When first reading about Gunning’s ‘rascal’ and ‘victim’, I thought of a sketch comedy YouTube video by Gus Johnson: ‘pranking women in public by respecting their distance and not bothering them’ (2019). Johnson directly references the modern trend of public pranks uploaded to YouTube – in which harassment against women is played for laughs. This is far removed from the technology and context of the Lumiere’s ‘mischief gags’ of the late 19th century that Gunning is concerned with. However, I believe there is a key connection between the two, and that the video’s comedy would not arise without longstanding notions of ‘rascal’ and ‘victim’, as well as the gendered history of such comedy.
Johnson’s video and its humour does not originate from an ‘interruption’ or ‘explosion’ of the victim’s routine, as Gunning describes, but through an ironic lack of action. The video’s irony is formed due to the audience’s expectation of a meeting between rascal and victim (in this case, harasser and woman). This expectation links to both Gunning’s victim/rascal dynamic, as well as the often gendered and sexualised forms these gags would take – interrupting women undressing, having sex and so on.
Gunning’s central ideas of technology and spectacle observe the rascal manipulating a mechanism in order to begin the gag. Johnson’s video further satires this trope, as he has no mechanism with which to harass (unlike some contemporary prank videos in which men use cameras, other participants or even fake limbs to trick women). Johnson’s character aimlessly wanders around public spaces, barely interacting with women other than with nervous looks. He concludes the video with glee, implying some ‘interruption’ should have happened, but his celebration comes from nothing. The removal of the victim and a mechanism of torment from the video renders the rascal comically useless. Overall, Johnson’s stark removal of almost all the components of the mischief gag is only effective due to Gunning’s historical and cultural tracing of such comedy and the roles they are associated with.
Gunning, Tom. “Crazy Machines in the Garden of Forking Paths: Mischief Gags and The Origins of American Film Comedy.” In Classical Hollywood Comedy, edited by Kristine Brunovska Karnick and Henry Jenkins, 87-105. New York: Routledge, 2013.
Johnson, Gus. “pranking women in public by respecting their distance and not bothering them.” YouTube video, 1:41. 22 March 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzw5CF_OghA&ab_channel=GusJohnson.
 Tom Gunning, “Crazy Machines in the Garden of Forking Paths: Mischief Gags and The Origins of American Film Comedy” in Classical Hollywood Comedy, ed Kristine Brunovska Karnick and Henry Jenkins, (New York: Routledge, 2013), 90; Gus Johnson, “pranking women in public by respecting their distance and not bothering them,” YouTube video, 1:41, 22 March 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzw5CF_OghA&ab_channel=GusJohnson.
 Gunning, “Crazy Machines,” 94.
 Ibid, 93.