Gene Sheldon – Comedian

If you could make an animated character as funny as Gene Sheldon, you would be doing something great.  Sheldon was a baggy pants comedian, whose character was in the style of the childish man, similar to Harry Langdon.  In this entertaining compilation, note that he is an excellent banjo player.  The lesson is that foolish characters can endear themselves to audiences by showing great skill.

I also like how his loose clothing helps accentuate his motion. Some smart animator could make use of cloth simulation to get the same effect.

Funny Short: Mobile

Mobile is a great short film directed by Verena Fels.

It’s simple, short, and funny.  The characters are super appealing.  I am particularly fond of short stories that wrap up nicely.  Of course, I am attracted by the non verbal nature of the comedy.

Cartoon Comedy Duos

I’ve recently read a couple of posts on other blogs about 2 man comedy teams.

The first was Pretty Clown, Ugly Clown by Anthony Balducci. It is a look at some interesting combinations of actors in movies.

The second post, Odd Couples by John Towsen is about some lesser known comedy pairings from the stage.

For animators, the idea of a comedy duo usually starts with the simple idea of Fat Guy/Skinny Guy like Laurel and Hardy, and Abbot and Costello.   But really, the physical appearance won’t take the work very far.  There needs to that special chemistry that creates contrast.  Tex Avery is often remembered for his wacky wolf character.  But it was the second wolf who was smooth and debonair who completed the scene.

Tex also created the ever calm Droopy Dog, but Droopy always played against a high energy partner:

The dysfunctional friends Ren and Stimpy  had one of the more complex relationships in animation.  More like a classic comedy team. They were real partners, sharing in each other’s lives, but each had very different personalities, and were often at odds.

When Porky Pig and Daffy Duck worked together, they were somewhat similar to the classic team.  While they  weren’t enemies, they weren’t pals either.

Another classic way to put two characters together is the star/sidekick team, such as Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.   Wallace and Gromit, due to their owner/dog relationship can be considered an evolved example of this.  While the sidekick is often the smarter of the two, the star is the character who causes the action.  I’m thinking that Rocky & Bullwinkle fall into this category.

I suppose it’s possible to consider a pair of antagonists to be a comedy team.  In fact, it may be the most common kind found in cartoons.  You have your Roadrunner and Coyote, Tom and Jerry, Bugs and Elmer, Sylvestor and Tweety, Foghorn Leghorn and George P. Dog.  Those arrangements obviously have a predator/prey relationship with the predator usually getting the worst of the situation.  Still, each has unique characters that carry out their parts in their own style.

Comedy teams don’t always have to be in contrast with each other.  Animation has the unusual combination of two characters that are very similar, such as Chip n’ Dale, and Heckle and Jeckle.  These characters always work as a team to harrass a third character.

Mac and Tosh were a pair of gophers who premiered in the Bob Clampett short,  Goofy Gophers.  They played against a dog character.  Here is a bit of trivia from wikipedia:

The gophers’ mannerisms and speech were patterned after Frederick Burr Opper‘s comics characters Alphonse and Gaston, which in the early 1900s engendered a “good honest laugh”. The crux of each four-frame strip was the ridiculousness of the characters’ over-politeness preventing their ability to get on with the task at hand.

The pair’s dialogue is peppered with such over politeness as “Indubitably!”, “You first, my dear,” and “But, no, no, no. It must be you who goes first!” The two often also tend to use unnecessarily long words, for example, in Lumber Jerks, instead of “We gotta get our tree back”, they say “We must take vital steps to reclaim our property.” Clampett later stated that the gophers’ effeminate mannerisms were derived from character actors Franklin Pangborn and Edward Everett Horton.

 

 

Conducting Comedy

With his black tie and tails, serious expression, leading classical music, the conductor of an orchestra is the epitome of high culture. That makes him the perfect target for parody. The musicians synchronizing to every motion is why the clown can work so well with the challenge. I have found several entries that show how different comedians take different approaches. One situation, many possibilities.

Here is a classic example form Denis Lacombe.

What prompted this post was my viewing of “One Good Turn” starring Norman Wisdom. He happens to be wearing a tuxedo, and gets mistaken for the maestro who is late for the show. He takes a clever turn by having the baton stuck to his hand and not noticing the orchestra is following him. Once he’s thrown off, he continues to milk the situation for comedy.

And here is Weird Al Yankovic with a surprisingly physical turn.

Rowan Atkinson has his version:

Jerry Lewis starts to seem mild in comparison to some of these.

Mickey Mouse in the famous Disney short, “The Band Concert”.

Do opera singers have conductors? Bugs Bunny will make it happen.

And thanks to Matt Moses, I am adding this from the great Victor Borge:

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