Corpsing is a British theatrical slang term used to describe when an actor unintentionally breaks character during a scene by laughing[1] or by causing another cast member to laugh. A BBC TV programme on 18 November 2006 stated that the term "corpsing" originated when a living actor played a corpse on stage; there was sometimes a temptation to try to make that actor laugh.[citation needed]

Corpsing is not a term exclusive to the theatre, but is also used to describe actions designed to cause hysteria in live television or radio. One of the most famous examples of this is on cricket programme Test Match Special in the famous "Leg-over" incident[2] and another cricket commentary in which it was noted that "...the batsman's Holding, the bowler's Willey."[3]

During the "Pete and Dud" sketches in the BBC comedy series Not Only... But Also, Peter Cook would deliberately ad lib in an attempt to make Dudley Moore corpse—and invariably succeeded.[4]

Recently, the techinique was used on the BBC/RTE series Mrs Brown's Boys.

See also


  1. ^ "A greasepaint glossary", article on theatrical terms
  2. ^ BBC Sport: Test Match Legends - Brian Johnston
  3. ^ Sport Gaffes quotes and quotations
  4. ^ Peter Cook: A Biography, Harry Thompson, Hodder and Stoughton, 1997

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