On the surface it may seem slightly surprising that a master of verbal humour should also be a devotee of silent comedy, but Paul Merton is completely passionate about the early days of Hollywood comedy and the comic geniuses who dominated it. His knowledge is awesome - as anyone who watched his BBC 4 series Silent Clowns or attended the events he has staged nationwide will agree - his enthusiasm is infectious, and these qualities are to be found in abundance in his book. Starting with the very earliest pioneering short films, he traces the evolution of silent comedy through the 1900s and considers the works of the genre's greatest exponents - Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd - showing not only how each developed in the course of their career but also the extent to which they influenced each other. At the same time, Paul brings a comedian's insight to bear on the art of making people laugh, and explores just how the great comic ideas, routines, gags and pratfalls worked and evolved. His first book for ten years, this is destined to be a classic.