Physical comedy originated as part of the Commedia dell'arte. It is now sometimes incorporated into sitcoms; for example, in the sitcom Three's Company, actor John Ritter frequently performed pratfalls (landing on the buttocks). Cartoons, particularly film shorts, also commonly depict an exaggerated form of physical comedy (incorporating cartoon physics), such as in Tom and Jerry and Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.
Slapstick elements include the trip, the slip, the double take, the collide, the fall (or faint), and the roar.
Charlie Chaplin started his film career as a physical comedian; although he developed additional means of comic expression, Chaplin's mature works continued to contain elements of slapstick.
Other comedians to employ physical comedy as a medium for their characters include Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Benny Hill, Lucille Ball, Harpo Marx, Martin Short, Chevy Chase, Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, and Johnny Lever.
In sitcoms, the use of physical comedy was seen in, for example,
- Penny Marshall's character Laverne DeFazio and Cindy Williams' character Shirley Feeney on Laverne & Shirley,
- Jennifer Saunders' character Edina Monsoon and Joanna Lumley's character Patsy Stone on Absolutely Fabulous,
- "Get Funny! Tips on Directing Physical Comedy". Videomaker.com. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
- "History of Physical Comedy - Roundabout Theatre Company Official Blog". blog.roundabouttheatre.org. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
- "What is Physical Comedy? (with pictures)". wiseGEEK. Retrieved 2015-11-29.