Colour Jokes!

Can colour be funny? While the world of silent comedy was – largely – monochrome, later masters of cinematic visual humor such as Jerry Lewis have successfully employed colour for comedy, and we are looking forward to learn more about this delightful subject in the presentation by Hilde D’haeyere (KASK school of arts of University College Ghent):

Colour Jokes: Colour as comedy in silent and sound films

In a 1968 letter, the French clown, comedian and filmmaker Pierre Étaix wrote that colour only becomes obvious when it holds a comic or a dramatic function. According to Étaix, colour is an effect that needs to be made visible. With that idea in mind, my presentation looks into those instances when colour becomes uttermost visible: colour jokes in colour comedies.

In an array of examples from a wide variety of films such as Le peintre néo-impressioniste (Emile Cohl, 1909); Movie-Town, (Mack Sennett, 1931); The Patsy (Jerry Lewis, 1964), Tant qu’on a la santé (Pierre Étaix, 1966) and PlayTime (Jacques Tati, 1967) among others, we examine the use of colour as comedy, when colour is the butt of a joke and its mere presence invokes laughter. From simple punch line humour and running gags, to transformation gags, colour tricks, and meta-jokes, this paper investigates film technology as well as comedy techniques, exploring how each gag ties into a particular tradition of humour, utilizes a typical gag structure, and employs specific mechanisms of cinematography, editing, lighting and special effects techniques.

In the zany universe of slapstick cinema with its visual wizardry and physical form of comedy, colour jokes are the comedic instances that showcase colour, thereby calling attention to comedy techniques and conventions, while baring the devices of colour film technology.

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