David Crump will present on Fred Karno, the comedy impresario who launched the careers of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel and who was born in Paul Street. Dave has recently published a biography of Fred Karno.
“If in doubt fall on your arse.” That was the mantra of Fred Karno: acrobat, comedian, writer, music hall impresario, film producer and the undisputed king of slapstick.
From his famous nursery of nonsense, the ‘Fun Factory’, the Guv’nor conquered the world, built an empire, made millions and lost the lot. In the process he discovered and trained the early twentieth century’s greatest comedians: Will Hay, Robb Wilton, Sandy Powell, Syd Walker, Frank Randle, Max Miller, Billy Bennett, the Crazy Gang, and most significantly of all Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin. He pioneered physical sketch comedy and developed the raw material that Hollywood later fashioned into the finest comics of silent film. The phrase ‘It’s like Fred Karno’s Army’ entered the lexicon to describe any chaotic situation, but his extraordinary legacy is largely forgotten, lost in the mists of time and sullied by a tarnished personal reputation.
This book tells the remarkable story of the man behind the myth and reveals Karno’s huge contribution to comedy and popular culture – an impact which still resonates today.
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