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Prop comedy is a comedy genre that makes use of humorous objects, or conventional objects used in humorous ways. The stages and films term "prop", an abbreviation of "property", refers to any object handled by an actor in the course of a performance. Although some form of prop comedy has likely existed as long as there have been comedians, the genre reached its zenith in the vaudeville era. The vaudeville team Olsen and Johnson made heavy use of prop comedy in their long running Broadway revue Hellzapoppin.
A prop comic is a comedian who makes use of prop comedy. Prop comics are sometimes looked down upon by other comedians, and the term is sometimes used derisively; however, some, such as Tommy Cooper, rose to critical acclaim as their props revolved around a gimmick (such as Cooper's magic) and the comedian's character around that gimmick.
Types of Props
Props are any items that the comedian or comic uses in an absurd way. These can be hand props; items that can be carried such as a book or slapstick; costume props (props that are worn such as tearaway pants); and set props (props that are built into the sets such as a breakaway chair). Arguably[who?], the quintessential comic prop is the rubber chicken which has become a symbol for the genre.
Some well-known prop comics:
- The Amazing Johnathan
- Brian Barlow aka Poppa Proppa
- Carrot Top
- Tommy Cooper
- Tom Eaton
- Joel Hodgson
- Steve Martin
- Harry Hill
- Harpo Marx
- Olsen and Johnson
- Al Simmons
- Rip Taylor
- Tim Vine
- Jerry Sadowitz
- Ed Wynn
- Paul Zaloom
- The Legendary Wid, with permanent opening act, John Kensil
The Big Oggski
The TV comedy game show Whose Line Is It Anyway? has a round called Props in which two teams of comedians are given a prop each and asked to improvise with them to humorous effect.
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