Rube Goldberg Machines and Inventions in Comedy Films and Television


I – Pee Wee Herman’s Breakfast Maker

Pee Wee Herman’s contraption, which is designed basically to prepare breakfast, is actually just a series of machines with separate functions. However, the whole setup still reminds you of a Rube Goldberg machine. Apparently, Pee Wee does not even eat the breakfast that comes out of this whole setup. He does eat some breakfast, which he covers with cereal. Whether he will have a logical or practical use for the breakfast maker is beside the point. The contraption is like a Rube Goldberg machine in the sense that it makes preparing breakfast a lot more difficult than it should be. After all, you could just pour a cereal on a bowl and add milk.

Pee Wee activates the chain of events by turning a fan. This fan lets the pinwheels turn. Pee Wee then lights a candle. The candle burns a rope, causing an anvil to drop. The motor starts and turns on the Ferris wheel and the other gears involved. This latest movement drops an egg down the tube. The egg is then grabbed by suction cups, urging a chicken to break it into a bowl. A pterodactyl is then promoted to insert a toast into the toaster. Meanwhile, a doll pours into a ban some batter as a dinosaur squeezes some juice from an orange into a pitcher or jug. Food is poured for Speck as well while an Abe Lincoln miniature flips a pancake towards the ceiling. A bell sounds off as a toast flies from the toaster to Pee Wee’s plate just in time as he walks by.

II – Ernest’s Television in Ernest Goes to Jail

The film Ernest Goes to Jail is the fourth one to feature the goofy character named Ernest P. Worrell, played by Jim Varney. The character was originally spawned for use in advertising but has become the main character of some comedy films.

In the fourth series installment, Ernest makes use of a Goldberg machine, which is simply designed to turn on the television. As with many other examples of Goldberg machines, the contraption is elaborate, impractical and downright unnecessary. But that is where the fun is.

III – Diving Into the Money Pit

Do you remember the film entitled Money Pit starring a young Tom Hanks and Shelley Long? The two play a couple trying to renovate a house. Shelley’s character Anna used to be married and her former husband own the house. Obviously, there are other conflicts involved other than ensuring that the old house ends up looking the way the couple envisions it. It is through the renovation that the viewers get to see a chain of events that occur while the couple and a few men are working on house improvements. You will not find one neat Rube Goldberg machine here. Instead, there are a chain of events that trigger an end result, which was simply a boy statue urinating water in a fountain directed at Tom Hanks’ character. Worse still: the simple misstep from Tom Hanks ends up crashing the whole house down. What caused this end result is a series of unplanned, chaotic and yet domino-like events that seamlessly flow from one step to the next involving broken windows, sliding boxes and crashing makeshift pillars.

In the movie, the result is not something that the main characters desire. Still, the house crashing down is a Rube Goldberg series of events because the whole event includes several steps just to get to the final stage. The house could easily be destroyed by a planned and more organized way of tearing it down but it went on a more complicated and humorous turn.

IV – Going Classic with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Even in older films, Rube Goldberg machines have also made their appearances. Well, the cartoonist-engineer lived from 1883 to 1970. So, it was easy to see how he could have influenced this film. The 1968 musical, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was also based on a book written by Ian Fleming. Fleming, who wrote the James Bond novels, was also known for including ingenious contraptions.

In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, breakfast becomes a little more fun due to a series of contraptions. Each does simple things, such as handing out eggs to be used for preparation. A robotic wheel and finally some arms transport the eggs and then cracks them open onto a plate for cooking. The fire from underneath the plate just started when the eggs are already in position.

What probably sets this example apart from other Rube Goldberg contraptions is that the main character also does part of the work and sometimes even interrupts the machine for doing what it is supposed to do at the given time. There is also some singing. After all, the sixties film is a musical.

It seems that when a writer and a film director decide to create a breakfast scene with machines doing the preparations, they think of Rube Goldberg. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the breakfast contraption adds a dash of charm to what can already be considered as a family-friendly, ideal scene with two cute kids and a pleasant man who sings.


There are other comedy films, such as Malcolm and Waiting…, which make use of the Rube Goldberg machine to inject some humor in some scenes. This goes to show that Goldberg is a true success when it comes to making people laugh. He was able to draw fifty-plus years of invention comics during his lifetime. Each of those inventions has the potential to produce tummy-aching and muscle-pulling comedy, as some funny films had proven. Continue to next page.