Physical comedy, whether conveyed by a pratfall (landing on the buttocks), a silly face, or the action of walking into walls, is a common and rarely subtle form of comedy. It is a clownish exploitation of movement, the most primordial human medium of expression, which predates language and the introduction of verbal humour such as cultural tradition, erudition and word puns. Often sitcoms will incorporate such movements into the scenes but may not rely on it exclusively to forward the story. Often it will be used as comic relief especially during more serious or intimate scenes.
Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Lucille Ball, Martin Short, Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis, Ken Berry, Chevy Chase, Dick van Dyke's character "Rob Petrie" on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Ensign Charles "Chuck" Parker (Tim Conway) on McHale's Navy, John Ritter's character "Jack Tripper" on Three's Company, Jim Carrey's character "The Mask", Michael Richards's character "Cosmo Kramer" on Seinfeld, Dustin Diamond's character "Samuel 'Screech' Powers" on Saved by the Bell, Bernadette Withers' character Ginger Farrell/Loomis/Mitchell on Bachelor Father, Jim Varney's character "Ernest P. Worrell", Chris Farley, Rowan Atkinson's "Mr. Bean", Johnny Lever, Jaleel White's character "Steve Urkel" on Family Matters, and Benny Hill are all examples of comedians who employ physical comedy as a medium for their characters. Charlie Chaplin started his film career as a physical comedian; although he developed additional means of comic expression, Chaplin's mature works continued to contain elements of slapstick. Slapstick elements include: the trip, the slip, the double take, the collide, the fall (faint) and the roar.
Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld is also known for his physical comedic parts.
See also