Slapstick is a type of comedy involving physical action. One classic piece of slapstick is the hapless slip on a banana peel. The style was explored extensively during the "golden era" of black and white, silent movies directed by Mack Sennett and Hal Roach and featuring such notables as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy the Keystone Kops, and the Three Stooges.
The style is derived from the Commedia dell'arte which employed a great deal of physical abuse and tumbling. The phrase comes from a device they used composed of two wooden slats which looked like a bat and which, when struck, produced a loud popping noise with very little force. This battacio, or 'slap stick' as it was called in English, allowed the actors to strike each other repeatedly while causing very little actual damage. It was a very early form of special effects.
In recent times, some have criticized violence in the media for encouraging harm. Slapstick films have not escaped negative attention.
However, as many modern films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Dumb and Dumber, Scream, and the works of the Farrelly Brothers combine violence and comedy, it appears unlikely that this traditional source of laughs will ever disappear.
A more modern branch of the slapstick subgenre has emerged recently called "splatterstick ". Splatterstick is the combination of gruesome horror and slapstick comedy. Examples of "splatterstick" include Final Destination, Dawn of the Dead and Bad Taste.