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the conjurer
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Hi All--

My latest question.

What would be the attire worn by a "baggy pants" comic if he/she were to perform today in the 21st century?

Out would be the Keaton's pork pie hat, Chaplin's bowler, or Lloyd's straw boater. Groucho's baggy pants, in fact all "over-sized clothing" or any of the above mentioned masters of physical comedy and their contempories. Or would it? Is the tried and true "funny attire" still useful? Or does it "date" the act immediately?

As a second, add-on question, would be, outside of the circus ring, where the performer is dressed like a clown, how do you make physical comedy fit in today's comedy scene?

I look forward to your responses.


Thanks,




The Conjurer
Skip Way
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The wardrobe doesn't make the character any more than a face covered by greasepaint makes a clown. The performer's persona and strength of character enhances and carries the wardrobe. If the performer's stage persona can validate the "baggy pants" image...then nothing is outdated. I could never pull off a character dressed all in black...and the next guy may have a problem pulling off an act wearing my derby and vest. It's all relevant to who is inside the clothing.

A case in point..I began the library Summer Reading season with a Safari Dan character complete with pith helmet, safari coat, breeches and boots...as the program theme is "Paws, Claws, Scales & Tales". My entire show is focused on animal magic & humor. Kids enjoyed the show, but those who knew me all wanted Happy Dan back...derby, vest and all. I returned to my better known Happy Dan character and the last week of shows have been better than ever. The wardrobe was in line with the show theme...but the character within me simply couldn't validate the safari wardrobe.

The same is true with the clown. In or out of the ring, in or out of wardrobe...the clown either resides inside of the performer or it doesn't. Wardrobe and makeup merely enhance that character...they don't create it. Hence the vast number of pitiful and pathetic "clowns" on our streets today.

As for the physical humor...as long as the premise of the humor is evident and known to the viewer, I believe that well-managed physical humor will always reign supreme. One can't use 1950's humor on modern kids and expect them to "get it"...you need common & shared experiences as a foundation. Old jokes, skits and routines still work...just bring them into the 21st Century with an upgrade on the common foundation.

My opinion,
Skip
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
the conjurer
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Thanks Skip--

You are right on the mark with your comment.

"Old jokes, skits and routines still work...just bring them into the 21st Century with an upgrade on the common foundation. "

That was the point of my inquiry. What clothing today would bring the comedy bits used by vaudeville and silent era comics into the 21st century?

Exaggeration is a staple in comedy (especially visual comedy) and was the reason many comic performers (clowns included) used to dress....uh....funny. I agree that it's the man (or woman) who makes the clothes. Or in this case, if your funny, it doesn't matter what you wear, or does it? Does dressing for comic purposes, whether a "gag" is dependant on the outfit or not, let the audience know when you hit the stage, you are a comic. If not, why did so many of comedy's great masters dress in a funny way?

Skip, I agree with everything you said-

I guess I was wondering if Chaplin or Keaton or Lloyd or whoever were to start a comedy stage and film and television career today--

How would they dress?

Would it be a "funny-looking" outfit or would they dress "normal" (I know...what's normal)and allow their comedy to stand alone, sans costume?


Thanks again for your input.



Best,



The Conjurer
Skip Way
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Interesting question...and I'm definitely the wrong person to answer it. My outfit dates back to 1890. Smile
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
One Man
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I work pretty regularly in the DC area billed as a "new" Vaudevillian. My costume is baggy pants, shirt, vest and hat. I don't wear a bowler because it does not fit my style. I got my start working as a clown with Ringling Bros. but rarely put on the makeup and work as a "clown". Though I am still clowning with out the makeup. In recent years most of the featured clowns on Cirque and Ringling were of this vaudevillian style. Minimalist makeup etc....on Ringling they called this European style because European clowns wore very little makeup compared to their American counterparts. And there comedy tended to be more character driven.

Physical comedy that touches on a universal truth works every time. Walking into a wall or tripping over something or missing the chair you are about to sit into always gets a laugh. It's why you can still laugh at old silent comedies. It is more likely that gags in these old flicks would play better today than many comedies of today will play in 60-70 years. Jokes that rely on pop culture references expire very easily.

Most of my schitck is old-standards but made my own through the use of character. I feel that it does not matter what you wear or how you look as long as you can get the people to like you. If people like you, you can get away with almost anything. One part of my show gets the audience to almost hate me..and I mean hate...but it is a setup for a great payoff....

You could not get away with that if the audience does not like you.

It's not what you do.
It's not how you do it.
It's why you do it.

I always liked this quote from Ralphie Waldo Emerson

"Talent for talent's sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in the cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to new power as a benefactor."

Ciao'
the conjurer
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Thank you both for taking the time, energy and effort to tell me your feelings about this topic.

If you wish to know why I ask. I am being asked by a movie studio to write a modern day "silent comedy" (with sound). Think Tati or Mr. Bean (Rowland Atkinson). The material will be gag-based, like Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton performed. I have been given access to amazing writings and gag files that are in The Mary Pickford Film Center collection in Hollywood. Lots of wonderful stuff, written and illustrated by gag writers of the silent era. So, the gags are easy to find.

My problem is whether or not to dress the characters in comic style?

I know, it all depends on the character(s), but I was wondering if "funny looking outfits" play today. The characters are not entertianers, just ordinary folk. So the question is how to dress them and do I do it for comic effect?

Thank you again for your thoughtful contributions. They have given me food for thought.


All the Best,




The Conjurer
Skip Way
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I definitely believe that the wardrobe enhances the character. I'm just not sure how to suggest "updating" the baggy pants image. Polyester thrift store disco crap comes to mind...but I find that more tacky than funny...personally. I don't think you can improve much on the out-of-date, too-baggy (pants, shoes), too-small (coat, hats, tie), too-big (eyeglasses, tie) image that the classics produced.

Benny Hill's sight gags were rich in wardrobe...and they generally followed the classic style with the occasional plaid and gross disco look. A cardigan that hangs to the knees with long stretched sleeves, maybe? It's all relative to the character - An athletic letterman sweater on a scrawny, nerdy guy, for example. A bathrobe and curlers on a dowdy mother-type.

Good question, though. I'm curious to see what everyone else comes up with.
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
rossmacrae
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Quote:
outside of the circus ring, where the performer is dressed like a clown, how do you make physical comedy fit in today's comedy scene?

Ask Bill Irwin.

As to the main question, the "baggy pants attitude" is at least as important as the "baggy pants costume."
the conjurer
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Hi Ross--

I would love to ask Bill Irwin his opinion. His show "Fool Moon" is a great example of physical comedy. Though in the show, he and his partner dressed like baggy pants comics.

Mr. Irwin is to me a true master of the art form. Sadly, I have never had the pleasure of meeting him, though I have had extended conversations with other physical comics, including Geoff Hoyle (Mr. Sniff) who worked with Mr. Irwin in The New Pickle Circus.

I have also discussed this subject in length with Davis Robinson the author of The Physical Comedy Handbook. A great book that I highly recommend. As well, Davis teaches a one week physical comedy workshop at The Celebration Barn in Maine every Summer. He is a wonderful teacher and the workshop is a blast!

All that I have spoken to have differing opinions.

Might you know how I might obtain a contact address or number for Mr. Irwin?

Figure it never hurts to ask.

Thanks for your input.



Best wishes,



The Conjurer
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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My dining room has a brass tall hat rack, that I sometimes where in programs, sometimes just for fun..Papa, may grandfather taught me the benefits of wearing hats in the winter...

We have a vintage vogue shop for great clothes. Working in a high school, I notice newer fashions but many are to out there for this guy with 52 years experience.

The colored tennis shoes have grabbed me, but I went for some bright ducky shoes with the same material as those huggable pillows...(for indoor programs only)

Re: old versus new....(I am a blend..though I tend to dress 60's and 70s..)

Today I have my braces on...suspenders in the US of A....

I found this video in a search...

The regard of flight
and the clown bagatelles /
Bill Irwin; Doug Skinner; Michael O'Connor; Matthew Cohen; Gary Halvorson; Sam Paul

1982
English Visual Material : Videorecording : VHS tape 1 videocassette (59 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
New York : Video D Studios,
Presents theatrical sketches acted by clown Bill Irwin, wittily critiquing the "new theatre".

Among the articles on this nearly normal guy, in Inside Magic ...

check out

http://insidemagic.com/magicnews/Reviews......0061407/

in your copious free time...

Harris
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
drlaugh4u@gmail.com
music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
Skip Way
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Quote:
On 2006-09-08 12:39, Harris wrote:
My dining room has a brass tall hat rack, that I sometimes where in programs, sometimes just for fun..Papa, may grandfather taught me the benefits of wearing hats in the winter...


A Brass tall hat rack...isn't that a tad uncomfortable to wear? (Picturing Harris walking around on stage balancing a brass hat rack on his head. Smile )

(I knew what you meant...just couldn't resist! Curse this obsessive compulsive funny bone!)

Skip Smile
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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Keep the funny bone and the OCD....

It works for me ...except in cleaning mode....

Actually I tried for a short time, balancing things on my hand and chin.(ssssssssssssss)

Although I sometimes wonder "where" things are on stage and in my house...I actually "wear" the hats not the Hat Rack/Pole....

I do work with kids that if you tell them to "Head on down" to the gym...you guessed it they will walk with there head down.

It is not done as a joke for them just how they interpret language....

Working with middle school and high school kids is a blessing.
They teach me much about life and comedy.

On the 19th and 21st, I will be back doing a unit on comedy in the middle school drama classes. This forum and other places on the Café is thanked for stimulating my nearly normal brain.

Harris
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
drlaugh4u@gmail.com
music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
Southwest Sam
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Quote:
On 2006-06-28 22:04, One Man wrote:
I work pretty regularly in the DC area billed as a "new" Vaudevillian. My costume is baggy pants, shirt, vest and hat. I don't wear a bowler because it does not fit my style. I got my start working as a clown with Ringling Bros. but rarely put on the makeup and work as a "clown". Though I am still clowning with out the makeup. In recent years most of the featured clowns on Cirque and Ringling were of this vaudevillian style. Minimalist makeup etc....on Ringling they called this European style because European clowns wore very little makeup compared to their American counterparts. And there comedy tended to be more character driven.

Physical comedy that touches on a universal truth works every time. Walking into a wall or tripping over something or missing the chair you are about to sit into always gets a laugh. It's why you can still laugh at old silent comedies. It is more likely that gags in these old flicks would play better today than many comedies of today will play in 60-70 years. Jokes that rely on pop culture references expire very easily.

Most of my schitck is old-standards but made my own through the use of character. I feel that it does not matter what you wear or how you look as long as you can get the people to like you. If people like you, you can get away with almost anything. One part of my show gets the audience to almost hate me..and I mean hate...but it is a setup for a great payoff....

You could not get away with that if the audience does not like you.

It's not what you do.
It's not how you do it.
It's why you do it.

I always liked this quote from Ralphie Waldo Emerson

"Talent for talent's sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in the cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to new power as a benefactor."

Ciao'




It would be GREAT if the Magic Café had an area designated for "New Vaudeville" & Physical Comedy.

Just a thought,,,,

~SAM
Now performing as...
-Suitcase Sam
& his Ukulele
Music ~ Comedy ~ Magic
www.facebook.com/SuitcaseSam
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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Getting the audience to like you prior to opening ones mouth is a great start.

Physical bits and schtick can lead you there.

This nearly normal guy loves to read and hear about comics that take risk as "Sam" mentions above.

Yesterday "we" had fun with a middle school drama class. The teacher brought us in as a guest lecturer for a workshop on the elements of comedy. Among the improv exercises we had fun with were bits with hats.

"Hats off" to all of you....
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
drlaugh4u@gmail.com
music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
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