Wow! 400 posts!! (Have you read them all?) Never thought I'd make it this far. But it's fitting that the big 4–0–0 be about comedy acrobatics. Yeah, my keenest interest is physical comedy happening to real characters in real-life situations, but the truth is I never get tired of comedy acrobatics. By which I mean acrobatic acts that are prone to go wrong because at least one performer is blessed with clown DNA. Or that the act is performed by eccentric movers who are just too damn silly to conform to Standard Acrobatic Form.
|Found this 1912 postcard on eBay, and now I own it. |
Anyone know anything about Palo or Sellerie?
1900: Georges Méliès
We'll begin with this curiosity from 1900, Fat and Lean Wrestling Match (Nouvelles Luttes Extravagantes) by Georges Méliès. (You saw Hugo, right?) This one's full of Méliès' trademark stop-action substitution camera tricks, some smoother than others, but still it offers a glimpse into variety acts at the turn of the previous century.
1920: The Jumping Tommies
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, which offer this description. Not hilarious, but the short guy has a couple of comic moments and the concluding chair trick is quite nifty.
1935: The Runaway Four
This is a trio I know nothing about, but according to IMDB they were in the short, All-Star Vaudeville (1935), so probably this is from that. No matter. They have serious acrobatic chops and an original brand of humor. They're amazingly oddball and, for their era, decidedly fey. They establish their tumbling skills in the first 20 seconds, and from there on out they just seem to be free associating.
1945: Donovan and Byl
This is said to be the only recording of Donovan and Byl's music hall tumbling act, from a film short, Randle and All That. A live audience sure would help, but a nice act indeed. It's everything that can go wrong while trying to get into a two-high, with a touch of Dead or Alive thrown in at the end. Especially like the head-eating bit!
1959: Les Marcellys
From 1959, here's a superior table act by the French tumblers, Les Marcellys, filmed at the Moulin de la Galette in Paris for the French tv show, La Piste aux Etoiles.
2013: The Maiers Comedy Trapeze Act
Last but hardly least, here's a comedy trapeze act that's recently gone semi-viral. What I like about this one is the commitment to character, matched with inventive trapeze work. They are Sabine Maier and Yogi Mohr, and have lived and worked together since 1988. They are based in Berlin, are approaching 50, and have three children. Yogi plays a goofy-looking nerd, and Sabine a proper lady, perpetually embarrassed. Yogi comments, "We look normal. We don't even go to the gym. We just do warmups and practice our routine."
If you want to get analytical, here's a longer version of the same act.
And one more tidbit from this creative duo:
That should be enough to keep you all off the streets and out of trouble! Some links:
• Web site for Die Maiers.
• All of my comedy acrobatics blog posts.
Special thanks to Dan Vie, Hank Sapoznik, Jeffrey Weissman, Jim Bacci, Riley Kellogg, and Tanya Solomon for the links, plus anyone else I'm likely forgetting!