Bergson's boffo laughter

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Beginning with an imagined encounter between Buster Keaton and Henri Bergson, this article offers a fundamental rereading of Bergson's Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (1900) and its theoretical, historical, and formal links to slapstick cinema. It focuses on neglected references by Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, and James Agee to a sympathetic, schizophrenic, and "boffo" laughter viscerally connecting audiences to slapstick's absurdly vitalized machines and acrobatic automatons. It argues for a more dialectical relationship between terms often opposed in Bergsonian accounts of both slapstick comedy and cinematic apperception, including vitality and mechanism, laughing and comical bodies, and cold pragmatism and sensorial sympathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-31
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Cinema and Media Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2021


  • Comedy
  • Slapstick
  • Henri Bergson
  • Buster Keaton


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