Buster Keaton was one such comedian who delivered a dead pan performance of physical comedy. Agee describes him as having the countenance and patience of granite and continues to liken him to a statue. An ironic comparison, as I would like to highlight the inversion of this silent figure and dead pan comedy into its material form, a hominoid pile of rocks, and the inversion of the physical comedy of the chase into dialogue.
In Thor Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017, USA) Thor is introduced to Korg, who servers as his guide in the Grand Masters fighting arena. The comedy of Korg is that of Keaton, to work against the expected. For Korg the expected is founded on the expected format of Marvel movies, action films, and even the iconography of the male super hero. Here Korg is the physical embodiment of a gladiator, a historical icon of strength that has been used to embody the trope of hyper masculinity that was made popular in 80s action films. This trope is used as the foundation for many laughs. From Korg’s genteel voice and the admission of instigating a failed revolution to the embarrassment of only having his mom show up he is constantly the butt of a joke, and we are made more superior for it. Yet the commonality of his moments on screen is his function as the “point of repose” amongst a universe that is in “exquisite flying motion.”(Agee, 26) When Korg towers over Heimdall after saving him from a fatal blow he proceeds to have a casual conversation and disregards the fight which continues around them through the sound scape. The very materiality of Korg’s character is what Buster Keaton attempted to emulate, yet Buster Keaton failed to transition to sound as he used a voice mimetic of his physical rigidity when the beauty of his performance was in the constant juxtaposition of control and movement.
James Agee, “Comedy’s Greatest Age,” Film Writing and Selected Journalism (Washington: Library of America, 2005), 9-33.