Saturday, February 13, 2010

Big Fun In The Comedy Way-Back Machine

After producing the much-enjoyed Pre-Code Follies with the fabulous Kitten On The Keys at the Edison Theatre last weekend, I'm back at Niles to attend the three-day Midwinter Comedy Festival. Historian Richard Roberts, who produced the Slap Happy Comedies series - which ran on PBS (that is, if your local PBS station is any good) - presents the equivalent of a Slapsticon West at Niles every February. As a certified - and certifiable - comedy, classic film and history geek (who probably needs to join a 12-Step program for such things) I find the programs lots of fun and never less than fascinating; the extensive program notes, by Roberts and his co-godfathers from The Silent Comedy Mafia, are most informative and a pleasure to read.

Last night's show spotlighted both very early and not-so-early talkies - and emphatically demonstrated that such inspired comedians as Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase and Lloyd "The Poor Soul" Hamilton kicked ass even when their personal lives and physical health were a shambles - while much of the rest of the weekend will focus on exceptionally rare silents. Today's screenings encompass funmakers ranging from reknowned to unknown, include a rare short subject starring the talented silent screen comedienne Alice Howell, a feature film starring the ever-dapper "silk hat slicker" Raymond Griffith, as well as a selection of little-seen gems from the Hal Roach Studio (a.k.a. "The Lot Of Fun").

That said, film buffs, historians and comedy fans: I'll see ya at The Edison Theatre.

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