Sunday, January 11, 2009

ZAPATA AND JOHNNY PEERS

Photo courtesy Mitch Freddes via Mr. Henry Barragan

Manuel Marcos "Zapata" Barragan Jr. and Johnny Peers in the mid 1970s at the height of their fame as the one of the most beloved and respected comedy duos in the American circus of that period.

Zapata, lamentably, passed away very, very young. Johnny continued on in circus and today his Muttville Comix are arguably the very best comedy dog act in the country.

6 comments:

Mike Naughton said...

Hilarious would be an understatement.
I consider them to be the cutting edge of the new wave of circus comedy during the mid-70's. their approach to comedy was refreshing and opened up endless possibilities for comedy in the circus ring.

Jeff Darnell said...

Shortly after Zapata died, several of us were presented with a small piece of fabric....a "Zap scap" ....from one of his costumes... that we proudly sewed into our costumes in honor of a great clown!
I still have that pair of pants in my trunk.
JD

clownron said...

'their approach to comedy was refreshing and opened up endless possibilities for comedy in the circus ring.'

In the case of Zapata the ring wasn't large enough to hold him. Does anybody remember the 'Do you know how to cook a chicken?' gag?

Zap used to attack the seats and timid townies so that he might graphically describe how you catch, kill, and cook a chicken.

Or... in the middle of web he may walk to the front row and pull a guy out of his seat then sit down while the web girl did the free hang part of her number. Zap would be flirting with the townie's date the whole time. The poor townie didn't know weather to poop or go blind!

Gary said...

I have a Zap Scrap, too. I used the story of being presented with the scraps as part of a Feast of Fools church service. It was very moving. Then Jeff Raz and Diane Wosniak broke 'em up. Wish I had a tape of that service. Raz had the intern minister up on his shoulders...

clownron said...

One of the lowest times of my life came when we lost Zapata. It was a long process and all of the LA clowns had to struggle with the fact that he was slipping away from us.

I am sure he would be touched that you all treasured the 'Zap Scraps' and I know he would have loved the 'Feast of Fools' church service/gag...

If nothing else Zap was ALL about funny...

"It's all about commedy movement!!!"
- Zapata Barrigan

Rob Owen said...

Johnny Peers and Zapata did their last full season on Gatti Productions American Continental Circus. I was a member of the clown alley that season and we were basically background extras in the numbers. What was great to see was their ability incorporate a lot of comedy bits into a story line that was based on a traditional clown production number. It was continuous comedy that led logically to the particular traditional blow off.

They did their laundry number and a cooking/restaurant number. Over the season they also put together a teeterboard parody that involved the whole alley more.

The duo were excited to be going to Cirque Tihani in South America the next season (1980). They started the season but Zapata developed the cold that only got worse and ended up back in Los Angeles with untreatable advanced cancer.

I am very glad I had the opportunity to know and work with them.

Bob Owen
"Spiff" the Clown