Buster Keaton Jokes

I am looking for a listing of Buster Keaton jokes. Please include

source. Need this ASAP.

Request for Question Clarification bypafalafa-ga

Hello rmc25-ga,

What sort of listing did you have in mind?

Since Buster Keaton was a silent film star, most of his jokes were of

the visual variety, so I'm not quite sure how they can easily be


Keaton was also a notorious practical joker, and many of his antics

have been written up, and are accessible. Is this the sort of

information you need?

Let me know in a bit more detail what sort of information you're looking for.



Clarification of Question byrmc25-ga

Yes – exactly.

Buster was a silent film era star, so any thing that lists examples of

his visual jokes or gags and anything that lists his practical jokes

and antics would be great.


Request for Question Clarification bypafalafa-ga


Thanks for getting back to me.

I'm trying to figure out the best way to proceed on this question.

There's a fair amount of information available on Buster Keaton, but

the actual jokes and gags come in bits and pieces in many different


It would help to know:

1. How much detail you want for a particular gag, and

2. How many gags/jokes would meet your needs?

As a for instance, here's one item — a description given by Keaton

himself — that I came across:


There's only one way you might remember that picture Hard Luck. There

were something like four outstanding belly laughs….I mean, a laugh

that you didn't forget for a while. That picture, a two-reeler, had

about four of those in. The last one was one of the most talked-of

gags that has ever been done in the picture business.

I got out by a country club, in an open-air swimming pool, and there

was a very high diving platform there for some professionals. So just

to show off in front of the girls lounging around the pool, I climbed

up to the top of it, and posed, and did a beautiful swan dive off the

top of that thing. And I missed the pool! I made a hole in the ground,

disappeared; people came up and looked down in the hole, shrugged

their shoulders, and the scene faded out. It faded in to a title that

said "Years Later," and faded back in to a scene: the swimming pool

now was empty, cracked, nobody around the place, deserted. And I came

up out of the hole with a Chinese wife and two kids, and pointed up to

the platform and said, "I dove off there–that's what happened."

That was the fade-out of the picture, and that audience would still be

laughing getting into their cars in the parking lots.


I think I can rustle up five or six descriptions like that from a

variety of sources. What else would you need beyond that…?


One thought on “Buster Keaton Jokes

  1. Hello,

    I am responding to your question regarding a list of Buster Keaton's

    sight gags and jokes websites. Following are some descriptions of

    sight gags and jokes orchestrated by Buster Keaton.


    The following first four scenes quoted below are described by Buster

    Keaton in The Autumn/Winter 1965 issue of Sight And Sound magazine

    featuring Buster on the cover, with an in-depth interview by John

    Gillet and James Blue inside.

    J.G.: One of the best gags in the film is the moment when you swing

    out by a rope from the river-bank and catch the girl almost in mid-air

    as she goes over the big waterfall. How did you stage this very tricky


    B.K.: We had to build that dam: we built it in order to fit that

    trick. The set was built over a swimming pool, and we actually put up

    four eight-inch water pipes, with big pumps and motors to run them, to

    carry the water up from the pool to create our waterfall. That fall

    was about six inches deep. A couple of times I swung out underneath

    there and dropped upside down when I caught her. I had to go down to

    the doctor right there and then. They pumped out my ears and nostrils

    and drained me, because when a full volume of water like that comes

    down and hits you and you're upside down then you really get it.



    J.B.: By the time you came to the features, the action was no longer

    just the basis for the gags but thoroughly integrated with them. Do

    you consistently look for a gag that will help to advance the action?

    B.K.: Take one from a picture that I am about to re-release, The Seven

    Chances. I am running away from a batch of women who are chasing me. A

    friend has put it in the paper that I'll marry anybody so long as I

    can be married by five o'clock – it has to do with inheriting an

    estate or whatever. So all the women in the world show up to get

    married. They chase me out of the church, and so on. I went down to

    the dunes just off the Pacific Ocean out at Los Angeles, and I

    accidentally dislodged a boulder in coming down. All I had set up for

    the scene was a camera panning with me as I came over the skyline and

    was chased down into the valley. But I dislodged this rock, and it in

    turn dislodged two others, and they chased me down the hill.

    That's all there was: just three rocks. But the audience at the

    preview sat up in their seats and expected more. So we went right back

    and ordered 1,500 rocks built, from bowling alley size up to boulders

    eight feet in diameter. Then we went out to the Ridge Route, which is

    in the High Sierras, to a burnt mountain steeper than a forty-five

    degree angle. A couple of truckloads of men

    took those rocks up and planted them; and then I went up to the top,

    and came down with the rocks. That gag gave me the whole final chase,

    and it was an accident in the first place.



    J.B.: Can you remember how that gag came to you, out of the film's situation ?

    B.K.: Well, the situation of the picture at that point is that she

    says 'never speak to me again until you're in uniform.' So the bottom

    has dropped out of everything, and I've got nothing to do but sit down

    on my engine and think. I don't know why they rejected me: they didn't

    tell me it was because they didn't want to take a locomotive engineer

    off his duty. My fireman wants to put the engine away in the

    round-house and doesn't know that I'm sitting on the cross bar, and

    starts to take it in.

    I was running that engine myself all through the picture: I could

    handle that thing so well I was stopping it on a dime. But when it

    came to this shot I asked the engineer whether we could do it.

    He said: 'There's only one danger. A fraction too much steam with

    these old-fashioned engines and the wheel spins. And if it spins it

    will kill you right then and there.' We tried it out four or five

    times, and in the end the engineer was satisfied that he could handle

    it. So we went ahead and did it. I wanted a fade-out laugh for that

    sequence: although it's not a big gag it's cute and funny enough to

    get me a nice laugh."



    J.B.: And you look for a gag to get yourself out of a situation: the

    pole-vault gag with the spear for instance in The Three Ages. There

    you were in a situation where you had to get the girl out of the hands

    of Wallace Beery. How did you work your way to the spear vault from


    B.K.: I couldn't just run over a batch of rocks or something to get to

    her: I had to invent something, find something unexpected, and

    pole-vaulting with a spear seemed to be it.



    These next gag scenes involving Buster Keaton are descrbed by his leading lady.

    "Marion Mack was Buster's leading lady in the 1926 classic The

    General. On December 18, 1972, she made a personal appearance at a

    screening of the film in Toronto – her first promotional appearance

    for the film! The screening was followed by an on-stage interview

    conducted by Raymond Rohauer"

    "RR: Can you think of other incidents Iike that where you improvised

    right on camera ?

    MM: Oh yes, we did that all the time. You know the scene on the engine

    where I'm supposed to feed the fire, l'm supposed to be a little dumb

    about it. So somebody said I should get hold of a log with a knothole

    in it, and throw it away. I did that, but I didn't think the audience

    would understand it, and then I saw a very small piece of wood, and I

    picked it up and threw it in. Buster liked it so right away he built

    it up; I mean he picked up an even smaller piece, just a splinter

    really to see if I would be dumb enough to use that, too. And of

    course I did, and so he jumped on me as if he was going to choke me,

    but at the last moment he really gave me a little peck on the cheek. I

    think I got that kiss more for thinking of the gag than for anything

    else. And none of this was in written form at all."



    An account of a practical joke that Buster Keaton played on his leading lady.

    "RR: When did you feel that the ice was broken ?

    MM: I guess when he started playing jokes on me. In his book, when he

    made you the butt of some practical joke, that meant you were OK.

    Funny you should mention breaking ice, one of the first gags he ever

    played on me was to have a couple of the guys grab me from behind and

    hang me upside down over a cake of ice as we were on the way to

    location on the train. I already had my make-up on, which took about

    an hour to do, and all of it got ruined and I was very

    uncomfortable, so as soon as they put me down again I went and punched

    Buster in the eye. It gave him such a shiner they had to stop shooting

    for a week. This was before I understood that he meant no harm. He'd

    go to any length to get a laugh, but there was no malice in his

    practical jokes."



    "RR: So he kept it up even after you hit him in the eye ?

    MM: Oh boy, he sure did. Like the time he found out that sometimes I

    used to like to take my bike and go up about three miles from Cottage

    Grove to a spot on the river that was nice and secluded, and there I

    would swim. So he and a couple of his buddies sneaked up after me one

    day, and found where I left my clothes and tied them up in such knots

    that I couldn't unravel them. And so I had to pedal back to Cottage

    Grove in my bathing suit, and this was quite a shocking thing to do in

    1926, you simply didn't ride a bike in your bathing suit in those

    days, and a wet one at that!"



    A description of a funny scene in a Buster Keaton movie.

    "RR: When you get into the sack the first time, there in the woods

    when Buster is supposed to pick you up, was that really you in there

    when he Iifts it?

    MM: Yes, again, like I told you, he was supposed to let the other girl

    get in, she was about ten pounds lighter, anyway, and so I didn't

    think Buster would be too anxious to lug me around. But, as I told

    you, by now I think he got used to me, and so he always found a way to

    keep me in the scene. But you knowt in this scene another accident

    happened which they left in; he is supposed to empty the sack which is

    full of Army boots, and when he did it his own shoes came off and for

    a while he couldn't find the right ones among all the other shoes. It

    was never planned but since it looked funny, they kept it in the

    picture. And then he gets me in the sack and all of a sudden I feel

    he's picking me up, but he was stronger than I thought, and it never

    fazed him a bit. And that's really my hand you see uncoupling the

    wagons from inside the sack later.



    Buster plays a joke on someone at a party.

    "RR: Did you see Keaton anymore after the filming ?

    MM: Yes, we remained friends and saw him off and on. I remember one

    time, right after we finished The General, we were invited to a New

    Year's Eve party in Caliente, at a night club owned by Joe Schenck,

    and Buster was there, and he did one of his famous slides. As I told

    you, he would go anywhere for a laugh, and he did one of the bits he

    learned on stage, slid on his stomach right across the whole dance

    floor. And the reason he did it, he saw Peggy Joyce, she was one of

    the supposed glamor girls with more jewelry than anyone in the world,

    sitting there across the floor, so he did the slide and pretended to

    get all mixed up and accidentally on purpose he tipped over her chair

    and spilled her all over the floor. I guess he just wanted to take her

    down a peg."



    Bits & Pieces #10 – LIFE February 1966 @ Buster Keaton : From Butcher Boy To Scribe

    "Keaton was a wonderfully resourceful inventor of mechanistic gags (he

    spent much of his adult time fooling with Erector sets); as he ran

    afoul of locomotives, steamships, prefabricated and over-electrified

    houses, he put himself through some of the hardest and cleverest

    punishment ever designed for laughs. In Sherlock Jr., boiling along on

    the handlebars of a motorcycle quite unaware that he has lost his

    driver, Keaton whips through city traffic, breaks up a tug-of-war,

    gets a shovelfull of dirt in the face from each of a long line of

    Rockettetimed ditch-diggers, approaches a log at high speed which is

    hinged open by dynamite precisely soon enough to let him through and,

    hitting an obstruction, leaves the handlebars like an arrow leaving a

    bow, whams through the window of a shack in which the heroine is about

    to be violated, and hits the heavy feet-first, knocking him through

    the opposite wall. The whole sequence is as clean in motion as the

    trajectory of a bullet."



    Buster Keaton Page

    This site descibes a complicated sight gag involving mutiple images of

    Buster Keaton.

    "The mechanical quality of Keaton's unsmiling humor grabs my

    attention. He was a "gadget man", often using simple and complicated

    props and sight gags. He utilized his crack cameramen to do

    "impossible" shots, such as the beginning of "The Playhouse" (1921),

    in which Buster goes to see a minstel show. He not only is there to

    see the show, but he is every other audience member, the stage crew,

    and the cast! One famous shot is of Buster on stage doing the

    minstrel act. There are NINE Keatons on stage, dancing away! The shot

    involved using the same piece of film exposed again and again for each

    time Keaton did his bit before the camera.

    The same was done with a scene in which Buster dances with himself. We

    see him double, doing the same dance. But he shot the scene twice, on

    the same bit of film. Knowing this, his timing seems even more




    This website gives a full description of a sight gag in Steamboat Bill, Jr.:

    "Images – Buster Keaton: The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., and Battling Butler"

    "Visually, the film lacks strong sight gags and verve until the final

    twenty minutes, at which point Keaton performs some of his grandest

    stunts. A cyclone knocks Keaton through the streets of this

    Mississippi town. Buildings around him are shredded by wind. The front

    of a house is ripped from its joints. Keaton, nonplussed, stands still

    as the house crashes on top of him. The second-floor dormer window

    neatly drops over him, clearing his head by mere inches and leaving

    him unblemished. This is perhaps Keaton's most famous stunt. Moments

    later, Keaton clutches a tree caught in the wind. The tree is uprooted

    and Keaton goes on a death-defying thirty foot ride in the air and

    across the stage lot. Sensational."



    A few more gags from the same site:

    "For example, in his second letter, he says he's working on Wall

    Street, "cleaning up in a big way." She envisions him as a rich, swank

    business type, but the following scene showcases Keaton as a street

    sweeper, working the lower East Side, scooping up horse dung!"



    Four funny scenes with site gags are included in the following:

    "And in a series of wonderful sight gags, Keaton manipulates offscreen

    space to drop in and out of the frame via a manhole. But Keaton saves

    his best and most dangerous stunts for his fourth and final letter.

    "The police follow my every step," he writes and she envisions him as

    a patriotic hero! In reality, he's running from the police. In one

    stunning stunt, Keaton flips up and grabs the back of a cable car. His

    hands hold the rail as his prone rigid body seemingly flies through

    the air.

    And later, once he becomes trapped in the spinning wheel of a

    steamboat, Keaton flips around like a hamster as he tries to stay

    upright. Eventually Keaton returns home in a mailbag, a failure."



    Canadian Society of Cinematographers – news and media releases

    Camera Operator Sammy Jackson-Samuels remembers:

    "Keaton was constantly playing practical jokes, Sammy recalled. ?One

    day he came in completely disguised, without his trademark pork-pie

    hat, and then he proceeded to sweep the floor with a big broom. ?I

    haven?t been paid for three weeks,? he said, ?so I might as well just

    join the cleanup crew.??

    At one point, Sammy said, Keaton threatened to walk off the picture

    unless he got paid, ?and they came up with a cheque for him.? DOP

    Garmes, on the other hand, was quite generous with the production?s

    money. ?He ordered six light meters at $120 apiece ? that was a lot of

    money in those days, more than a week?s salary ? and when he liked

    somebody on the set he would present them with a light meter. I?ve

    still got mine.?




    March 1923

    Low Comedy as a High Art

    Malcolm H. Oettinger

    "And it is the mechanical gag that Keaton has mastered. Take the

    situation in "The Boat," where, after having built a boat, he finds

    that he has not made the doorway large enough, and consequently, as

    the boat slides to the water, it pulls the shed down with it. Take the

    situation in "One Week." Buster has ordered a Sears-Roebuck bungalow

    for his bride-to- be. The wicked rival mixes the numerals on the

    various parts, and the comedy ensues when Buster attempts to assemble

    the jazzed sections. This is mechanically perfect giggle material"



    I hope that you find this information useful. If I can be of further

    assistance, please let me know. jdb-ga

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