Sunday, March 22, 2009

Just for Laughs - memories of Vaudeville - George Carl

When I have a day when I shouldn't have got up, I tend to go for comedy. I ended up doing it for a living (loving) because I couldn't see enough physical comedy in my childhood (no tv, rare films, etc).

10 minutes of George Carl – possibly the greatest clown (in my sense of the word, nothing to do with circuses) with a rather slow audience in Sweden.

A thousand physical gags he could do in any combination of 3 minute spots, 5 minute spots, etc.

It seems like a fairly subdued audience (the jobbing professional) in this 10 minute set (with good quality footage) you can see some of the range, not only of clumsy gags mixed with dexterity (the style I chose to adapt) but with a wonderful Max Wall legs ending (to go with the resemblance in the face).

Here’s a 7 minute set on Johnny Carson, with dozens more variations. A couple of misses (for the jugglers) but more gags per minute than many people achieve in a lifetime – even the magical penetration of the microphone stand (I can live with the buzz on the soundtrack, and this audience seem to really get it!) You get the lot, hat, mike stand, funny legs. His misdirection is worthy of a magician (did you see the microphone go down his trousers? I didn't.

Here’s 6 minutes of lower quality video for Jerry Lewis, and you know some of the gags by now, but he’s storming. And he has a proper vaudeville drummer hitting the highlights. And the audience even notice and appreciate the mike penetration!

OK, OK I stole a couple of gags out his collection of hundreds...but I have no record of any of my live shows (before video phones, and all that). Maybe Reuven Hannah still has footage (he filmed it on roller skates) of a show I did at Riverside Studios, with a genius drummer (we improvised the whole thing for 300 people as I was in a bad nervous state (personal life events) and they carried me through.
Brighton Juggling Convention 1978 - me in Black and White crazy outfit, beard, grimace, etc
And Tim Bat may one day retrieve some low-grade footage of me trying to do my (until then original) juggling act, following a whole evening of juggling acts who had done just about everything (that we knew at the time) already. 11 of us turned up to the convention (from 5 countries) and nowadays you will find several thousand people attending such events.

And finally, a part of the Royal Command Performance (the kind of glimpse I had at the time) of George Carl. If I achieved 1% of the shared fun I can die happy. Peace and humour. Amor et Hilaritas!


Chris Hughes said...

Toby -- thanks for putting up the George Carl videos -- ever snce I first saw him (Royal Variety Show?) I've considered him to be the funniest visual comic I have ever encountered -- utterly brilliant! And he makes it look so easy... jacket off, whirled round and back on again -- I tried it once and nearly ruptured myself as well as stupefying the cat. Fabulous.

Toby said...

I totally agree, Chris - but then again vaudeville teemed with such work - honed to the inch and infinitely dextrous. Apart from hilarious and deadpan.

That's why Keaton remains my hero, too.

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