I spend a lot of my internet time browsing TVTropes so please excuse me if some tropperise slips into my writing. Tropes deconstructs and compartmentalizes media in such a way to make it easier to think and talk about. Sometimes naming a trope is the easiest way to get to a point and I’m not going to go out of my way to avoid doing it. For example: Luigi is a butt monkey.
The character who is always the butt of the demeaning joke or the “put him through hell” plotline. Nothing ever goes right for this character, he’s constantly abused by pretty much everyone he knows, even his so-called friends, and if something bad is going to happen to someone, chances are, it’s going to be him. Long story short, it sucks to be the Butt Monkey.
I’ve got a rule that if a movie trailer shows someone falling down then the movie is going to be terrible. People falling down is not funny. It’s the lowest form of physical comedy. Now don’t get me wrong, in the right hands physical comedy is an art form. But there is nothing artful to spontaneously falling over. If you’re going to pull off a hilarious pratfall there’s got to be something more. A discarded banana peel, a carelessly placed roller skate, or a nature of persistent spills.
Luigi’s butt monkey status began in the first Mario and Luigi game. I feel the game’s most important observation, more than any of the meta or Mario series satire, was that of Luigi’s second fiddle status. The game took the fact that Luigi is always “the other Mario brother” and exaggerated it for laughs. In the game no one, heros and villains alike, can’t even remember his name. It’s always Mario and… that other green guy.
In Mario and Luigi 2 things aren’t so bad. Maybe Luigi’s help to take down the big bad in Super Star Saga has earned him some notoriety. But this doesn’t stop him from being the game’s butt monkey. Anytime something flies through the air it will land on Luigi’s head. Any time he takes any action he will trip and fall face first. Any time that something goes wrong he’ll be the one to get smacked, slapped, socked. Even baby Mario gets in on the fun.
4:33 in this video.
It’s through this consistency that Luigi’s tumbles becomes hilarious. You know he’s going to get it. You laugh when he does. And it’s never as simple as just falling over while walking around (which a surprising number of movies use to get a cheap laugh). There’s always some contrivance involved. Such as when Mario and Luigi first encounter a time hole.
I celebrate Luigi as a butt monkey. It’s so much better than if he was just another Mario. He’s the sad clown, the always down on his luck loser, the unappreciated and untalented hanger-on. And I love him for it.
Ps. In no way is Octopus Prime responsible for my use of “to wit” in this article.