I stepped out from behind the ice-chest.It is time we saw a return to older, simpler forms of entertainment. Where now are the vaudeville and the cabaret shows of yesteryear? But there is one comedy genre that is especially neglected: the genre of Slapstick with an Axe. Haven't heard about it? Ah, you are missing out on a rich vein of theatrical and televisual history.
"Hand me the axe," I ordered sternly.
The handle of the axe poked out from the darkness and I grasped it.
The blood of the Gudgeons surged within me.
"Stay there, you banana-spined dingo. I shall return presently."
"I hope so, father. I hope so," whispered Stanley.
I crept out of the kitchen and up the hallway. Groping my way into my own room which is in the very front of the house, I peered out the window. A girl of about seventeen was in the act of pressing the bell-button. I felt my way out of the room and strode back to the kitchen.
"Stanley," I said, hurling the axe into the laundry, "you may have this."
"Have you killed him, father?" gasped Stanley, peering around the doorway.
"No, not yet. When I do kill him, I shall kill him with my naked hands. I am a Gudgeon."
I turned and strode up the hall.
"Oh--er--hullo!" said the girl, as I flung the door open...
Slapstick with an Axe began on the television screens of middle America, with the rousing success of the show "The Three Stooges - With An Axe!". This was quickly followed up by "And Then There Were Two!". While popular, only one more episode of this series was made, amidst concerns by the producers about the safety of the actors. "I Love Lucy with An Axe", a spin-off Desilu production, opened with the following line: "Oh Riiiicky! Come into the kitchen! I want to .... axe you a question!" Lucy was at the time stroking a Slovakian Valaska axe. Unfortunately, "I Love Lucy With An Axe" was quickly axed by the studio axers, despite the rich dramatico-comico potential and a sudden upsurge in the militant feminist viewing demographic.
Other comedies to attempt 'Slapstick With An Axe' included "Happy Days With An Axe", "The Honeymooners With An Axe", "Abbott And Costello With Two Axes", "My Three Sons With Just As Many Axes", and "Mary Tyler Moore with Three Names And Even More Axes".
The success of the 'Slapstick With An Axe' concept was imitated early on in Hollywood hoping to make a quick buck. "The Marx Brothers Night At The Opera With Nunchucks" was a rousing box office flop, and "Bob Hope And Bing Crosby On The Rhein With Nunchucks" failed to live down to even the lowest audience expectations. However, in the later years the British had a run of comedies with the 'Nunchuck' concept, including "Carry on Up The Khyber With Nunchucks", and the short-running movie series "Doctor At Sea With Nunchucks", which lasted for at least one movie. In later years, too, we find a great many sitcoms based on similar concepts: " The Simpsons With Boomerangs In A Gigantic Bowl of Jelly", "I Love Raymond Naked In A Cardboard Box With Monkeys", "The Brady Bunch Armed With Blunt Cudgels In A Darkened Room", and "Rocky and Bullwinkle With A Forty Megaton Bomb!"
It is doubtful, however, that without the unifying 'Axe' concept that this vein in comedy will develop further.
Magazine advertisement for I Love Lucy With An Axe, a short-running spin-off from the long-running TV series. Another advertisement ran under the evocative caption, "We split, Ricky, or I split you!" Click for enlarged version.