The expression “slapstick comedy” today refers to low, rough humor, rather than the kind that uses words to put across a joke. Typical examples of slapstick are a comic fall and a custard pie in the face.
The word “slapstick” goes back to the 17th century Italian pantomime theater. Because pantomine uses no words, the clowns had to use actions to get laughs.
One of these actions was the striking of the seat of the pants of other characters with special kinds of sticks that made loud slapping noises.
The actors whose pants were hit were unhurt, however, because the actual slapping sound did not come from the stick hitting them, but rather from the stick, actually double sticks slapping against each other.