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The history and characteristics of clowns a type of comic performers

Clowns By Dominique Jando Foottit often misspelled Footit and Chocolat were, at the turn of the twentieth century, the toasts of Paris; they were the clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. Unfortunately, Geo Foottit, Sr. He was eight years old in 1872 when his parents sent him to Arnold College, near Nottingham, to improve upon the rudimentary education he had received so far at the circus from a musician, who also taught him music.

Sarah Foottit remarried one year later with a more sober husband, the equestrian Thomas Battywho took over the management of the circus. Young Foottit learned horseback riding with his stepfather, and quickly became a capable equestrian—as well as a fine acrobat and wire-walker. In 1882, at age eighteen, he left the family cocoon and began a career of his own as an acrobat on horseback.

After a little more than one year working with meager success as an equestrian, Foottit reverted to his first area of expertise: He debuted as a clown at the Cirque Continental in Bordeaux, France, where he had already been working as a bareback rider.

Clowning Debuts Foottit c. They also spoke and used verbal humor, but in this domain Foottit had an apparent handicap: He had a poor control of the French language. His French audiences, however, found hilarious his attempts at expressing himself in French, with his heavy English accent and his malapropisms. The handicap proved an asset, and the clown Foottit met with great success.

  1. Clown skills overlap with acting, comedy, vaudeville, magic, juggling, psychology and more. Remember your costume must be.
  2. He looks at the world clearly and reports what he sees with compassion, humor and a... He quickly returned to clowning.
  3. On Sunday November 4, 1917, at 10.
  4. They were always in great numbers in British and American circuses, and they were all fending each other for a small place in the spotlight. He had been a Parisian star, but was not very well known in the French provinces.

They were always in great numbers in British and American circuses, and they were all fending each other for a small place in the spotlight. Foottit however was by now used to being in that spotlight, and to set himself apart he decided to produce what none of his colleagues could unless they happened to be, like him, former equestrians: Many such equestriennes captured gentlemen's hearts at the time, and some of them were true stars that attracted large crowds around the rings.

In full makeup, wearing an ornate tutu, the sturdy Foottit cut a hilarious figure impersonating a gracious ballerina dancing on the panneau French A flat, padded saddle used by ballerinas on horseback. Foottit scored a major hit, and his parody was soon much in demand in Europe.

The augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown. As opposed to the clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. Audiences could relate easily to this new comic personage, and they loved him.

The Nouveau Cirque Foottit, as a traditional clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. Foottit 1901 That year 1890Foottit made the Parisian headlines. His parody was hilarious: Eventually, Sarah Bernhardt decided to judge by herself, and went to see Foottit perform at the Nouveau Cirque. Madame Sarah laughed heartily.

Foottit relished female impersonations, and he was very successful in them.

Foottit et Chocolat

He developed a large repertoire of female characters, which had started with his "Ballerina on horseback" parody. Obviously, the contrast between his rugged physical appearance and the grace and elegance required by the roles was funny.

It also went comically against his well known clown persona, that of a bossy yet spineless, aggressive and violent character, whose eventual failures led to ridicule. A very physical clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes.

Thus to see him as a graceful woman was such an incongruity that it was immediately funny; it made for easy comedy, and Foottit happily built upon it.

Chocolat and Marie had also a daughter, Suzanne, who died in infancy. Rafael eventually escaped, and took menial jobs in Bilbao, from porter to miner. This is where the clown Tony Grice saw him, around 1884.

CLOWNING 101

There was something about Rafael that caught his eye: Rafael accepted, and he joined Tony Grice and his Portuguese partner, Tonyto—another apprentice who was to become the talented clown Tonitoff. He was immediately nicknamed Chocolat chocolate in Frencha racial slur that looked innocent and amused the public in these colonial times. Thus the legendary Chocolat made his first appearance in the French capital as the hindlegs and bottom of a fake horse.

He was also his servant in private life. Grice, furious, fired Rafael on the spot. Chocolat was a natural comic, and Foottit, who saw potential in him as a full-fledged augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown.

Chocolat proved himself indeed an excellent, if unruly, augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown.

COMEDY/VARIETÈ PERFORMERS

Chocolat became immediately popular. Beside his role as augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown. The Nouveau Cirque was the very first circus building equipped with a ring that could sink to reveal a water bassin—an extraordinary technical novelty at the time.

As early as 1887, Chocolat was the "hero" of a very successful comic pantomimeA circus play, not necessarily mute, with a dramatic story-line a regular feature in 18th and 19th century circus performances. In it, the newlyweds Chocolat and a female partner and their guests finished in the water—an inescapable ending in such pantomimes.

Furthermore, wearing a red tailcoat as did the British toastmasters was considered particularly chic. Off-stage, Chocolat had become a man about town: Gregarious and pleasant, he had made many friends among Parisian artists and bohemians—Toulouse-Lautrec among them—and he participated actively in the Parisian nightlife.

He followed in this the example of the very successful clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. Such balance, at the time, was expected in this bi-racial relationship: The Negro was meant to be subservient to his intellectually superior White master.

They have the duty to civilize the inferior races. To George Foottit, the clown reflected the inherent wickedness of human nature. If it is true that Foottit was bossy in and out of the ring, the filmed documents that have fortunately survived do not show Chocolat as a passive victim; he often turned the tables to his advantage, and in his glorious moments of revenge, he ridiculed Foottit.

And this is where the comedy lay.

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  • Unfortunately, Geo Foottit, Sr;
  • Most generally clowning is an area of theatre;
  • Chocolat was a natural comic, and Foottit, who saw potential in him as a full-fledged augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown.

Which is, in fact, what the clown was meant to do initially. However the clown was, in appearance and in effect, the equivalent of a court jester; he was in reality an outsider whose difference—his abstract makeup and eccentric outfit—created a gap between him and the spectators. His audience was immediately empathetic. In time, the clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes.

  1. Yet by that time, Foottit, disillusioned, had begun to drink heavily. His French audiences, however, found hilarious his attempts at expressing himself in French, with his heavy English accent and his malapropisms.
  2. Cate blends high-end circus with unique comedy.
  3. In full makeup, wearing an ornate tutu, the sturdy Foottit cut a hilarious figure impersonating a gracious ballerina dancing on the panneau French A flat, padded saddle used by ballerinas on horseback.
  4. Read more Charlie Brown If you catch Charlie Brown off stage and you and he have the time, try to get him to tell you a story of his travels.

It came more by necessity than true intent. Clowns sometimes adapted them to fit modern times, or to play with topical subjects. Nothing was written, but their improvisation had to stay more or less within the boundaries of a thin storyline.

Abigail Munn

Foottit, however, met with a problem: Chocolat was a lose cannon and had very little self-discipline in the ring; his improvisations had to be reined in, lest he become lost and unable to find his way back into the storyline. To avoid this, his partner, whoever he was, had to be not only a strong leader, but also a quick improviser able to revert swiftly to the original course of action; by and large, he had to do that verbally, since dialogue was a key component of these sketches—both as an explicatory tool and a source of humor.

Unfortunately, Foottit was not comfortable improvising in French. To solve this problem, he created stronger structures for the age-old repertoire he and Chocolat used, clarifying and better defining storylines and comedic situations.

Since the stories were not scripted, improvisation remained necessary but it could be now perfectly contained within a clearly established and well-rehearsed framework.

Carpet Clown " clowns or carpet clowns in Englishwho just performed short gags, visual or spoken, between the acts—as they had the history and characteristics of clowns a type of comic performers ever since Philip Astley had invented the Circus. In spite of this, Foottit and Chocolat had begun to drift apart with the arrival of the new century: He saw in them his heirs in the art of clowning, and believed they would hone their skills at his side and eventually replace him.

It was wishful thinking: Chocolat had also a small part in the revue. Their star power had not faded. The famous circus director Hyppolite Houckewho had managed for a time the Nouveau Cirque, took them on tour; but they were not as successful in the provinces as they had been in Paris. These were to be their swan song.

In September 1910, when the Nouveau Cirque reopened for its new season, Foottit and Chocolat were conspicuously absent: They were at the Cirque de Pariswhere Foottit had brought his sons along; on the posters, Chocolat appeared behind them.

Aileen Wilkie

Then Foottit went on the road with his sons and his own circus, and Chocolat found himself in a precarious situation: Without Foottit with whom he had remained in good termshe had difficulties finding jobs. He quickly returned to clowning.

  • You are in for a special treat;
  • He was also his servant in private life;
  • The Nouveau Cirque was the very first circus building equipped with a ring that could sink to reveal a water bassin—an extraordinary technical novelty at the time;
  • Chocolat proved himself indeed an excellent, if unruly, augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown;
  • Since the stories were not scripted, improvisation remained necessary but it could be now perfectly contained within a clearly established and well-rehearsed framework;
  • Chocolat became immediately popular.

As for Foottit, his star power and his stage vitality simply faded away without Chocolat. Both of them were in precipitous decline. Yet their status as living legends was maintained and amplified by the Parisian press and intelligentsia—but they were becoming legends of a bygone era, which indeed did them more harm than good. He had been a Parisian star, but was not very well known in the French provinces. Nothing much is known of his reaction when Chocolat passed away in 1917, but beside his personal feelings, he must have sensed that an era had ended.

Yet by that time, Foottit, disillusioned, had begun to drink heavily. He had been unable to properly remember his few lines in Les Mille et Une Nuits. His forays in the theatre were not really successful; audiences came to see him principally as a curiosity. George Foottit had opened a small bar in Paris, Avenue Montaigne, which was in effect his main source of income.

He died in his home, 6 Avenue Montaigne, on April 29, 1921. He was only fifty-seven years old. He had not been forgotten, though, and the press gave him long and flattering obituaries that celebrated him as the greatest clown of his generation.

His career after the Nouveau Cirque, which had been his comfortable Parisian refuge for so many years, was more a fight for survival than anything else. He accepted everything that came his way, regardless of quality or financial compensation—so long as he could barely cover his basic family needs. He worked principally in the provinces—where his name was known, but not necessarily his talent as an augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown.