Physical comedy time
November 7, 2017 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Seeking video links of your favourite physical comedy moments, from movies, tv, stage, or life. Bonus points for explaining what you love about them. Thanks!
posted by pseudostrabismus to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
The flyering sequence in the movie Hot Rod. It’s the sheer joy that the guy has in distributing flyers that I just love. The fact that he doesn’t really know the main characters makes it even more funny.
posted by dreamphone at 5:28 PM on November 7, 2017

The scene from the Carol Burnett show that parodies Gone With the Wind! What do I love about it? The deadpan, the one-liner ("I saw it in the window and couldn't resist!") and, of course, the perfect Bob Mackie gown itself.
posted by workerant at 5:39 PM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

The first time I saw Sideshow Bob under the car and then getting out from under the car, it tickled my physical comedy funny bone. The zoom out after the first couple of rakes made it for me.
posted by clawsoon at 6:03 PM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Shaun Micallef's Compleat Tilted Room Sketches. Why? Because Shaun Micallef is a bloody Australian national treasure, that's why.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:03 PM on November 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

posted by The Deej at 6:05 PM on November 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

I don't know if this counts, as the entire show is about physical comedy, but I think the Richard Simmons episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway blows all the other episodes out of the water. And for me the physical comedy is just a part of it. Most of it is the reactions of the regular cast members.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 6:07 PM on November 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

Factory sequence from Modern Times.

I like physical comedy where the players are trapped by some kind of internal logic even as events careen out of control around them.

Also, I can't find the whole scene anywhere, but the first clip here is the climax of Niles Crane's ill-advised duel with the fencing instructor he thinks is having an affair with his wife.

This one is good because it's all about the liberating quality of physical extremity: see Niles's deranged grin!
posted by praemunire at 6:07 PM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

The moment during the trailer fight in Raising Arizona when Nic Cage's character scrapes his hand on the popcorn ceiling. A) They live in a trailer, and the detail of the popcorn ceiling is so perfect; B) most fights are so unrealistic, with characters just fighting with maybe pain grunts - the fact that he stops to scream and look at his hands just cracks me up every time; and C) that's exactly what would happen in a fight in a trailer. There's a lot of physical comedy in that movie, but that part gets me every time.

Kramer's jeans in Seinfeld.
The set up with the remark about the body, then Kramer's stiff legged walk, the too short cuffs, the "slim fit", all culminating in Kramer's unmoving lower body on the couch while Jerry pumps his legs up and down. . . tears, every time. It's even better in retro because of the "hipster" jeans that are so similar. I guess. . .while it's a funny scene without knowing the characters, it's all the knowledge of the characters that have been established up to that point that makes it so hilarious.

I Love Lucy: Ethel and Lucy's chocolate scene. When she stuffs them in her mouth. . . .the quickening conveyor belt. . .once again, it's funny because you know the characters, but it's the expressions and sheer desperation that make it hilarious. Bonus: Elaine Benes has nothing on Lucy's dance routine.

Kate McMinnon's character in "close encounters". Her lines, her clothes, her hair are all funny, but it's her body language that takes it from funny to "laughing while dying". I would argue that it's subtle but essential to the piece (her sprawled legs, the way she uses the cigarette, her demonstrating the "knocker banting" . . . all great).

I don't know if this counts, but the Parks and Rec scene in the ice rink with Get On Your Feet playing in the background sure is physical and funny.

(On preview) Oh by god that Gone With the Wind piece, SO FUNNY. And YES the Richard Simmons episode. It's the complete unexpectedness that makes it so hilarious.
posted by barchan at 6:11 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Beyonce clown hits her head. I like the part where she hits her head.
posted by mullacc at 6:15 PM on November 7, 2017

Pretty much all of bill Murray in "the man who knew too little" but in particular the scene with the dead guy (that he thinks is an actor) because bill Murray is trying to make a dead guy break character.
posted by noloveforned at 6:23 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

He may have been fueled by equal parts charisma and cocaine, but Chris Farley's Matt Foley in the Van Down by the River sketch is a standout in physical comedy. And that's before he drives his entire body into a coffee table.
posted by General Malaise at 6:33 PM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Robert Downey Jr. playing Charlie Chaplin playing a drunk. Of course, YouTube also has clips of Chaplin doing the same.
posted by Homer42 at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Monty Python : Ministry of Silly Walks.

The scene from There's Something About Mary where he fights the little dog.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2017

Everybody loves a cane (Newsradio).
posted by praemunire at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'd like to add that nearly every episode of The Carol Burnett Show had examples. Another classic is the dentist sketch with Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. The Carol Burnett Show is one of my favorite shows ever, and has a lot of meaning, so I basically find everything about it hilarious.

John Cleese, Monty Python, Ministry of Silly Walks. This is just comedy 101 to me.
Dick Van Dyke, The Dick Van Dyke Show: Slapstick
John Ritter, Three's Company: Hammock
A different I Love Lucy scene: Dance Challenge
Melissa McCarthy, SNL, The Pickup Artist

Two themes running through here. Either early influences and/or making their co-stars break.

It's hard to choose a favorite, but Steve Martin and Robin Williams belong on the list.

On preview, I was also going to add Matt Foley.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not Suitable for Children, Umbilical Brothers
Voicing, timing, physicality, audience interaction.

Roy Andersson, commercial clips

Wonderful timing, narrative and photography.
posted by effluvia at 7:39 PM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

The wonderful Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets in the underrated TV show, Baskets. I love this because Christine is usually very poised, and composed. She’s my favorite tv character right now. It feels like it was ad-libbed. Also, Baskets is about a clown (Zach Galifinaikis is Baskets the Clown) who works as a rodeo clown so there's lots of physical comedy. I just love this show.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:46 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

The coffee crystals sketch from SNL is still maybe my favorite Chris Farley moment. He really was the best at this stuff. I just watched it again and it still makes me laugh.
posted by cakelite at 7:53 PM on November 7, 2017

Buster Keaton ... many things to see on Youtube, here's a greatest hits.
I like that sometimes its just plain silly and also I like his pure physical prowess, predicting Jackie Chan.
posted by falsedmitri at 7:58 PM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Plank with Eric Sykes and Tomy Cooper (1967) or the 1979 version with Sykes and Arthur Lowe. Both versions repeated fairly regularly on Australian TV in the 1980s, and contain some of the finest physical comedy moments that I remember of my earliest childhood.
posted by prismatic7 at 8:07 PM on November 7, 2017

The lion fish scene in Naked Gun, it's definitely physical comedy, I laugh so hard I become physically incapacitated.
posted by 445supermag at 8:21 PM on November 7, 2017

The Interview that Goes Wrong Controlled chaos on The Tonight Show.
posted by effluvia at 9:58 PM on November 7, 2017

Seconding David Hyde Pierce on Frasier, as represented by this superlative scene. Just brilliant timing, perfectly expressive of the character, amazingly paced and tempered
posted by runincircles at 10:10 PM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Australian 90's Lano & Woodley. Some episodes are up on Youtube. This fanmade supercut gives you some ideas of what they're about.
posted by quinndexter at 10:40 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

the 'my body' possession scene from 'all of me'. steve martin is brilliant as a lawyer who is half-possessed by the recently liberated spirit of lily tomlin.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:01 AM on November 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

dick van dyke. almost anything.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:01 AM on November 8, 2017

The Duck Soup Mirror Scene is pretty great, and the whole film really. Songs, goofy wordplay, satire, physical comedy...something for everyone!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:10 AM on November 8, 2017

I am always charmed by Max Linder, a gifted silent comedian who, as one of the earliest silent stars was an inspiration for Chaplin, Keaton and all the rest.

Linder's screen persona is generally close to the opposite of that of Chaplin. Where Charlie was famous for his Little Tramp, Linder mostly played men of wealth or success and his attitude was often upbeat or caught up in some interest of the moment. It's that latter quality which helps make his brand of physical comedy so affecting. He's not at odds with the system as much as he is caught up in his own little world of activity. It's watching his mind at work in solving problems or at least trying to and taking pleasure in the attempt that gives the gags a lightness that sometimes eluded Chaplin and a feeling of character investment that Keaton often set aside in favor of a sense of the gags happening without his character even knowing or maybe taking pleasure in the events. That isn't to knock either Chaplin or Keaton, who could both be brilliant, just to say Linder's comedy had a slightly different flavor to it that was also enjoyable.

I had some others in mind as well but I'm having a tough time finding the clips I want so if that's more the interest than the names I'll keep looking to see if I can find some good examples.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:01 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anything from "The Three Stooges", especially the one where they are "undercover exterminators" ( I'm Really surprised no one has mentioned them yet.
posted by james33 at 3:49 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther Strikes Again, investigating the parallel bars.
posted by rollick at 6:16 AM on November 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's a sketch that I am having trouble finding a clip of, although I'm nearly certain it's the kids in the hall, that involves an explorer (I think) returning home after a long absence, and just repeatedly knocking this very delicate curio from the wall and then taking a hilarious pratfall. I love it because anticipating the *next* time it will happen is half the fun; the comedy is entirely in the physicality of it and doesn't rely on surprise.
posted by dbx at 6:53 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

W.C. Fields porch scene from It's a Gift. Probably my all-time favorite comedic scene from a movie. (The scene from the movie is actually much longer than the YouTube clip). It's pure frustration and futility. Perfect metaphor for life.
posted by Otis at 7:24 AM on November 8, 2017

Mr. Carlson throws the drawer out the window on WKRP in Cincinnati (scene starts at 11:28). I think it works so well because it's such a surprise (the whole scene is unexpected because it doesn't really have anything to with the episode's plot), and then he hilariously tries to pretend it didn't happen.
posted by JanetLand at 8:03 AM on November 8, 2017

This bit from Shrek made me happy.

Andy Dick is problematic, but his attempt to crawl through an access hatch on Voyager is inspired.

Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean changing into a swimsuit at the beach (skip to about 1:30 if you're impatient).

Matt Frewer starred in a CBS sitcom in 1989 or 90 called Doctor Doctor. There was a scene where he was sitting on his bed in his underwear and his boyfriend came in and sat down on the bed. Frewer proceeded to bounce as though the bed were a water bed. It stuck with me as a really great comic bit, which required a lot of physical control. I couldn't find a clip though.

Jacques Tati in Mon Oncle. Here's a sample.

Some funny bits in The Lady Eve.

George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove gives a great performance with funny physicality, but I'm not sure if it meets the criteria for being "physical comedy."

Of course Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies is the gold standard, but wow, those movies are really slow.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:44 AM on November 8, 2017

There's a sketch that I am having trouble finding a clip of, although I'm nearly certain it's the kids in the hall, that involves an explorer (I think) returning home after a long absence, and just repeatedly knocking this very delicate curio from the wall and then taking a hilarious pratfall. I love it because anticipating the *next* time it will happen is half the fun; the comedy is entirely in the physicality of it and doesn't rely on surprise.
I figured it out! It was Mr. Show: The Story of Everest!
posted by dbx at 9:33 AM on November 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

James Corden, "One man, two guvnors"
Jackie Chan, Drunken Master
Bryan Cranston, Malcom In The Middle, Hal roller skates. (I think that, except for a few spins, it's all him.)

And I don't personally care for Molly Shannon, but she deserves to be included here.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:26 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Since Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin have already been mentioned, Harold Lloyd should get a nod as well. Never Weaken is one of his short films that captures his persona well. It's more or less a group of three gag sequences built around a simple premise set up at the start of the film. Harold proposes to a girl who promptly loses her job with an osteopathic specialist for lack of business. Harold sets out to drum up some business for them so she can keep her job. After having success in his venture he sees his girl in the arms of another man who says he can finally marry her. It's her brother, a newly ordained preacher offering to perform the ceremony, but Harold doesn't wait to find out. He decides to end it all instead, so he plots various methods of suicide, reluctantly, before accidentally ending up stuck on the beams of a skyscraper being built which occasions the longest sequence of gags about his peril.

Lloyd plays moderately well off young men who get involved in situations that tax their skills. He is aware of the dangers he faces and his comedy is often based on his reactions to peril and accidental successes almost despite himself. He's not in control of the situations, but he generally overcomes them anyway, showing a great deal of physical effort and near failure to do so.

Pierre Etaix is a more modern comedian with a penchant for conceptual comedy more like Tati, but with plenty of moments of physical comedy thrown in, often by co-stars as well as himself. His tone is more laid back or low key. Nothing looks too strenuous but the physical set ups and action show excellent planning, timing, and skill. Here's a short clip from Yoyo that gives some indication of that, while this clip from Le Grand Amour gives some idea of his more purely conceptual bent.

A wonderful pair of current physical comedians are Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon. They've made four films together, each with some really inventive and funny sequences and a lovely style. I couldn't find the clips I wanted, but here's one from Rumba that gives shows them in action dancing together which should provide some indication of their style and physicality. And here's a trailer from their most recent film, Lost in Paris, which I was thrilled to find out about while searching for clips since I wasn't aware they'd made a new one. It gives a pretty good idea of their filmmaking style.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:06 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, and lest it be thought Ginger Rogers was only famous for dancing, here's a little clip showing Ginger could brawl with the best of them too: Vivacious Lady.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:40 PM on November 8, 2017

I can't post the video at work, but the naked wrestling scene in Borat is one of the funniest things that's ever been put on camera.
posted by cnc at 2:48 PM on November 8, 2017

I always loved the way Michael Richards tried to keep his mop in this clip from Weird Al's "UHF."
posted by tacodave at 3:23 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another great Bryan Cranston scene from Malcolm in the Middle: Hal steals a foot bath.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:32 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kind of verbal comedy too, but Moss in Court from the IT Crowd.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 6:16 AM on November 9, 2017


The Elaine Dance, because everything Julia Louis-Dreyfus does is amazing.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:25 AM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Shaun the Sheep has essentially no dialog and lots of subtle, clever visuals and funny moments. I think it is streaming on Amazon Prime.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2017

I’m so sorry just realized you want links - here is the Shaun the Sheep movie restaurant scene.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

A very US-centric list so far!

Two from Fawlty Towers: Basil giving his car a damn good thrashing; don't mention the war. Basil's always a physical performance -- John Cleese plays him as always teetering just on the edge of self-control -- and both of these are moments in which the control snaps.

Only Fools and Horses, Del Boy falls through the bar: a very traditional bit of slapstick, very much beloved in the UK. It works (a) it so totally undercuts Del's attempt at put-upon suaveness, (b) David Jason totally sells the fall, (c) Roger Lloyd Pack as Trigger is so good as the straight man and here gets to do two reactions.

Bottom, Richie is great on the phone because goddamnit I still can't believe Rik Mayall's dead; this is two-and-a-half minutes of increasingly deranged physical comedy monologue dropped into the middle of a two-hander.

The Office, David Brent dances is still cringeingly funny despite Ricky Gervais's determined and repeated milkshake-ducking in the years since: it expresses perfectly and physically just how big the gap is between Brent's self-image and his ability.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:17 PM on November 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Steptoe and Son, Divided We Stand; the whole episode, really, but in particular the breakfast scene starting at 17m and the fighting over the TV that follows.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:06 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was not a fan of the show, but caught a couple of "Keeping Up Appearances" episodes, and Patricia Routledge is very good at physical comedy. I can't point to any one episode, but it comes as a delightful surprise when it happens.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:14 PM on November 11, 2017

Jim Carrey's courtroom babbling in Liar Liar.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:06 AM on November 13, 2017

Everything about this. This breakdown helps one savor the richness and inexplicable complexity of life, planned or unplanned.
posted by the letter at 4:03 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

The maddening and brilliant tedium of Mr. Show's The Story of Everest (aka the thimble sketch).

posted by vverse23 at 11:41 PM on November 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Andy Kaufman's Mighty Mouse; it's almost anti-physical.

D. Lewandowski's going to the store; it's post-physical.

Hors Cycles; its understated crescendo of physical, absurdist character/object-lesson.
posted by progosk at 7:38 AM on November 14, 2017

Catherine O'Hara's sprained ankle schtick in Best in Show makes me cry with laughter every time.
posted by ikahime at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2017

I figured it out! It was Mr. Show: The Story of Everest!

That's Bob Odenkirk's favorite Mr. Show sketch. He says he makes a point to watch it once a year.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:28 PM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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