Dec 7, 2022–Have you ever slipped on a banana peel?
Do you know anyone who has slipped on a banana peel?
Have you heard verifiable reports of anyone anywhere who has actually slipped on a banana peel?
I’d bet the answer to all three is, “No, and why are you asking such a stupid question?”
Because if no one in the history of the planet has ever slipped on a banana peel, why is it a trope in every Hanna-Barbera cartoon and slapstick routine that people slip on banana peels? And why did anyone ever think it was funny?
Yet we accept the fact that banana peels are slippery, that people leave them strewn carelessly about, that hapless characters step on them at inopportune times, and that we are supposed to think it is funny.
Why am I beating this dead horse (which is another act that no one has ever actually witnessed)?
Because the banana peel no one ever slipped on is a metaphor for how we mindlessly accept as fact things that are not true.
As shallow thinkers, we all carry around such absurd assumptions. Others from the world of comedy include a ruined man wearing a barrel, a fat cat smoking an exploding cigar, and itching powder. Not one of those situations exists in any non-animated universe.
- A workman applying wallpaper will step in the bucket of glue
- A man carrying a 2×4 on his shoulder will turn around and smack someone in the head
- Two men carrying a pane of glass across the street will get shattered
I refer to this as the “Three Stooges Paradox.” Any physical pratfall that occurs in a Three Stooges film has never and will never happen in real life.
I am among the minority that never thought the Stooges were funny. There was too much pain. Even as a boy I didn’t understand why people thought that hitting someone, painting their tongues, pulling out fistfuls of hair, twisting their nose, or shoving them in wet cement was remotely humorous.
There was no wordplay, jokes, humor, or whimsey. The only entertainment value was watching grown men act silly, a behavior I never witnessed among the farmers, teachers, priests, and storekeepers I grew up around.
I was not surprised that the internet has weighed in on the question: Are the Three Stooges funny? I was surprised how many shared my opinion:
- They are a bunch of overweight, grown men hitting each other in the head with various objects.
- Watching grown men beat the snot out of each other with no real consequence, either physical or emotional, is downright tedious.
- It’s the same joke over and over.
- The Three Stooges’ primary appeal is to that 10-year-old boy who absolutely cannot stop giggling when someone gets hit in the groin with a football.
One way of judging humor is transposing it into alternate universes.
For example, what if the Stooges were female? Would seeing three women pulling hair and poking eyes be funny, or just oddly disturbing?
What if three new Stooges tried to make films today? Would they still be funny, or just offensive? Would they even be allowed to be seen?
As one writer noted, the skits would be life-threatening and illegal in the real world. Moe would have been incarcerated for assault and attempted murder.
It was a different time, with limited entertainment options for kids. If it was a cartoon or grown men acting silly, we watched it, even if we didn’t get the jokes, like Rocky & Bullwinkle; even if the jokes were repetitive, like The Flintstones; even if the stories were insipid and animation was crude, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
And even if the only lesson we learned was to stay away from banana peels.