Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's famous 1928 Broadway comedy The Front Page was a man-child comedy. Hecht and MacArthur described Peggy, the fiancé of the play's protagonist Hildy Johnson, as follows: "Despite her youth and simplicity, Peggy seems overwhelmingly mature in comparison to Hildy. As a matter of fact, Peggy belongs to that division of womanhood which dedicates itself to suppressing in its lovers or husbands the spirit of D'Artagnan, Roland, Captain Kidd, Cyrano, Don Quixote, King Arthur or any other type of the male innocent and rampant."
In March, 1903, a critic with The New York Clipper came upon an amusing schoolroom sketch at the Weber and Fields Music Hall. The newspaper reported, "Charles A. Bigelow, as the shrewish schoolma’am, did better work than he has hitherto shown on this stage, and convulsed the audience by his broadly farcical playing. Peter F. Dalley was the baby of the class — a huge and ‘precocious’ child."
In vaudeville, a comedian found it was a sure way to get laughs to imitate a baby crying. In March, 1903, the New York Clipper noted: "Alfred Lalone, the hypnotic comedian, never fails to make a hit in his impersonation of a crying baby." In 1916, Fanny Brice got big laughs by imitating a baby crying in "If We Could Only Take Their Word." In 1919, Variety reviewed a show at the Harlem Opera House in which Alfred Jackson imitated "an infant crying, finally appeased by a milk bottle stuck in mouth." The same year, Variety was pleased with a version of this act performed by Emily Walters. The Variety critic wrote, "A crying baby 'bit' by the girl was a big laugh and applause getter."
A significant man-child comedy of the 1970s was Shampoo (1975). This scene shows that, if the man-child gets called on his irresponsible ways, all that he needs to do to gain forgiveness is to cry.
Marlon Wayans, Ken Kramer, Kerry Washington and Shawn Wayans visit the doctor in Little Man (2006).
Here we have a master man-child at work.
Here a few random images.
The fascists of the world continue to be the biggest babies.
You can read more on the man-child in comedy in my new book.