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A Turning Point in Slapstick

Roosevelt-CHili-2007_Blazing_Saddles_Campfire.jpgNo matter how many advances we make in the art of filmmaking, a person falling down will always be funny. In the same way that gore will always produce a base-level fear in horror movies, there is something undeniably humorous about the awkward physicality of man. But that doesn’t mean this most basic of gaffes has remained static over the years. Sometime between The Three Stooges and Dumb and Dumber, a major shift occurred in slapstick, from pokes-in-the-eye and pies-on-the-face, to well, toilet humor.

I’ll save you the suspense and agony of guessing when. The shift was in 1974, and the film was Mel Brooks’ seminal Blazing Saddles. This raunchy, racist and sexist spoof (which, like every Brooks film, so callously attacked every politically incorrect topic under the Western sun) was the first mainstream Hollywood film to display flatulence. It is an honor that was not lost on Warner Brothers, which attempted to cut the offending scene — along with the film’s use of a certain n-word and the horse-punch bit. Thankfully, Brooks’ contracted guaranteed him final cut. And thus, the most offensive scene in one of the era’s most outrageously, hilariously offensive movies gave birth to the era of filmed flatulence, an era that has prospered ever since.

So the next time you’re watching the adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (1993), and Michael Keaton’s Dogberry farts himself awake, remember to say a silent (but deadly) thank you to Mel Brooks.

Blazing Saddles will play on AMC Saturday February 23 at 9 AM | 8C. Click here for the film’s full schedule.

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