Monday, May 30, 2016

Video from the Early 1800s! (or, In Search of the Harlequinade)

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(L-R), Joseph Grimaldi as Clown, Tom Ellar as Harlequin, James Barnes as Pantaloon (watercolor, British Museum)

The harlequinade is the holy grail of physical comedy.

No, not the kind of harlequinade you'll find if you do a YouTube search. That's George Balanchine's ballet, based on a 1900 Russian work, Harlequin's Millions, by Marius Petipa. The ballet is a prettier and romanticized version of the commedia tradition and of the Arlecchino/Harlequin character, sorely lacking the robust physical comedy of the earlier harlequinade that was central to 19th-century English pantomime during the Joseph Grimaldi era.

NYC Ballet's "Harlequinade"
That earlier, off-the-wall harlequinade is what we're searching for because it was by all reports highly skilled, wildly imaginative, and surrealistically insane AND provides the strongest direct link we have from the commedia dell'arte to 20th-century silent film comedy. And let's face it: silent film comedy remains the major inspiration for today's physical comedians.

And I know what you title-readers are saying: that's impossible, of course there's no video from the early 1800s. Ah, but wait a minute, there actually is. Sorta kinda.... but we'll get to that later.

First here's a pretty good introduction to the harlequinade from some clown book written forty years ago:

It was in the harlequinade, the long chase scene that concluded most nineteenth-century English pantomimes, that rough-and tumble comedy became an obsession and an art form. In those days, pantomimes were divided into two parts, a short opening — a fairy tale in dance, dialogue, and song — and the madcap harlequinade. The two halves were linked by a transformation scene in which a benevolent agent such as Mother Goose or a Fairy Queen miraculously changed the characters of the opening into such stock types as Harlequin, Columbine, Pantaloon, and Clown. The plot shared by both parts usually centered around the romance between two young lovers (later Harlequin and Columbine) who were determined to be united, the opposition of the girl’s father (later Pantaloon) notwithstanding. The inevitable result was a long chase scene with Pantaloon and his not-so-loyal servant, Clown, in hot pursuit of Harlequin and Columbine. It was as if a performance of Cinderella suddenly turned into a Keystone Cops comedy.



Scenes from the harlequinade (c.1890), including blowing up the policeman and reassembling him, by caricaturist Phil May. Courtesy of Jonathan Lyons, from his excellent book “Comedy for Animators” Click to enlarge!

 The harlequinade began with the Clown’s traditional boisterous greeting, “Hello, here we are again” — a sure signal of the delights to come. The chase scene that followed was merely an excuse for a long succession of practical jokes and for dizzying displays of acrobatic agility. The actors danced on stilts, walked on barrels, suffered jarring pratfalls, and performed tricks of contortion (often disguised as animals), feats of strength, and daring leaps.
Early 19th-century cutout figures

Because they were performed on stage rather than in a circus ring, these pantomimes took full advantage of a wide assortment of trapdoors and elaborate trickwork. Nothing was ever what it appeared to be: illusions from stage magic became valuable comic tools; scenery could be transformed instantaneously into something quite different; objects literally took on a life of their own; and Clowns and Harlequins miraculously appeared and disappeared through undetectable gaps in the floor and walls. There was even a standard joke that some performers never met, for while one was going up to the stage, the other was coming down.

The star trap in action. Drawing
from Georges Moynet, Trucs et Decors.
French poet Theodore de Banville wrote in 1880 that... “...between the adjective “possible” and the adjective “impossible” the English pantomimist has made his choice: he has chosen the adjective “impossible.” He lives in the impossible; if it is impossible, he does it. He hides where it is impossible to hide, he passes through openings that are smaller than his body, he stands on supports that are too weak to support his weight; while being closely observed, he executes movements that are absolutely undetectable, he balances on an umbrella, he curls up inside a guitar case without it bothering him in the least, and throughout, he flees, he escapes, he leaps, he flies through the air. And what drives him on? The remembrance of having been a bird, the regret of no longer being one, the will to again become one.”

The stage in most pantomime theaters included a trapdoor known as the “star trap” or, internationally, as the “English trap.” This trap was usually circular in shape and consisted of sixteen triangle-like sections of one and-one-half-inch planking that were so lightly secured to the surrounding floor that the least bit of pressure from below forced them open. Underneath it (in the area below the stage) was a platform on pulleys, designed rather like an elevator, that could catapult a performer through the stage floor faster than the eye could see. When the counterweights attached to the platform were released, the performer — sometimes Clown, but more often a supernatural sprite — was shot through the trap to appear suddenly as if out of nowhere. The performer had to remain poised, for any sudden movement could result in a grave accident.

Harlequin dives thru a trap in the wall
 Similar to this was the “vampire trap,” said to have first been seen in 1820 in James Planché’s melodrama, The Vampyre; or, the Bride of the Isles. It was a segmented trapdoor on spring hinges, usually consisting of two spring leaves, which assumed its original configuration after the performer had passed through it, thus enabling him to enter or exit through what seemed to be a solid surface. These vampire traps were frequently placed in flats and drops so that Harlequin could escape his would-be captors by leaping through a “solid” clock or mirror. In John Fairburn’s description of Harlequin and Mother Goose, for example:

A bustle ensues, they [Clown and Pantaloon] endeavor to secure Harlequin, who eludes their grasp, and leaps through the face of the clock, which immediately represents a sportsman with his gun cock’d, the Clown opens the clock door, and a Harlequin appears as a pendulum, the Clown saying shoot, present, fire, the sportsman lets off his piece, and the Clown falls down, during which period Columbine and Harlequin escape, (who had previously entered through the panel). Pantaloon and the Clown run off in pursuit.

As another pantomime succinctly put it, “Aristotle in book concerning entertainments has laid it down as a principal rule that Harlequin is always to escape.”

These leaps and falls were not without their dangers. An acrobatic Clown by the name of Bradbury, whose fearless jumps included one from the flies down to the stage, wore protective pads on his head, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and heels. Leaping through trapdoors was especially
difficult. The performer’s trajectory had to be exact; otherwise, he might crash into the scenery instead of disappearing through the appropriate flap. This took considerable training. First of all, he had to be remarkably adept at high, diving forward rolls. The process of diving through the trap was a unique experience, something he could practice only by doing. He had to be certain that his body remained elongated until had cleared the trap. If out of instinct he drew in his knees, he would bruise them badly against the bottom of the opening. Once through the trap, his hands had to be ready to take his weight as he tucked into a forward roll.

Tom Ellar in the role of Harlequin leaps through a mirror.

The dangers were multiplied when Harlequin, perhaps with a boost from a concealed springboard, catapulted through a trap-door located somewhat higher off the ground. In such cases, stagehands had to be positioned in the wings, like firemen below a burning building, to catch the leaping actor in a blanket. The stagehands expected to be tipped for their services, and it was unwise to ignore their demands. When Tom Ellar, the famous Harlequin, did just that, his leap through the clock resulted in an unpleasant surprise. There was no one there to catch him and he was lucky to escape with only a broken hand.


Even Superman needed help.

In the harlequinade, all of this related acrobatic work went hand in hand with the rough-and-tumble violence of slapstick comedy. Mastery of the fake blow and the relatively painless pratfall were essential to the harlequinade characters as they are to today’s movie stuntmen. The art of the swift kick in the pants was likewise eagerly cultivated. Butter was generously used by Clown to grease the path of shopkeepers, policemen, and Pantaloon, encouraging slipping and sliding and yet a few more pratfalls. The slapstick itself, which had been introduced to England by seventeenth-century Arlecchinos, was “improved” by inserting gun powder between the two sticks to add to the noise. To vary the arsenal somewhat, another comic weapon was popularized: Clown’s red-hot poker. Sneaking around the stage and indicating his intended victim, Clown would ask the audience, “Shall I?” When they gleefully shouted back, “Yes!”, the poker was firmly applied to the seat of the innocent victim’s pants. The pain was minor in comparison to what Clown felt when, later in the show, he accidentally sat down on the poker.

This knockabout business was the duty of all the principal harlequinade characters, including the elderly Pantaloon, who was a frequent victim of the Clown’s blows. Even Joseph Grimaldi, who was considered by his contemporaries to be a rather non-acrobatic Clown, was an excellent stage swordsman and choreographer of mock fights, and well accustomed to being knocked about. “It is absolutely surprising,” wrote a London Times critic, “that any human head or hide can resist the rough trials which he volunteers. Serious tumbles from serious heights, innumerable kicks, and incessant beatings come on him as matters of common occurrence, and leave him every night fresh and free for the next night’s flagellation.”

A standard decapitation effect.
 Much of the harlequinade violence depended upon special effects. With one’s real head hidden beneath a coat at what appeared to be chest level, an artificial head could be worn and used for a comical decapitation effect. Clown boldly swings his sword, and the man’s head falls off and rolls through a trapdoor. Clown says, “Oh, I beg your pardon,” and a real head resembling the artificial one pops through the stage floor to ask, “Where’s my body?” In another old scene, wrote a theatre critic, “Clown was mangled flat as a flounder, but we were relieved by his appearing down the chimney immediately afterwards in his natural shape just as if nothing had happened."


OK, you get the idea. There's more: animal impersonations; large-scale magic illusions, and of course the comic genius of Joseph Grimaldi, but I know you're still asking, where's the video??

So here's Exhibit #1, an amazing clip from the 1929 Lupino Lane movie, Joyland. (Feel free to turn off the music.)




Exhibit #2, a year earlier, is from Lane's Three Musketeers spoof, Sword Points. Lane was making about ten films a year in those days. Some were pretty formulaic but still rich in physical comedy.



Pretty impressive, eh, and a good match for the description you just read?

But why do I say this is likely the equivalent of footage from the 1820s? Because Lupino Lane (born Henry William George Lupino) was, like Grimaldi, descended from a storied Italian theatrical family who were big stars of English pantomime. Georgius Luppino (as it was then spelled) came to England in 1634, and his son (also Georgius) made his pantomime debut in 1718 in The Two Harlequins,  and thereafter that's pretty much what the Lupinos did."Our family holds the record for hurtling through stage traps," bragged Lane. "My record of jumping 8' and 5" has never been beaten. My record of 83 traps in six minutes made at the London Hippodrome has never been beaten."

And here's what Lupino Lane's biographer has to say about it:

In Victorian times the family was closely connected with the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, the "Old Brit," which was owned by Mrs. Sara Lane, the celebrated actress and great-aunt of Lupino Lane. Five generations of Lupinos appeared there, and the harlequinade was often a family affair. In 1880, George Lupino appeared as Harlequin, Arthur Lupino as Pantaloon, Harry Lupino as a comic policeman, and George Lupino Jr. as Clown. With the turn of the century, the old-style pantomime, and in particular the harlequinade, began to die out... One of its last strongholds was the Britannia, and the last of the old-time clowns was George Lupino (1853–1932).
— Born to Star: The Lupino Lane Story by James Dillon White

Our hero Lupino Lane was born into all this tradition in 1892 and —like Grimaldi before him and Keaton after him— thrown onto the stage as a young boy, taking the name Lupino Lane in honor of the aforementioned impresario aunt, Sara Lane. The rest is history.

There were of course other thru lines. As the harlequinade faded in the 19th-century, its highly physical tradition was picked up by the Hanlon-Lees (Voyage en Suisse), who in America influenced the Byrne Brothers (Eight Bells), who in turn influenced Buster Keaton. For example, both the 3-high pyramid used for elopement in Keaton's Neighbors and the ladder on top of the fence from Cops can be seen three decades earlier in this Byrnes Brothers poster for Eight Bells, which was still touring as late as 1914 and was made into a film (unfortunately lost) in 1916.


Keaton, who grew up in vaudeville as part of his family’s knockabout comedy act, made considerable use of trapdoors or their equivalent in many of his films. This memorable sequence from The High Sign (1921) is the best example.



Finally, one more video from the early 1800s, a wonderful sequence from Keaton's Sherlock, Jr.




Have I made my case or what?


LINKS:
• Some of the best material on Lane is to be found in Anthony Balducci's encyclopedic works, The Funny Parts: A History of Film Comedy Routines and Gags and  Eighteen Comedians of Silent Film.
The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness and the Story of Britain's Greatest Comedian is an excellent new biography of the great clown.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Your Memorial Day Funnies

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I sortakinda have this sometimes-but-not-always tradition of using major holidays as an excuse to gift you any cartoons related to physical comedy that I've come across since the last time. So here I go again. If you like this kind of stuff, links to previous compilations are at the tail end.

For better viewing, click on to enlarge. Enjoy!






























Past Compilations 
October, 2012
December, 2013
January, 2014 
February, 2014
March, 2014
April, 2014 
September, 2014
July, 2014
December, 2015

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Complete Book: Les Mémoires de Foottit et Chocolat

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As a follow-up to my previous post, here's the complete text of the 1907 biography of Footit & Chocolat. To read, just click on the full-page icon at the bottom-right. (Yes, it is in French.)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Film Review: Monsieur Chocolat

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Foottit & Chocolat were a legendary clown duo in turn-of-the-century, belle époque Paris, famed for their trailblazing partnership: the first white/black clown duo and first popular clown pairing of white face and auguste. Chocolat, born Rafael Padilla to slaves in Haiti, was to become France's first black celebrity, long before Josephine Baker.

The story of the rise and fall of Chocolat's career and its relation to racial politics has intrigued many writers, and it has recently gained more attention with a French play and a new biography (both by Gérard Noiriel), an exhibition, and now the release in France of a major motion picture, Monsieur Chocolat, starring the celebrated French actor Omar Sy and the exceptional physical comedian and clown, James Thiérrée.

Omar Sy & James Thiérrée in Monsieur Chocolat
The film has yet to find an American distributor, though I'm guessing it will. Meanwhile, I was lucky to catch it my last day in Barcelona. My cut-to-the-chase verdict:

Clowning / Physical Comedy:  A
Acting:  A
Cinematography:  A
Writing / Historical Accuracy:  D

Here's the official trailer.



The good news is that the depiction of circus life and the fragments of some very physical clown acts are well done, thanks no doubt to Thiérrée not only playing Foottit, but also choreographing the action. Thiérrée (grandson of Charlie Chaplin) has the physicality to pull off the manic acrobatic clowning of Foottit, who was very much in the robust tradition of 19th-century British knockabout comedy. And Sy, like Chocolat not coming out of the clown School of Hard Knocks, still very much holds his own in and out of the ring. You can actually imagine the audience finding them funny!

Only a few short film clips survive of Foottit & Chocolat. Filmed away from the circus ring, these first two clips, shot in 1896 by French film pioneers the Lumière brothers, show fragments of a William Tell entrée and a chair routine.



This longer, colorized clip, likewise shot without an audience, provides more clues as to the range of their work and Foottit's agility.



In Fellini's film, I Clowns (1970), he had two contemporary clowns depict what Foottit & Chocolat's chair routine might have looked like. The results seem tamer and much jollier than the original work. (The old man in the audience is the clown James Guyon —Paris' first famous auguste— who escaped from his hospital death bed to catch one last performance at the Nouveau Cirque, but the excitement led to a heart attack that killed him —or so the story goes.)



Now back to the movie and that storyline, and why did I only give it a "D"?

First of all, some credit to the filmmakers for tackling an important subject. It's a tricky one, because the act very likely contained racist elements, and yet Chocolat often got to be on top and slap and throw Foottit around the ring. Chocolat played the auguste, aka "he who gets slapped," so being the fall guy wasn't by definition racist, though many spectators might have especially enjoyed that aspect of it precisely because he was black, while others may have savored his moments of revenge.
Chocolat Dancing in
the Irish-American Bar

Toulouse-Lautrec (1896)

We would have to have been there to truly understand the dynamics, but my sense is that the film oversimplifies matters considerably. In the movie, Foottit discovers Chocolat earning a  meager living in a poor provincial circus, playing an African "savage" whose job it is to frighten the locals. Foottit creates an act for the two of them, audiences love it, and a producer brings them to Paris. Their big break!! Their first taste of the splendors of the City of Light!! They become stars but flame out after what seems to be just a couple of years when Chocolat has had enough of being the lesser-paid, somewhat abused underling, slaps Foottit hard in the ring, and storms out, turning his back on him forever. Gambling and drinking send Chocolat on a downward spiral from which he never recovers.

Very dramatic and all, but...... not much of it is true. Chocolat was actually discovered by another
well-known clown, Tony Grice, around 1884, started performing in Paris in 1886, and soon gained a reputation as a very funny auguste, often working independently, as augustes did at the time. He was featured in several water pantomimes at the Nouveau Cirque, including starring in La Noce de Chocolat (The Wedding of Chocolat) in 1887 —with a white bride, no less.

When Foottit and Chocolat teamed up in 1890,  they were both already famous as comedians, in the ring and on the variety stage. And their partnership endured until 1909, which if you're counting is 19 years together —in clown years a lifetime. In the final stretch, they were both branching out, with solo appearances in  pantomime and music hall, notably at the Folies-Bergère. Nothing all that dramatic.

A biopic is bound to compress history and simplify matters in order to expound a theme, but the distortions in this narrative are large enough to drive a circus wagon through. A few other examples:
• Chocolat died of a heart attack, not tuberculosis, and Foottit did not miraculously materialize at his bedside, just in time for the duo to reconcile, Chocolat taking his last breath as we fade to black.
• They were not the first whiteface-auguste team, just the first wildly popular one.
• Foottit had two sons who eventually joined him in the ring; in the movie he is a loner, no family, and there is a strong implication that he is gay.
• Foottit was British and part of his comic persona was speaking French with a horrible accent; Thiérrée is Swiss and in the movie speaks normal French.
• In the film, Chocolat struggles with alcoholism. In life, they both did.

You get the point... Oh well, there's still a lot to like, so go see the movie, and kudos to Sy and Thiérrée. Worth the price of admission!



Click here for an excellent Circopedia entry on Foottit & Chocolat.
Click here for a post of mine on Footit & Chocolat from 4 years ago.
Click here for a post of mine from 5 1/2 years ago on James Thiérrée.
Click here for an article that explains why not everyone loves Fellini's I Clowns.
Click here for a good interview (in French) with Sy and Thiérrée.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Join Us Next Weekend in Barcelona!

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I've been busy with other projects and away from this blog, but one of the projects that's kept me busy is on display next weekend in Barcelona. If you're in the neighborhood, come join us, or if you know anyone who is, please spread the word!

Saturday and Sunday (April 30, May 1) I will be doing a physical comedy intensive workshop , 7 hours a day. And on Saturday night the 30th, the wonderful Almazen Theatre (in El Raval) will be hosting the Spanish-language debut of Angela Delfini Explains It All for You, a 3/4 Woman Show, which I co-wrote and directed. Here's the info:

PHYSICAL COMEDY WORKSHOP
A Kama Sutra of physical comedy vocabulary for clowns, mimes, dancers, circus artists, and actors. We will play with slapstick and pratfalls; with safe techniques for working physically with a partner; and with creating comedy with the world of objects (chairs, tables, hats, plates, etc.). All of this vocabulary will be be put to use in comic situations to create gags.  Some performance experience and a reasonably sound body are highly recommended, but all ages, body types, and levels of experience are welcome. The workshop will be conducted mostly in English but with Spanish translation.




ANGELA DELFINI TE LO EXPLICA TODO
A 3/4 WOMAN SHOW
Creado por Angela Delfini & John Towsen
Ciclo Very Important Women
Sábado 30 de Abril´ 2016, a las 21h.
Precio taquilla: 12 € / Atrapalo: 11 €
Entrada anticipada soci@s: 10 € escribiendo un mail con tu nombre, apellido y nº entradas a: reservas@almazen.net o al tlf. 664277579.

¡ ANGELA DELFINI te lo explica todo!!!!! Angela interpreta tanto al Guru de la autoayuda Dr. Angela Delfini, y a su nerviosa pero valiente paciente: Estrella, llevando a la audiencia a través de un cómico programa de recuperación en siete pasos lleno de retos únicos y transformaciones del tipo “no podras volver a casa otra vez” La vida de Estrella esta estancada en su versión 1.0, pero esta desesperada por mejorar hasta que se encuentra con el maniático gurú de la autoayuda, Dr. Delfini. Antes de que lo sepa, se encuentra subida en una disparatada montaña rusa. Este viaje en 7 pasos ofrece retos que hacen que la Odisea de Homero parezca un paseo en el parque. Seguirá Estrella ahogándose en sus dudas y depresiones? O podrá Dr. Delfini ayudarla a bailar y reír en su camino hacia su propia versión 2.0 y más allá? Probablemente, lo logrará, pero no sin tu ayuda!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPeL5EPtHls

Angela plays both a self-help guru, Dr. Angela Delfini, and her nervous but brave subject Estrella, taking the audience through a comic seven-step recovery program full of unique challenges and you-can't-go-home again transformations. Estrella's life is stuck at version 1.0, but she's clueless as to an upgrade —until she meets the maniacally confident self-help guru, Dr. Delfini. Before she knows it, she's off on a roller-coaster, 7-step journey whose challenges make Homer's The Odyssey look like a walk in the park. Will Estrella continue to wallow in self-doubt and depression? Or will Dr. Delfini help her dance and laugh her way to version 2.0 and beyond? Probably, but not without your help!

ALMAZEN C/ Guifré, 9 bajos. 08001 Barcelona // Tel. 664277579 // www.almazen.net // Facebook: Almazen Barcelona // Twitter: @AlmazenBcN



Friday, February 26, 2016

Guest Post: Billy Schultz on Dance Move Daily

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Billy Schultz is an actor and director working in physical comedy for stage and screen. He has performed in your friend's garage, at the Guggenheim museum and at loads of variety shows. His focus is on creating comedy from character and movement. Major sources of inspiration: Amy Schumer as Leslie Knope and ridiculous Vine dance compilations.
______________________________________

As someone who performs physical comedy, I want to master the art of making people laugh with movement. With the studio as my laboratory, I started a project called Dance Move DailyI would make a comedic dance move every day. Forever. I worked at it for months, making 20-second videos that amused me and a handful of friends. It was perhaps much more "mimey-movement-theater" than dance, but the term "dance" is so open to interpretation (at least in the art world) that I went with it. Here's an example.



I was having fun but realized I wanted a collaborative project. I began experimenting with different themes I could include my friends in. One theme I call "Tribute to the Masters." In this, non-dancers were given 3 minutes to re-create serious and challenging dance:






I still love this idea and will get back to it once the project is more established. But in addition to realizing that I wanted something collaborative, I also realized I was toeing the line of making fun of dance. My respect for dance is profound, and this immediately gave me pause. One of my goals is to have fun with dance and find the comedy in it. Not make fun of it. How to do that? This is what I've come up with so far:

1. Begin with the right (fun or funny) video source material. This might seem obvious, but as a comedic actor, my goal is usually to turn any source material into comedy. Working with dancers —artists who spend their lives honing a technical craft that is often aimed at erasing the personality of the individual— is very different. So the source material is key. If dancers watch a video of a panda playing in the snow, they are going to have more fun than dancers who watch a Trials of Life video. Some dancers can also make anything funny, but dancers do not volunteer to make these videos because they want to be comedians. Largely they do it because I show the process of creation. We both love this part.

 2. Familiarity Above All. We have to understand something to be able to laugh at it. I'm no comedy scholar, but the way I see it, we have an expectation of the familiar. If that expectation is betrayed there is a chance we'll laugh. Another way that honors this idea or rule of familiarity is through the time-constraint the dancers work under. Much contemporary dance is very heady. The movement comes out of a concept, or perhaps a formal architectural or rhythmic dynamic. They might build movement sequences based on geometry, or a concept like "freedom" or "power." As an audience, it will likely take us some time to understand this concept. I give the dancers something very concrete to build off of. They then have three minutes to create based on what they observed. There is very little time to get beyond the surface, into a concept or an abstraction —so the movement stays more closely related to the observed video. The movement is still recognizably from the video. This is one of the ways that I'm finding comedy in the fun of this project.

3. Editing. I speed things up, I slow them down, I zoom in. By no means am I an expert. This is better than anything I could say on the matter.

It works like this: I rent and hour of studio time and meet a couple of dancers there. I show them a viral video and then give them 5 minutes to turn it into dance choreography. I take video of our time in the studio and edit it together. It ends up looking like this:



 

On March 4th, I’ll be presenting my first live event with this project. Together we'll watch viral videos. Dancers will then make choreography based on the videos. There will be some stand-up comedy. Some live music. There will also be wigs and tutus. A panel of nearly famous judges will decide which dynamic dance duo will reign supreme as the Dance-ify That! 2016 champions. If you are in the NYC area, the details are below. Whether you are in NYC or not, I'd love it if you could take a second to "Like" the project on FB, and more importantly subscribe on YouTube, as this puts me in a better situation to form partnerships with dance studios and companies (you'll get an email in your junk account every Tuesday morning when I post a new video.) Thanks!

Click here for YouTube channel.
Click here for Dance Movie Daily web site.

See the live performance March 4, 2016 at 8pm at Triskelion Arts in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for tickets.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Enter and Exit the Republicans (Physical Comedy is Not Dead, part 2)

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In an earlier post I made the argument that physical comedy, far from being dead, is all around us. We just don't recognize it. Today in part two we look at physical comedy in politics, where it can prove especially embarrassing to those so desperate to control their self-image. The first hilarious example is hot off the wireless, last night's Republican debate where, with help from ABC, the presidential candidates proved Chaplin's adage that "good exits and good entrances, that's all theatre is."



Hah!

In fairness to the Republicans, it was pretty clear that Carson couldn't hear moderator Martha Radditz, who amateurishly introduced Carson before the applause for Christie had died down. Carson, already considered by many to be a fool, was unintentionally thrust into that role by Radditz.  Apparently Trump didn't hear her either. And then, as a nice button to the gag, the moderators had to be reminded by Christie that they'd never called on Kasich to enter.  You just can't make this stuff up.

UPDATE 2-10-15: Click here to see Stephen Colbert's spoof of the botched entrances.

For my money, physical comedy is often more real, more visceral, more revealing than verbal humor. Which brings me back to my favorite George W. Bush clip. As many of you surely know, there are many clips of Bush mangling the English language. These were damaging enough to his presidential image, but I always thought that this physical comedy moment of him trying to go through a locked door was far funnier. It's man-in-top-hat falls. It's slipping-on-the-banana-peel territory: the humor is in that initial reaction.


What was it that Chaplin said?