In this day and age, more people have become used to entertainment which makes use of conversation, singing, and, ultimately words. One may think that the days of silent films and entertainment are forever gone. However, that is not the case. Entertainment without the use of words is very much alive, particularly in the form of silent comedy. This brings us to the topic of interpreting silent comedy!
But first, let’s answer an important question: what is silent comedy? This type of acting is similar to that of miming, wherein an actor uses exaggerated physical movement and comically bold facial expressions to relay their emotions and ultimately tell a story to the audience. Initially gaining popularity in the early 20th century during the silent film era, silent comedy is now more popularly known as slapstick or sight gags and is still being used today in comedic film features, TV shows and in street acts. The beauty lies in the fact that you do not need to know a particular language to enjoy these silent comedy films. The translation and interpretation are to be done by you alone, whatever language you speak.
The Great Charlie Chaplin
One of the forerunners of silent comedy acts is Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, more commonly known as Charlie Chaplin. He was a composer, actor, and director with a long and colorful career spanning over 75 years. He brought comedy and laughter to film using visual acting methods such as slapstick and mime. Miming and slapstick acts make use of bold movements and exaggerated actions.
One of the famous gag acts is one in which an actor steps onto a banana peel on the floor and makes bold and comical movements while slipping. Big and exaggerated facial expressions were also used by silent film actors such as Charlie Chaplin to relay the story to the crowd further. During the popularity of silent films, acting without the use of words was a challenging feat. With these acting methods, Charlie Chaplin effectively portrayed his comedic roles and relayed his story to the audience during the era wherein movies with speaking lines were literally unheard of.
Mr. Bean’s Fame
Another actor widely known for his silent comedic acting skills is British actor Rowan Atkinson. Atkinson gained worldwide recognition when he began portraying his iconic character, Mr. Bean.
Mr. Bean is a fictitious character who seems like a little boy trapped in a man’s body. The show revolves around Mr. Bean getting into weird and problematic situations while doing his everyday business and tasks and attempting to solve these problems comedically. The main character, Mr. Bean, rarely makes verbal dialogue with any of the supporting characters and makes use of bold and exaggerated actions to relay his “acted” dialogue to the audience. This show mainly uses physical humor, and verbal words are not needed to convey the story.
Like Charlie Chaplin, Mr. Bean shows modern society that silent comedy is still alive. The tried and tested comedic styles such as slapstick and gag acts are still being used today. These bold movements and exaggerated acting techniques can relay the story to a crowd without ever having to utter a single word.
The Influence of Silent Comedians and How We Go About Interpreting Silent Comedy
Charlie Chaplin and comedic film characters like Mr. Bean have greatly influenced how we view comedic entertainment. Characters like them show us that it is still possible to watch highly entertaining movies and shows that do not use words. Their fantastic skill to mesmerize the audience with bold slapstick and mime-like actions without ever having to utter a word is something not easily accomplished. Many actors in this modern age rely on dialogue to convey their roles effectively. Actors like Charlie Chaplin and Rowan Atkinson are a rare breed of actors who can successfully perform silent comedies. Their influences in today’s entertainment business will still be felt for years to come.
Wrapping Interpreting Silent Comedy
Silence is golden, but sometimes we need help communicating with others. Still, for other actors doing slapstick comedies and gag shows without using spoken words, care should also be given to their actions and exaggerated movements lest they be misinterpreted, unless the shows they do are only shown locally. For the global audience, where some gestures and facial movements are read and interpreted, learning what to avoid could greatly help in the greater enjoyment of the shows without any danger of censorship. And the translations and interpretations of their facial movements, gestures, and exaggerated actions would be on safer grounds.
Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.