From Charlie Chaplin in Laughing Gas (1914) to Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors (1986), for decades movie comedians have known that you can’t go wrong exploiting comedy from people’s fear of dentists. It was inevitable that Laurel & Hardy would try their hand at it, and that the results would be as funny as Leave ‘Em Laughing.
Once their characterizations were firmly grounded, L&H’s best format was the three-parter. Here, the three settings are: their apartment (where Ollie tries to nurse Stan through a painful toothache); the dentist’s office (where both Stan and Ollie get overcome with laughing gas); and the city streets (where L&H disrupt cause a traffic jam and ruin the day of a traffic cop [Edgar Kennedy]).
It’s a simple set-up, to be sure, but the gags pay off due to L&H’s solid characterizations. There’s the scene where Ollie offers Stan a hot-water bottle to ease his pain, but Stan falls asleep and lets the bottle leak into the bed, causing Ollie to think that Stan has a control problem bigger than his toothache. Or witness Ollie’s glorious minute of screen time when he wakes up in the dentist’s chair to discover that his tooth was pulled instead of Stan’s.
This was also the first movie where L&H milked laughs from simply laughing their heads off. (Later examples occur in Fra Diavolo and Way Out West.) Funny thing, though, about the doctors in L&H movies–in this one and County Hospital, doctors let Stan and Ollie get back on the street under the influence of mind-numbing drugs with nary a shrug. If medicos really were that cavalier back then, no wonder the litigation industry is the giant that it is today.