We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.
Entertainment

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What is a Pratfall?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated: May 23, 2024

Pratfalls are a classic technique utilized throughout the history of the stage and screen. Essentially, a pratfall is some type of intentional exaggerated fall that is used as a slapstick comedic tool to elicit laughter from the audience. Perhaps the classic example of a pratfall is that of an individual slipping on a banana peel that was just discarded by another person. The combination of unexpected events, exaggerated movement, and the embarrassment of falling to the ground has delighted audiences for centuries.

While the basic elements of the pratfall have been part of entertainment for as long as recorded history, the device came into its own during the early 20th century and the days of vaudeville. Many vaudeville shows were staged to move at a fast pace and elicit instant response from the audience. This led many of the comedic stage acts of the day to include sequences in their routines for people slipping on a freshly mopped floor, or tripping and landing on a table full of cream pies. While predictable even in those early years, the pratfall rarely failed to achieve the desired result.

With the dawn of movies, the pratfall also became a common visual device used in silent films. Since the medium relied heavily on broad movements to convey emotions among the players, the pratfall was an ideal device to employ in many of the more famous comedies of the day. After movies moved on to include sound as well as visuals, the pratfall was enhanced with the addition of screams, warnings intended to alert someone to an impending but ultimately funny fall, and various remarks by the person who just took the fall. Comedy teams such as Laurel and Hardy often made good use of the pratfall.

Television continued the legacy of the pratfall well into the latter part of the 20th century. The television variety show format that was popular from the 1950’s to the 1970’s often used the device as part of an overall broad comedy sketch format that was the staple of some of the biggest shows of the day. Many people consider comedienne Carol Burnett to be the consummate performer when it comes to sketch physical comedy and the use of pratfalls.

Pratfalls were not confined to variety shows when it came to television. Situation comedies often included the use of pratfalls as part of the action with main characters in the productions. In this respect, Lucille Ball is often cited as one of the most beloved and most adept of actresses to employ the use of the pratfall within a situation comedy setting.

Today, the pratfall remains a staple of entertainment on both the stage and screen. While perhaps not a prominent as in times past, the device continues to delight audiences and will not doubt continue to do so for many years.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseTour, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
Share
WiseTour, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseTour, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.