The playwright Charles MacArthur had been brought to Hollywood to do a screenplay, but was finding it difficult to write visual jokes.
"What’s the problem?" asked Chaplin.
"How, for example, could I make a fat lady, walking down Fifth Avenue, slip on a banana peel and still get a laugh? It’s been done a million times," said MacArthur. "What’s the best way to GET the laugh? Do I show first the banana peel, then the fat lady approaching, then she slips? Or do I show the fat lady first, then the banana peel, and THEN she slips?"
"Neither," said Chaplin without a moment’s hesitation. "You show the fat lady approaching; then you show the banana peel; then you show the fat lady and the banana peel together; then she steps OVER the banana peel and disappears down a manhole."
We’ve been working on comedic scenes in voice and speech and my teacher shared this anecdote with us in class last week. This Chaplin story was used to illustrate the importance of unexpected delivery and presentation of a joke and punch-line.