The Deadpan Dynamites

The Art of the Gag

“I do not really think Charlie knows much more about politics, history, or economics than I do. Like myself, he was hit by a make-up towel almost before he was out of diapers.”
Buster Keaton

Two male performers, not so young, not so skinny, are on stage. The above description of their bodies is important since they will try to execute some Gags that were originally performed by young and trained comedians. The discrepancy between their age, physical appearance, their lack of training, the fact that they have no skills when it comes to physical comedy is the center point of departure for the experiment and the show.

As the performance progresses the gags become bigger, more technically demanding, more ambitious regarding the apparatus. Which means only one thing: The failure to execute the gags is colossal. What is taking place on stage is a Sisyphean act. The two performers are trying desperately to make the audience laugh by going bigger and bigger, more and more dangerous, and by that enlarging the possibility of failure.

The actual Gags produced on stage, by the two performers, are bread and butter comedy routine, plus some landmark Gags taken from the history of silent movies and early talkies Hollywood films. But very fast they abandon the original films’ narrative structure and the comedy, to present something that is almost oppressive in its repetition and silence. Their attention is, therefore, shifting to the execution and the danger involve in re-enacting the gag. The audience observes the desperate attempt, by two middle-aged men, to be funny.