FOOD FOR LAUGH S

ZOOMER Magazine - - ZOOM IN ETC -

LEG­END HAS it that “Slid­ing” Billy Wat­son, a turn of the century vaude­ville star, saw a per­son slip on a ba­nana peel and in­cor­po­rated it as a gag into his act, for­ever al­ter­ing the course of com­edy.

Slip­ping on a ba­nana peel is, of course, the epit­ome of time­less com­edy. Its in­her­ently funny, so the hu­mour only el­e­vates as the foil floun­ders be­fore tum­bling, and the gag tran­scends gen­er­a­tions and cul­tures, re­quir­ing no di­a­logue or con­text while ap­peal­ing to au­di­ences from age four to 104. It is the great comedic uni­fier.

The gag also stands as a pi­o­neer­ing pop cul­ture marriage of food and farce – a pair­ing as nat­u­ral as Ab­bott and Costello. Af­ter all, a hearty laugh is as sat­is­fy­ing as a hearty meal and, like great cui­sine, comedic food gags evolve over time. A quarter century af­ter Wat­son’s ba­nana peel slip, Char­lie Chap­lin made din­ner rolls dance on the ends of his forks in the leg­endary scene from The Gold Rush. Decades later Lucy and Ethel gob­bled choco­lates from a fac­tory con­veyor belt on I Love Lucy in one of the most beloved, and fun­ni­est, mo­ments in tele­vi­sion his­tory. Mean­while, the 1965 film The Great Race took the pie-in-the-face gag to a whole new level in what’s dubbed “the great­est pie fight of all time” – a four-minute se­quence that re­port­edly took five days to film and em­ployed a record 4,000 pies. Paul Newman downed 50 hard-boiled eggs for laughs in 1967’s Cool Hand Luke, while en­su­ing decades brought clas­sic food fol­lies from An­nie Hall’s loose lob­sters on the kitchen floor to Monty Python’s glut­tonous ex­plod­ing diner in The Mean­ing of Life to the clas­sic “I’ll have what she’s hav­ing” quip from When Harry Met Sally.

Given you could fill a horn of plenty with all the food gags through­out stage, film and tele­vi­sion his­tory, it’s no won­der that “Slid­ing” Billy Wat­son once ad­mit­ted, “I never go past a ba­nana peel on the side­walk now with­out feel­ing in­clined to take off my hat and bow to it in a spirit of rev­er­ence.” —Mike Criso­lago

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