production starring Tip & Hurl, written, produced, photographed and edited by your humble blogger. For more info go to that-a-way.com/tip&hurl.htm
Enjoy the HD short film in its entirety!
I’m coining a phase: the “near-antiquity.”
It’s that part of the ancient that’s closest to contemporaneity. Or, more accurately, that part of modernity that may, at any second, fall into antiquity.
Slapstick is very much on this brink (or is it?) and it’s the hope of this website it to reign in its relevancy, so’s not to become – like latin – dead.
So, this is kind of an easy observation, but nevertheless relevant give the purview of the site and the specificity of the post: most of Grocho’s character names are code for phalli (or, as Steve Jobs markets them, iPhall). Lets see, there’s Rufus T. Firefly, Doctor Hackenbush, Sam Grunion (look it up), Otis B. Driftwood and of course, Professor Wagstaff, (see link below; no pun intended).
This post revives an earlier debate about dramatic activity/passivity in slapstick.
Here’re two titans of the silent screen telling jokes with movie-making itself, yet the two gags are achieved through opposing performances. The first is Chaplin in 1914 from Kid Auto Races:
This clip is an abridged version of what drives the whole short: a man can’t help but flirt with the camera. Or is he courting with the audience he anticipates. Or is he in lovestruck with the cameraman? It’s hilarious, and you can extrapolate Chaplin’s entire cinema based on the few clownish emotions and dramatic ideas it presents.
However, here’s the same set-up (public event, large crowd, film-within-a-film) but the comedy comes from a much deeper subversion of our expectations:
This bit from Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926), especially when looked at after Chaplin, is spinning with ideas about spectral identity and other Hegelian/psychological head-busters: Can activity (action) operate as passivity (inaction)? More mysteriously, can inaction ever NOT be a type of action (NOTE: the outgoing U.S. Congress, the 112th, earned the moniker “D0-Nothing Congress” but this is of course a misnomer; if the press were more analytical they would have more accurately named it the “Do-Everything-We-Can-Prevent-Action Congress”), as the only achievable passivity is in a thing’s non-existence, which then can’t be discussed in terms like “achievable” so why are we even talking about it?
This is why Langdon’s gag is so phenomenal (NOTE: the joke may or may not have been written by Frank Capra). A movie star playing camera shy running from a camera is first hilarious, secondly thought-provoking, (both of these are apt to describe KAR) but third, it’s twisted, inserting a bit of tragedy into the tomfoolery. There’s an element of the nightmare, of terror, of the uncanny.
In general, what is uncanny can not be entertaining, which is why Chaplin always framed (and in some cases masked) disturbing or uncomfortable subjects like war or poverty or Fascism in moral righteousness and divine/poetic justice, aka: a happy ending (despite his Tramp’s ambiguous future at the end of most of the features).
Langdon however is not a sentimentalist. If anything he’s a surrealist, upending our ideas about story and narrative by withdrawing from reality and, through slapstick logic, guiding us somewhere strange.
Apologies for the 7-month gap to everyone that’s followed The Slapstick Linguist in the past. In addition to a brand new baby boy we welcomed just before September, I’ve been devoting hours and hours to what you see above.
“What do I see above?” you may very well ask yourself. Well, it’s a bookcover I designed, one that’ll be bound around a novel I’ve been writing since the week of Deepwater Horizon back in 2010 (Note: bookcovers take less time to design than novels do to write, but not by much; both don’t take as much as it does to plug a hole miles under the ocean).
That-a-way Film Company will be selling copies later this month. It’ll be available on our site, this blog, and Amazon, and at least a couple independent bookstores around the Capital Region.
Our hope is to sell enough copies of the novel to finance a feature film production, beginning hopefully this year.
So, look forward to some new regular posts this week, new That-a-way production-themed posts, and lookout for The Wrong Trail, a Cowstein & Bramblestamp novel.
p.s.: If any readers can impart any helpful tips on self-publishing, online distribution, or ebook marketing, please do send them along.
Furthering the connections between sound, humor and class is this fairly accedental detail found in J. C. Hotten’s 1860 book, A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words during a discussion of “long and windy slang words:”
Sound contributes to many Slang words – a source that etymologists too frequently overlook. Nothing pleases an ignorant person more than a high-sounding term ‘full of fury.’ How melodious and drum-like are those vulgar coruscations RUMBUMTIOUS, SLANTINGDICULAR, SLENDIFEROUS, RUMBUSTIOUS, and FERRICADOUZER. What a ‘pull’ the sharp-nosed lodging-house keeper thinks she has over her victims if she can but hurl such testimonies of a liberal education at them when they are disbuting her charges and threatening to ABSQUATULATE! In the United States the vulgar-genteel even excel the poor ‘stuck-up’ Cockneys in their formation of a native fashionable tongue. How charming to a refined ear are ABSKIZE, CATAWAMPOUSLY, EXFLUNCTIFY, OBSCUTE, KESLOSH, KESOUSE, KESWOLLOP, and KEWHOLLUX! Vulgar words representing action and brisk movement often owe their origin to sound. (56-57)
Hotten’s text is remembered for deciphering “Mendicant Hieroglyphics” – coded chicken-scratch that English vagabonds marked on bricks and signposts to indicate where there were choice homes to loot and whether or not there was any danger. But the curious element here (and in the book elsewhere) is the author’s none-too-shy approach to writing about class distinction and race distinction. I call it accidental because you honestly cannot tell if he takes the civilized/uncivilized distinction utterly for granted as capital-tee-truth, or if he’s observing just how wordplay and the symbolic universe of language uncovers the false ideology of gentlemen vs. barbarians that reigned high during Victoria.
First he used the term “ignorant” to describe people who construct slang “full of fury.” What does he mean? Does he mean that an uneducated person can see the value in a word that sounds useful despite its being gibberish because he doesn’t understand the difference? Or does he mean that because ignorant people are not educated they therefore have to invent words that sound educated? Both tracts of reason, despite the author’s possible view on class, seem to refute the most racists of beliefs (pointedly those against ‘The Egyptians,’ or Gypsies) by pointing out that invention of language, or seeing a word for what it has yet to become, is far more skillful than the mere usage of pre-existing vocabulary.
Second, there’s this comical scenario involving a “lodging-house keeper” (curiously a woman in the story) who’s so stupefied by fake words that she’s rendered mute, and by mute I mean absquatulated.
Both of these examples detail the possibility that physical sounds, in the form of spoken gibberish, can allow for the breaking open of the critical space needed to perceive exploitative social practices that normally go unspoken – an attractive premise from which to reengage the wordplay in Shakespeare, The Marx Brothers, or Preston Sturges.
It would be easy to over-intellectualize the following images, to perform a kind of existentialist, Hamlet-looking-at-the-skull kind of observation about the life of comedy, specifically the life of a comic. But I think that this is the danger. That is to say, this is the monkey, for that is what the monkey is: danger. See for yourself:
If you’re around upstate New York next month the evening of the 22nd, please consider stopping by Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, NY for a free screening of Pipe Down! featuring “Tip & Hurl” and produced by your humble blogger at that-a-way. The screening will be accompanied by Propov’s Surrealist “Awkshun”, which is either a magic trick or a fundraising trick! Hope to see you there.
More posts on the world of “Tip & Hurl” to follow.