The Body Out of Control

People have a fascination with human movement that defies norms. Often it is the beautiful and extraordinary, such as dance or acrobatics, but it can also be the ungainly and strange. When we see someone moving oddly, we stop and try to comprehend what is going on.  Spasmodic, or erratic, motion has always had a certain use in comedy. The staggering drunk is probably the most common.  Jerry Lewis had an awkward running style that was one of his signature actions.  But lets focus on characters who really are not in control of their motor functions.

This music video for Fatboy Slim is both slapstick and really cool.  It was created by the Swedish firm Traktor. Plus it has cartoons in it!

Obviously their are wires yanking their bodies around and then the wires are removed in post production. But the effect is wild. It’s not unlike some moments in Ratatouille when Remy is manipulating Linquini.

Strange movement is one of the reasons zombies are so interesting to audiences.  I will confess, I have not seen the either of the Weekend at Bernie’s movies.  As far as I can tell, at some point the dead Bernie is re-animated through some sort of voodoo ritual. His odd motion became a dance craze.

And we must remember this modern classic. It has over 27 million views on YouTube for the very reason I am describing.

Eccentric Dancing: The Honeymooners.

Animators need to watch eccentric dancing.  This is dancing that’s intended to make you laugh. It’s the simplest form of physical comedy. To help introduce you to the best funny dancing of the past, I post the best clips I can find. If you click on the tag “dance” to the right, you can see more.

Here I share two great clips from the classic television show The Honeymooners.   If you aren’t familiar with the program, it was an inspiration for the The Flintstones.  The star was Jackie Gleason, his character was named Ralph Kramden. His buddy was his upstairs neighbor, Ed Norton, played by actor Art Carney.

In one episode, Ralph wants to learn to dance, so Ed tries shows him some moves.

This next compilation is set to some fun music, and gives a quick look at Jackie Gleason’s dancing.

Silly Dance

I love eccentric dancing. “Eccentric” is another word for funny.

This example has some simple lessons. The male dancer is obviously playing drunk. The odd positions of his feet give his legs a strange tension, and make him appear unbalanced, something contrary to dancers. One of the simplest methods of comedy is to appear foolish and out of control, but still be able to do amazing things. Here, the drunk can still dance better than most people.

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