Where Do the Terms “Ham” and “Slapstick” For a Silly Comedy Come From and What Do They Mean?

In the late nineteenth century, second-rate actors couldn’t afford cold cream to remove their stage makeup.

So they used ham fat and were called hamfatters until early in the twentieth century when these bad actors were simply called “hams.”

Physical comedy became known as “slapstick” because of its regular use of crude sound effects.

Two sticks were slapped together off-stage to accentuate a comic’s onstage pratfall, prat being an Old English term for buttocks.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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