"Strange Interludes?": Carnivalesque Inversions and the Humorous Music of the Marx Brothers
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The Marx Brothers are known as iconic comedians, and much of the literature on them focuses on the humorous content of their films. Many scholars describe the Marx Brothers as iconoclasts, aiming negative satire at elite institutions. In nearly all of their films, the Marx Brothers perform musical numbers, but very few scholars have looked at these numbers in detail, or incorporated them into analyses of their comedy. Drawing on the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin, Henri Bergson, and Jacques Lacan, this paper offers an analysis of the films that incorporates their musical numbers as critical elements of their act, and repositions their comedy as positive and carnivalesque, rather than negative and satirical. Connections are made between the Marx Brothers' nonmusical humor, including verbal humor, pantomime, and gags, and their musical humor, specifically Chico's piano performances, Harpo's harp performances, and Groucho's songs.
- Music