Every Perfect Gene Wilder Comedic Pause–All In One Video Essay

One of the under-praised qualities of Gene Wilder, who sadly passed away this week, is his gift for comic pauses. Here are some of his best.

Every Perfect Gene Wilder Comedic Pause–All In One Video Essay

WHAT: A supercut demonstrating Gene Wilder’s mastery of the comedic pause.

WHO: Filmmaker and video essayist Rishi Kaneria.

WHY WE CARE: By now, most superfans know the story of Gene Wilder coming up with one of the more memorable moments of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. It was his decision that his character should totter out to the crowd clutching a cane for his grand entrance, almost fall down, and then glide into a somersault. This little touch reveals the kind of inspiration and perceptiveness that made Wilder such a celebrated comic actor and collaborator. However, it’s the ‘almost falling down’ part of this scene that demonstrates one of the dearly departed performer’s under-praised gifts: his mastery of the comedic pause.

There’s a reason why the infamous Wonka meme depicts Wilder in repose. The man had a way of filling the silence with emotive anticipation in one direction or another. What probably looked like a mere ellipses in the screenplay, the actor imbued with any combination of flavors from his bottomless rucksack of expressiveness. Video essayist Kaneria, who recently brought us that insightful deep-dive into Paul Thomas Anderson’s Radiohead video, brings together seven minutes of Wilder doing more with just a look and silence than some comic actors do with entire films.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. He has also written for The Awl, Rolling Stone, McSweeney's, and Salon.



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