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Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck ... our love affair with the Three Stooges of other people’s grief

“Waffle falling over” has passed the 5 million views threshold on YouTube. What this says about how people can become transfixed on just about anything, I’ll leave for others to explore in depth.

Me? I think it speaks to some innate action-reaction gene that produces a chuckle, a laugh, a chortle ... maybe even a guffaw ... at pratfall humor.

In the five-second video called “Waffle falling over” … a waffle falls over, and we laugh. Waffles, apparently, are exponentially better at slapstick than pieces of toast … for “Toast falling over” hasn’t reached even the 50,000-view mark. Then again, no one ever became rich coining “Leggo my white bread!”

“What am I doing with my life,” asks one “Waffle falling over” viewer — although not the same person who watched “Banana falling over” for more than 5 minutes before realizing the video was set to Pause.

Still, the five seconds it takes to see a breakfast item topple onto a countertop seems like a small sacrifice of lifespan compared to the one hour and 40 minutes you could spend inside a movie theater this summer watching adults play tag.

Yes, “Tag” (as in “Waffle falling over,” the premise is in the title) is an actual film that depicts a collection of apparently bored former classmates who go to any means necessary to ensure that someone else is “it.” The trailer for the movie — based on a true story — displays how desperate this game becomes … with an assortment of tackles, body blocks and other mild physical antics that would make the Three Stooges shake their heads in dismay.

In terms of filming a simple premise, let’s just say that “Tag” is unlikely to be “My Dinner With Andre.” Of course, Wallace Shawn didn’t launch into a flying wedge tackle to keep Andre Gregory in his seat — although I would have liked to have seen that.

(In case you’ve got visions of dollar signs dancing in your head, “Red Rover” has twice been the title of horror movies, while “Red Light Green Light” has been a slasher film, a documentary on sex trafficking and — most nauseating of all — the story of a would-be Hollywood agent trying to find a golden ticket to success.)

The low concept behind “Tag,” of course, is that there’s something deep-seeded within our psyche that finds humor when mishaps are inflicted on others. We knew that each time Soupy Sales answered a knock at the door he was going to get a pie in the face. Rob Petrie would almost always fall over the ottoman. And Lucille Ball would make a mess of herself trying to stomp grapes or box chocolates. And yet, we laugh anyway ... expecting the inevitable.

But our addiction to schadenfreude comes with a softening of our standards. Consider the soon-to-be-unveiled TV series “TKO,” hosted by comedian Kevin Hart.

The pitch meeting for “TKO” had to be relatively simple — “it’s like ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ only with average people (who have all signed liability waivers in exchange for being on TV) sent onto an obstacle course to get knocked over by massive swinging mallets as an audience roars with laughter and Kevin Hart makes wisecracks.”

In other words, it’s a lot like “Wipeout” — which ran for six seasons on ABC, only with ESPN talking hairdos providing faux-sportscasting commentary.

“Tag,” if nothing else, will get you into air-conditioned comfort for a couple of hours and “TKO’ likely will release some pent-up frustration from the workweek and current events.

Speaking of doing anything for a Hollywood career, Johnny Knoxville is back in theaters this summer with “Action Point,” wherein the man who rode to fame as the star of “Jackass” portrays a daredevil who opens a theme park.

According to the film’s listing on the Internet Movie Database, Knoxville suffered the following injuries while performing stunts in the movie — four concussions, two blow-out fractures of his left eye, broken hand, broken orbital lamina, two-and-a-half lost teeth, multiple cuts and abrasions, and torn meniscus — which required multiple trips to the hospital.

And yet, it’s the YouTube viewer watching a waffle fall over who finds himself asking what he’s doing with his life.

(In case you’re wondering, and I know you were, the YouTube clip that shows Knoxville describing every injury he’s had in his career has been seen 3,842,339 times.)

The king of self-inflicted pain, Evel Knievel, will be celebrated next month on the History channel, when motorsports champion Travis Pastrana attempts three of the late daredevil’s most famous stunts — including the 141-foot jump over the fountains at Caesar’s Palace that left Knievel for 29 days with broken ribs, a crushed pelvis and a fractured hip — during a three-hour presentation live from Las Vegas.

We laugh or we’re thrilled by the innocent or “death-defying” (it’s always “death-defying” because “life-risking” doesn’t sound as heroic) stunts, staged or not, because we’re in the comfort of our chairs.

Sometimes, though, our fascination with watching others go through what we’d never do ourselves leaves us more than a bit unsettled. This spring, in an episode of the child talent show “Little Big Shots,” a 7-year-old Ohio boy had been trained to perform a stunt in which he wears a harness and pulls a 6,500-pound truck more than 50 feet … to the delight of a Roman circus-style audience.

There’s a video available of that as well; watch it back-to-back with the waffle … and wonder.

Mail Tribune senior designer Robert Galvin, rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com, once rode a bicycle off a hillside, and landed on his head ... which may explain a few things.

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