Saturday, November 21, 2009
From Monsters and Rockets...
In reality, "Partner" was Peter Elbling, AKA Harold Oblong, an English writer and character actor who became uniquitous in the '70s and '80s, turning up everywhere from The Phantom of the Paradise to WKRP and Taxi. The "I" in this team was Michel Choquette, a French-Canadian who went on to be one of the early writers for The National Lampoon, among other accomplishments.
At the height of their popularity, The Times Square Two stayed in character even when offstage, claiming to know little about the pop culture of the day and being driven around by a chauffer in a vintage motorcar. They took the act about as far as it could go, finally splitting up in 1970.
The Times Square Two have become rather obscure in the decades since, and footage of their old performances is rare. This clip, from the old Smothers Brothers' show, captures the pair in performance. By being such an odd throwback, their act became sort of timeless. If these two were just starting out now, they would probably baffle and amuse audiences just as much as they did in 1964.
From Michel Choquette...
Peter Elbling and I formed The Times Square Two in Vancouver in 1964, moved to California in 1965, then to New York in 1966. The act broke up early in 1970. Peter has been living in Los Angeles since then, where he has worked in improvisational theatre and as a television actor. He has also made a name for himself as a writer. I stayed in New York for a few years, where I became one of the original contributing editors of National Lampoon. Since then I have worked on various film, theatre and publishing projects. Since 1984 I have been teaching screenwriting and comedy writing at McGill University and Concordia University in Montreal.
If you're interested, I can e-mail you some Times Square Two photos and literature.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Clown Elephant Puts on Own 'Weber-and-Fields' Show
The vast audiences never fail to respond with roars of laughter and applause, as the pair proceed around the full length of the great hippodrome track.
There are 65 funsters with the huge show this season, and all are of national reputations. A clown band of 35 pieces is another of the outstanding clown features with "The Highest Class Circus on Earth."
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
My pal Kevin Kraft knockin' 'em dead at the Kraft Family Comedy Club. Attendance was light the night of this taping with only one audience member in the house, his one year old son Leo.
Leo is the type of kid I want in the audience for ALL my shows!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Kyle Barker can recall the first time he saw a circus.
"I think it was from Moscow, and it was at the Armory off National Street in Elgin," the 27-year-old Streamwood man said. "I was 8 or 9, but I remember it was a small show, with just one clown. With one finger, he balanced himself on a globe. And I thought, 'wow, people can do that,' " Barker said.
• Making of a clown
From such memories dreams are born: Earlier this month, Barker started to live out his in earnest, joining the cast of clowns in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Circus at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
As with most dreams, it took life experience and perseverance to realize that goal.
Sure, there was that trip to the circus in the back of his mind, and the magic tricks he loved to perform when he was in grade school. But Barker's dream began to take shape at the age of 14 with the first time he put on clown make-up.
He'd seen a picture of legendary Ringling Bros. clown Lou Jacobs, was inspired to try such a look for himself, and fell in love with greasepaint for the smiles it could bring.
Sure, many kids his age were playing sports or doing other school activities. But Barker — a former Courier-News paperboy, who lived in Elgin from the age of 4 until his freshman year in high school — was bored with classes at Larkin, then at Dundee-Crown in Carpentersville, where he moved with single mother Donna.
A summer job at the age of 16 did hold his attention for a bit: He played costumed characters at Santa's Village in East Dundee, including a Pluto-like dog and a Momma Bear.
"It was very hot to wear one, and there was tons of fur," Barker said. "They gave us ice packs, which you could attach to places inside the costumes, but those never really did the trick."
Barker wound up quitting school for three months. Then, in a move to get his act together, he enrolled in Lincoln's Challenge in Rantoul, a National Guard-run military school for at-risk youth. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the Army and became an ammunition specialist.
There he made friends with a soldier from Pennsylvania who was involved in clowning, which inspired him to put on the greasepaint once more.
"It was the fact that you could have a career making people happy," Barker said.
While still enlisted, he wound up getting a job as a clown at a brew pub in Columbus, Ga., entertaining customers by riding a miniature bicycle, making balloon animals and cracking wise.
"They had great burgers and it was a wonderful place to work," Barker said.
As for how the other soldiers reacted to his act, "they already knew I was quirky," Barker recalled.
After an honorable discharge in 2001, Barker came back to Streamwood, where his mom had settled with his stepfather, Mike Friese. Barker eventually wound up joining the Triton Troupers Circus, a small performance group that calls Triton College in River Forest home.
He also found work for a time with Around Town Clowns of South Elgin, playing at parties and corporate events. And he joined the Clown Guild of Metropolitan Chicago, the card of which is still in his wallet.
That led to meeting "a whole bunch of clowns who were really into what they did," Barker said. In 2003, one of his new clown buddies, Dorothy Miller, who performs as Blab-i-gail, told him about Mooseburger Camp, a school in Minnesota dedicated to the art of clowning.
After finishing the weeklong session, Barker continued performing and even started his own online prop shop. He also worked for a time as a security guard and as a clown for guests at a now-closed Old Country Buffet in Hanover Park.
"I convinced them to let me be a clown," Barker said. "It was a first lesson in negotiations."
Barker also wound up falling in love, getting married, and for a few years gave up his passion to work in customer support for T-Mobile.
Barker is uncomfortable talking about this part of his life, in which he wound up unemployed and divorced, with his wife having custody of his daughters Shaylee, 4, and Brienna, 5.
"I've put on the clown face for them many times," Barker said.
Shortly after his marriage dissolved in November 2008, Barker turned to performing as a way of dealing with the emotional turmoil. He sold some old clown props, beefed up his character and did a few parties for kids of friends from his job at the cell phone firm.
Then, early this year, a buddy from Triton told Barker about Ringling Bros. holding auditions for Clown College to be held April 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Barker learned more details from his clown friends he met on Facebook, and he planned his trip accordingly.
He rented a Mazda, picked up some props along the way in New Jersey, including some plungers and clothesline, and hit the Big Apple.
In something that seems like a clown bit, Barker said he wound up standing in a line with one other candidate for 35 minutes before realizing they were at the wrong door.
"I got bored, so I walked around the corner and saw the real line, marked with a big sign that said 'Clown Auditions,' " Barker recalled.
Getting a shot at Ringling Bros. "was surreal. But once I got on the floor of Madison Square Garden, I felt comfortable, like it was where I belonged," Barker said.
He did some warm-up exercises with other performers, then got a chance to impress those doing the casting with his shtick: juggling and trying to do a tightrope act across the clothesline held up by two plungers. But when the time came for calling out numbers of the chosen few, Barker's was not among them.
"I figured, 'hey, I had my shot, but the show must go on.' So I started packing up and said my good-byes," Barker recalled.
Still, with his foot just that much more in the door, Barker kept chasing a job with Ringling Bros. He continued to send contacts links to videos he had posted on YouTube and kept in touch with the Facebook connections.
"Then, on Sept. 11, he got a call asking if he was still interested.
After hanging up, "I was rolling around on the ground and my mother almost did a back flip," Barker noted.
"I got it! I got it! I got it," he screamed three times after landing the gig, a one-year contract and on-the-job training with the Greatest Show on Earth.
Making it extra exciting is that the job started Nov. 5 at Rosemont's Allstate Arena, where the circus settles in every fall before moving to the United Center.
Barker never got to see the big Ringling Bros. show until he was in his 20s because "we were too poor." But now he will be a "First of May," which is what veterans call first-time, first-generation circus performers, playing his creation, Babble-On, with Moe from "The Three Stooges" hair and requisite baggy clothing.
"He's an Auguste, a type of clown that is funny, silly, does pratfalls and pretty much is assured of pies in the face coming his way," Barker said.
While Barker never gave up on his dream, he hopes to make it all the more sweet by playing in front of his daughters before he heads out on the circus train.
"That would be wonderful," Barker said. "I am not sure if I can make it happen, but I'm an optimist."
As the clowns say to wish each other good luck, "Bump a nose."
Kyle, now that you are on the Big Show if I ever hear you say "Bump a nose" again I'll beat you across the face with a powder sock full of Qualatex balloons and heart shaped stickers ; )
Monday, November 16, 2009
In conjunction with the Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo (International Circus Festival), Telmondis (audiotelevision company), and the World Circus Federation, To the Moon Productions is filming a documentary highlighting Circus culture across the world.
When four circus acts leave their home countries to compete for the gold medal at the 34th International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, cultural ties are transcended and the true meaning of the circus world is illuminated. Their languages are different, their music contrasting, and their country’s opinion of the circus differ, but each performer has the same sparkle in their eyes. At stake is the equivalent of an Academy Award; recognition, respect, and a chance for stardom under the big top. It’s the Golden Clown.
UNIQUE AND BENEFIT
This film takes the subject of the Circus worldwide and gives it an international perspective as never done before. The circus has a culture of its own, a culture outside and beyond age, country and time; that's what makes it so unique. Highly overlooked, the Circus is a unique subject that has the ability to open up the hearts and imaginations of young and old, rich and poor, conservative and liberal. The film will invite viewers to enter the world of the circus, where, for both the performers and the audience, differences are suspended and magic and art unite. It will be a reminder to those who have forgotten that the world of make-believe and magic still lives in the art of the Circus, the characters that create it, and a old rich history. Both the magical and the extreme physical elements of the Circus will educate and inspire, and the artists will be brought into the well-deserved mainstream spotlight.
Angela Snow’s (Director) RELATIONSHIP TO MATERIAL
I have been drawn to the world of the Circus since before I can remember; maybe it was the trapeze hanging from my Aunt’s New York loft, one of my earliest memories. To me, my Aunt, Karen Gersch, encompasses the universal circus character, as she has been telling me tales of that world my whole life. To me the Circus is the utmost example of people giving in completely to their dream and taking the risk to push themselves creatively and physically to the limit. Who knows, if my parents had taken me to any more Circuses I probably would have run away and joined one, instead here I am, with my camera and love of filmmaking trying to capture what it is that fascinates me, Karen, and people worldwide about this unique and unexplored world.
Once completed, the feature film will be aired on TV, screened at Festivals, and sold as a DVD locally and internationally. Contact with international distributors will be made and distribution of the DVD will be coordinated with major Circus groups and events. -
Are you a Circus, Circus school, or Circus organization? Let’s work together. Promotion can happen on both ends & down the road screenings for the film can be set up in conjunction with events. Contact me!
Funds needed! Filming begins December 2009 – January 2010. Editing will commence immediately after, depending on funds.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Koko the Clown was an animated character created by animation pioneer Max Fleischer. The character originated when Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope, a device that allowed for animation to be more lifelike by tracing motion picture footage of human movement. To test out his new invention Fleischer photographed his brother Dave in a clown costume. After tracing the film footage amounting to some 2,500 drawings and a year's work, Koko the Clown was born. Using this device, Max Fleischer was able to secure a contract with the John R. Bray Studios, and in 1919 they began Out of the Inkwell as an entry in each monthly in the Bray Pictograph Screen Magazine released through Pararamount (1919-1920), and later Goldwyn (1921). Aside from the novelty of the rotoscope, this series offered a combination of live-action and animation centered on Max Fleischer as the creative cartoonist and lord over the clown. The clown would often slip from Max's eye and go on an adventure, or sort or pull a prank on his creator. Fleischer himself wrote, produced, co-animated and directed all the early shorts
At first the character had no name and was known simply as "The Clown," or "Fleischer's Clown." The series was very popular and in 1921, Max and Dave Fleischer formed their own studio, Out of the Inkwell Films, Inc. Their films were distributed through the States Rights method through Warner Brothers, Winkler Pictures, Standard, and finally The Red Seal Pictures, Corporation. The "Clown" was named Ko-Ko in 1923 when Dick Huemer came to the studio as their Animation Supervisor, and it was at this time that the canine companion, Fitz was created to share the mischief. Heumer also redesigned the "Clown," and set the drawing style that made the series famous. The illustration at the heading is an example by Huemer.
In the films produced from 1924 to 1927, the clown's name was hyphenated, "Ko-Ko." The hyphen was dropped due to legal issues associated with the new association with Paramount beginning in mid 1927 following the bankruptcy of The Red Seal Pictures Corporation. "Out of the Inkwell" was also retitled for Paramount as "The Inkwell Imps" and continued until July, 1929, ending with "Chemical Koko,". "The Inkwell Imps" series was replaced by Flesicher's new sound series, "Talkartoons".
Throughout the 1920s, the Fleischer studio proved to be one of the top producers of animation with clever humor and numerous innovations. In 1924, Fleischer decided to go a step further and introduce a new series called Ko-Ko Song Car-tunes, sing-along shorts (featuring "The Famous Bouncing Ball"). These early cartoons were actually the first films ever to use soundtracks (two years before The Jazz Singer and three years before Steamboat Willie). These sound shorts received limited distribution through the 36 theaters owned by The Red Seal company, which became defunct shortly before the sound era officially began. While the last KOKO films were being produced, the Fleischers returned to producing sound cartoons with a revival of the song films named ["SCREEEN SONGS"], which were released to theaters starting in February, 1929. Throughout this transitional period, the Fleischer Studio continued to produce a number of innovative and advanced films between 1929 and 1933.
In 1931, Koko was taken out of retirement and became a regular in the new Fleischer Talkartoons series with costars, Betty Boop and Bimbo. Koko's last theatrical appearance was in the "Betty Boop" cartoon, "Ha-Ha-Ha" (1934), a remake of an "Out of the Inkwell silent, "The Cure" (1924). Koko's first color appearance was a cameo in "Toys Will Be Toys,"(1949),one of the revived "Screen Songs" series produced by Famous Studios. The colorized version of Koko also made a cameo appearance in the ending scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
In 1958, Max Fleischer set out to revive Out of the Inkwell for television, and a series of 100 color episodes were produced in 1960-1961 by Hal Seeger using the voice talents of Larry Storch.