Sunday, April 17, 2011

Comedy Acrobatics: The Fine Art of Diving into Heavy Woolen Clothing

[post 127]

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.

1 comment:

NPSCJ said...

This is a really wonderful blog post. I'm a student at a circus school in Vermont, doing research on acrobatic // quickchange acts. These videos are great! Thanks so much.