Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dancing While Sitting: Up and Over It

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I always hesitate to post a viral video since it's already been seen by millions, no doubt including many of my readers, but there are 7.2 billion people in the world, and yesterday's viral video is forgotten by tomorrow, whereas this here blogopedia is eternal, give or take a few years, so....

The performance is by Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding, the video by Jonny Reed. and they go by the name of Up & Over It They describe themselves as "nouveau folk deconstructionists," whatever that means, but my guess is you physical comedians will enjoy what they do with movement and rhythm. Like some of my recent posts, they use a table, but not for acrobatics!

Here's my favorite example of their work (or you can watch it full screen here):


Just to show you they don't always stay close to a percussive surface, here's Three Little Words, a dance piece with more movement through space, even a few basic chair and partner acrobatic moves. Not bad, but not good enough or original enough to have garnered them much attention on its own. 

You can see more of their videos here.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More Table Comedy Acrobatics: Les Pauwels

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Two posts ago I highlighted a strong table comedy acrobatic act by Zahir Circo. I also linked to a couple of older posts where I shared earlier versions of this kind of act. Now comes another predecessor,from the French tv show La Piste aux Étoiles, a three-man, three-table act by Les Pauwels, who hail from an eight-generation circus family.  Some real nice stuff, including a triple peanut roll under the table!


Again, for you table fans, here are the links to my previous posts on table comedy acrobatics:

You'll see that the kicking the other guy until you're too tired to kick any more was done by the guys on the Colgate Comedy Hour in the Tables are Funny post.

Thanks to Jessica Hentoff and Lionel Lutringer for the link!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Purrkour and Kindness

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I've written a lot about parkour and its relationship to physical comedy, especially here, but also in all these other posts, so I can't resist sharing the feline version, "Purrkour,"a brilliant piece of filmmaking by Robert Dollwet. (Thanks to Riley Kellogg for the link!)


If you have cats (we have four) and have ever tried to train them, you know whence comes the expression "it's like herding cats." Or to put it another way:

But it is possible, as this behind-the-scenes video demonstrates:

Which leads me to the whole controversy today about cruelty to animals in the circus, with prevailing sentiment being unilaterally against the work of animal trainers. Belgium, for example, has totally banned the use of wild animals in circuses! Now I'm all for the humane treatment of animals, but this blanket condemnation is simply unfair to most animal trainers.

And that leads me to one of my favorite stories about training animals. It's by Antony Hippisley Coxe from his excellent book A Seat at the Circus (1951). He was an historian, not a circus performer, but decided to try his hand at training — you guessed it — domestic cats. Real interesting stuff with a very funny ending, so much so that I bothered to scan it for you and put it into this pdf. Worth the 10-page read!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zahir Circo: Every Trick in the Book

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This excellent trio comedy acrobatic act by Barcelona's Zahir Circo is a virtual encyclopedia of partner and table tricks. I've seen most of them at some point before, and done more than a few myself, but here they are crammed into a tight, fast-paced six minutes. A great vocabulary builder for anyone interested in (very) physical comedy!


The three performers are Kike Aguilera (Catalonia), Luciano Martín (Argentina), and Jordan Pudev (Bulgaria). They worked together as a trio for five years, performing throughout Europe as well as in China, until Pudev left the act about five years ago. Now Aguilera and Martín are a duo, and as Zahir Circo also present a wheel act, balancing pole, and juggling.

And what happened to their trio table act once Pudev left? Well, those of you who are variety performers no doubt know what it's like to reposition material for different venues and situations. Here's a 12-minute version of the same numéro with only Aguilera and Martín but with some audience participation and even a tabletop Dead or Alive sequence.

If you love this kind of stuff (yes, I do!), then check out these two previous blog posts:

Thanks to Betsy Baytos for the original link and to Edina Papp of Dany Daniel Management for info on the performers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday, Irwin Corey!

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Usually when I do a 100th-birthday salute, the subject of my adulation has long since cast off their mortal coil. Not so "Professor" Irwin Corey, who joins Bob Hope and George Burns in making it into 3-digit territory and proving that comedy is good for your health. Born in Brooklyn a century ago today, the self-proclaimed "World's Foremost Authority" is, as I write this, celebrating his 100th birthday not far from me in Manhattan. Yahoo!

I first saw Corey on television when I was a teenager and was blown away by his wildness, his double talk, and his improvisational flair. Okay, so he's not exactly a physical comedian, but in his dismantling of language and logic he certainly merits a place amongst the Pantheon of clowns and variety artists. Long before Robin Williams hit the scene, Corey was free associating faster than the speed of light.  (I exaggerate only slightly.) He was a brilliant satirist with strong political views, and pretty fearless when it came to using his double-talk skills to mock the hackneyed verbiage of politicians. Here's a video sample of Corey performing at the young age of 94:


"Corey is a cultural clown, a parody of literacy, a travesty of all that our civilization holds dear, and one of the funniest grotesques in America. He is Chaplin's tramp with a college education."
— theater critic Kenneth Tynan in The New Yorker

And here's a two-minute bit on The Smothers Brothers Show:

Corey also performed as a character actor in many movies and plays, including as the gravedigger in Hamlet. And according to our good friend Wikipedia, when Thomas Pynchon won the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow, he had Corey give the acceptance speech for him. If you've read any Pynchon, you'll get the connection.

Finally, here's Corey at 96 reminiscing on his career:

Click here to go to the official Irwin Corey web site.
Click here for a birthday salute from this morning's New York Daily News.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Your Fourth of July Physical Comedy Fireworks

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Another holiday, another excuse to share a sampling of cartoons and pics to satisfy your physical comedy appetite.  If you like these, make sure you didn't miss your...

As always, click on any image to enlarge...

Gahan Wilson

by way of Rene Johnson

Erik Johannson

Monday, June 30, 2014

Clyde Bruckman: The Gag Man

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Today is the 120th birthday of Clyde Bruckman.

Clyde who?

You've probably never heard of him because, even in his heyday, he was never actually famous. He was for many years a gag writer for Buster Keaton who also directed for Harold Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, and W.C. Fields, and wrote for Abbot & Costello and the Three Stooges. In the silent film era and beyond, when the gags often came first in the creative process and the story second, "gag writer" was a recognizable job description.


One joke of the time was that Keaton's employment application consisted of two questions: “Are you a good actor?” and “Are you a good baseball player?” and a passing grade was 50 percent. Brand ran into Bruckman, realized he was a natural fit for Keaton’s studio, arranged a lunch, and Bruckman started the next Monday, in a dual role as “outfielder and writer.”  — Matthew Dessem


Being a gag writer also got him into trouble, because when a decade later he recycled Harold Lloyd gags for Three Stooges movies — certainly a common practice at the time — Lloyd sued Columbia Pictures for $1.7 million and "won." Well, won, but only won $40,000, perhaps enough to pay his lawyers. As somewhat of a physical comedy historian, I'd have to take Bruckman's side on this one. So many of the gags of that era were lifted from earlier movies, films that it was assumed would never be seen again. And in any case, you can find references to many of these same gags being performed on the variety stage long before the advent of film. Nothing new under the sun. T'ain't what ya do, it's the way hows ya do it.

I mention Bruckman today not only because it's his birthday but as an excuse to encourage you to check out an excellent article on him which sheds some light on how gag writers worked in the 20s and 30s. And all you have to do is click here to read The Gag Man by Matthew Dessem.