Much American humor, since the beginnings of' our country, has been based upon a gentle ridicule of authority. From King George to our current president, no person or institution has been immune from providing a laugh.
During the 20's one of our most important authority institutions, the police department, became victim through the antics of Max Sennett's Keystone Cops. Americans universally laughed at the total ineptness of these guardians of law and order. Even today, the name Keystone Cops remains a synonym for confusion.
We as later day Cops have a decided advantage as we emulate these old timers. There are few people remaining today who can remember precisely what the Cops did as they romped through the two reelers. Since they were so much a part of the silent picture era, the total mystic of the silents has descended upon the cops. People today expect us to walk like Charlie Chaplin's famous tramp characterization. They expect pie throwing, high-speed chase, jerky movements and most important, no words; the real Keystone Cops as did all movie stars of their time relied upon the exonerated gestures so necessary to convey meaning in pantomime.
To be true Keystone Cops, we must understand the humor of the silent era. Surprise had little place. Rather, laughs were produced by the audience Anticipating what was, going to happen and humor mounted as delay was extended. As an example today, shooting the shotgun through the floorboards of the paddy wagon is not Keystone Cop humor per se. Throwing a "stick of dynamite under the paddy, wagon with the total knowledge of the crowd and then joining them in the anticipation of the explosion caused by the shotgun is Keystone Cop humor.
In future issues we will further examine ways in which we can enhance our Keystone Cop image both as individuals and as a group. If we are going to remain number one, we've got to work at it