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Comedy characterized by broad humour, absurd situations, and vigorous, often violent action. It took its name from a paddlelike device, probably introduced by 16th-century commedia dell'arte troupes, that produced a resounding whack when one comic actor used it to strike another. Slapstick comedy became popular in 19th-century music halls and vaudeville theatres and was carried into the 20th century by silent-movie comedians such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops and later by Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on slapstick, visit Britannica.com.