Rube Goldberg was an inventor and cartoonist born the same year as Max Linder (1883), which is to say a few years after Mack Sennett and a few years before Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. He drew popular cartoons of elaborate gadgets that performed simple tasks in the most convoluted way imaginable.
Goldberg's eccentric approach to tackling life's everyday obstacles makes him a spiritual cousin to many of the silent film comedians, especially Buster Keaton. "Rube Goldberg machines" have continued to capture our imagination a century later, but I for one have never seen anything nearly as fantastic as the work of kinetic artist Joseph Herscher, as profiled in this cool video from the NY Times:
Although Herscher only makes himself a minor player in this machine drama, physical comedians do not hesitate to throw themselves into the action. Buster Keaton's movies are full of oddball inventions, such as these from The Electric House (1922):
But this is a comedy, so every invention of Keaton's must of course backfire in the second half of the movie. You can see for yourself by watching the whole movie online here, though I of course recommend treating yourself to a high-quality DVD. You deserve it!
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