A Marx Brothers Retrospective, and how they left a Mark on Comedy | Lighttrain

Hey-ya! Welcome aboard the Train tonight, hope you’re doing well. In case I haven’t been introduced to you yet, I’m this locomotive’s conductor, G.h Nowak. Some of you guys might remember that I think, during a time like this, comedy is a great way to lighten up. I’ve already talked about Monty Python and Blake Edwards, now I’ve got another suggestion for you. The Marx Brothers were a comedy trio that were most prominent throughout the 1930s, starring in comedy films Duck Soup, Animal Crackers, A Night at the Opera and The Coconauts. This week, I’m going to look back on their career in comedy. Let’s get this show on the road!

The group consisted mainly up of Groucho, a cigar-chomping fast talker; Harpo, a clownish mute who played the harp and chases after blondes; Chico, a somewhat dimwitted though charming Italian con artist, and Zeppo, the straight man to the other brothers’ anarchy. And, before I continue any further, I’m not going to be covering the latter… sorry Zeppo fans! All I really have to say is that he plays his part well, despite the significant lack of a persona. We’re going to be using that word a lot tonight, persona.

There has been many comedic geniuses throughout the years: Monty Python, the Not Ready for Prime Time Players (The original Saturday Night Live crew), the Looney Tunes and Abbott and Costello. But, dare I say it, I just think the Marx Brothers are my favorites. Don’t get me wrong, those other troupes are also rather marvelous. But why do I have the gut instinct that these guys rise to the peak? It’s all thanks to the personas. Could you tell me, right off the top of your head, who Groucho’s character is? Well, he’s a fast talker, he says what’s on his mind. As mentioned, a staple of his persona is his signature cigar he always seems to be smoking from. Another major key component is his sardonic wit and backwards logic, which lead to many hilarious insults and gave galore.

A classic scene from their 1935 hit A Night at the Opera

Continuing on with the subject, it is great to see these three distinct yet equally destructive personalities play off each other differentially. With the combination of Chico and Groucho, as the clip above shows, Chico usually tries to con the other. Of course, Chico’s stumbling up with the English language and Groucho’s trickery and up leaving the former befuddled. Chico and Harpo on the other hand have a more enduring, partners in crime esque relationship. Since Harpo doesn’t really speak, it feels almost like Chico takes up a sort of responsibility for his friend, despite their mannerisms. When all three of the brothers collide, it’s always a comedic treat watching how it unfolds. Sometimes Groucho plays it straight, or joins in on the chaotic chicanery.

It is absolutely undeniable that their films have left their stamp on humour history ever since their debut movie The Coconauts more than a century ago. One of cartoon’s most recognizable stars, Bugs Bunny, guaranteed got some influence from Groucho’s cigar – or in this case carrot – munching and witty remarks. Pop culture giants like Abrahams, Zucker, and Abrahams (Airplane!, The Naked Gun), Woody Allen (Bananas, Annie Hall) and the Beatles have said that the Marx Brothers have brought out their comedic inspiration. Heck, even Monty Python owes the troupe their condolences! The Marx Brothers, from their distinct personas, hilarious wit and charm, and the massive achievements they’ve established in comedy is why I still continue to return to and laugh at their movies even to this day.


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8 thoughts on “A Marx Brothers Retrospective, and how they left a Mark on Comedy | Lighttrain

  1. I love the Marx Brothers. Their first 5 movies are my favorite. They were so different than anyone else. It was a sort of anarchy in motion…nothing was relevant with them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Most of them are not patient enough to let any story develop.
        These guys though… should go over with any generation if they would give them a chance.

        Liked by 1 person

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