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Slapstick – Part 1


People laugh as a reaction to unrealized fear. Even with slapstick.

Slapstick is the basest and crudest of all comedy forms. Easy to perform, it starts early, with toddlers. Toddlers try to stand up and walk, but they often fall. When they do, sometimes they cry, even when they haven’t been hurt. They’re just scared, shocked, and their first reaction is to wail.

But sometimes they laugh. Realizing they haven’t hurt themselves, and pumped with adrenaline and other pick-me-ups, they burst out in spontaneous giddiness.

This behavior is modeled by parents and guardians. When their toddlers stumble and fall, adults have two choices: freak out and inject their babies with fright, a choice often accompanied by prolonged crying and an attitude that will plague those kids for the rest of their lives, their learned fears to be carried with them to the grave (after having been injected in their own children in turn), or, and here’s the good part, they laugh. Adults just laugh.

We’re talking about cases where a child falls but doesn’t get hurt.

So down go the toddlers, bump on the ground with their bums, but they’re alright, they giggle, and their parents giggle, too. The situation is too cute and the baby laughter too infectious to ignore. Most of all, everything is OK. That assaulting fright the parents experienced is gone, extinguished, and their immediate and hardwired reaction is to convey joy.

The laughter feeds back to the toddlers who learn how to express the giddy joy that accompanies a fright that has resulted in no pain, blood, or screaming and frightened adults. They learn to laugh.

And you thought slapstick was dumb and irrelevant.

From the bays of Pearl Coast,

Fish a ton of oysters, find a shiny pearl.