Comedy Acrobatics: The Fine Art of Diving into Heavy Woolen Clothing
In my previous post, The Fine Art of Impaling Oneself on Heavy Metal Objects, we saw knockabout artists from the past six decades knock into poles, pedestals, platforms, ladders, wire cable and, of course, the ground. This time we take a gentler approach, with a sampling of "quick-change" comedians who have found ingenious ways to get dressed in public and, in the case of a chap named Keaton, an actual reason to do so.
Let's start with the basic move...
On that very same last post, we looked at Walter Galetti's bounding rope numéro. The whole act is 11½ minutes long, but he frames it with the classic clown-rolling-into-his-coat bit. Here he is, nonchalantly setting his coat down before he tackles the rope walking:
And here he is, almost 10 minutes later, donning the coat for his exit.
I'd seen this bit done by the great Tommy Hanneford in the Hanneford Circus back in the 70s, and I'm pretty sure I've seen it done with a coat (or vest), a hat and a newspaper — though I'm not sure if that was by Hanneford.
Speaking of hats, here's Bill Irwin in Regard of Flight putting on his chapeau the old-fashioned way:
And here's a unique sequence by the legendary Russian-Armenian clown Leonid Yengibarov, who says why dive into clothes when you can bring the clothes to you?
Of course I still like Buster Keaton's costume change from Sherlock, Jr. best. He dives through what I'm going to call a "quick-change" hoop, emerging dressed as a woman, and follows it up with an equally outrageous clothing trick. The hoop move was a standard of circus equestrians, but Keaton's carries more weight because he uses it to escape from the bad guys.
Yes, one might ask why the hoop didn't just fall off the window sill when he dove through, seeing as how it was just leaning there — but let's not quibble!
Finally, it's fascinating how esoteric techniques from the performing arts can get adapted by our popular culture and go viral — witness parkour — as this cool YouTube video of jumping into trousers so aptly demonstrates.
...that you can click on any blog image to see it full size?
[So this is what I wrote six years ago; more or less true!]
Ring around a rosie, a pocket full of posies Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down
Welcome to the All Fall Down blog, an exploration of all aspects of physical comedy, from the historical to the latest work in the field, from the one-man show to the digital composite, from the conceptual to the nuts & bolts how-to. Be prepared for a broad definition of physical comedy (mine!) and a wide variety of approaches. Physical comedy is a visual art form, so there’ll be tons of pictures and videos, but also some substantial writing and research, including scripts and probably even some books.
This blog is a result of me wanting to follow through on lots of unfinished research from the past 25 years. It’s made possible by a full-year sabbatical leave from Bloomfield College that will take me through August 2010. It’s also made more practical by the ease of Web 2.0 tools for managing and distributing content. I had envisioned a web site similar to this blog more than a decade ago, but never got too far with it because it was simply a lot more work. Now, no more excuses!
Just as this blog will be sharing lots of goodies with you free of charge, I hope you will share your knowledge and ideas with me. Feel free to comment on any of it, or to write me directly with your suggestions. Admittedly I don’t see this as a free-for-all forum on the subject of physical comedy. It’s my blog, I’m the filter, and it won’t be all things to all people. That being said, I hope it will bring together insights, information, and people, and encourage others to make their own singular contributions to the field.
I hope to be adding substantial and varied material to the blog on a regular basis, so check back often and be sure to check out previous posts. And finally, a thanks to all of you, past present, and future whose work contributes to our knowledge — and our fun. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.
— John Towsen New York CIty May, 2009
My Physical Comedy Qualifications
So if you don’t blink, you can see me doing a pratfall on the original 1957 CBS production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella(starring Julie Andrews, directed by Ralph Nelson, stage managed by Joseph Papp).
If that doesn't say it all, then click here for the full bio.
My Favorite Posts Okay, there are literally thousands of physical comedy blogs out there, but only one physical comedy blogopedia. Why list my favorite posts? Because I want to draw attention to my best research and writing, to posts that make the strongest connections between old and new, between theory and practice, between ha-ha funny and broader global issues. If I die tomorrow, which is impossible because it's already the day after tomorrow in Australia, these are the ones I would like read aloud at my funeral, with high-rez projection of all videos. (Is it bad luck to write that?) Also, please mention that I never voted for a Republican. —jt
Here are some useful and fun blogs and web sites that touch on the whole field of physical comedy, rather than just sites by performers about themselves (not that there's anything wrong with that). Click away!
For the latest posts from these blogs, see below. (Blogs only; not web sites.) These are automatically sequenced by Google in order of most current posts. The blog at the top of the list is the blog with the most recent post. Since the whole idea is to keep you (and me) up to date on current posts in the field, blogs that have not been posting regularly have been dropped from the list; if you've been dropped but are now posting regularly, just let me know.
Here's a list of complete books available for free as pdf documents right here on this here blogopedia, arranged in chronological order; dates are publication in the original language. Clickhere for a Tech Note on these books. Click on the book title to go to that post. More books coming!