Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Girls Always Got Laughs

Daphne Pollard in "The Greenwich Villages Follies"

The purveyors of entertainment have always been willing to showcase a funny lady.  Two funny ladies were singled out for praise by Caroline Caffin in her 1914 book Vaudeville

Caffin wrote, "One of the funniest of [the fun-makers] is Kate Elinor, whose spontaneous, rollicking absurdities seem to gush from an unfailing spring.  Her cheery good humor and inconsequent comicality have earned for her the name of the 'Human Billikin.'  Never was a woman less troubled with self-consciousness.  Her face is one broad, expansive smile which seems to radiate from the top of her little nob of hair, tightly screwed to the size of a shoe-button, right down to the sole of her formidable looking boots, and from every angle of her square-built frame.  She is the most familiar of friends with her audience, not only as a whole but individually and separately.  You could fancy that she calls each one of them by his first name and knows his wife and how old the baby is.  There is a gesture she uses, to mark when she thinks her points have hit the mark.  She points her finger, as though it were a pistol, at some individual in the audience, screws up one eye as though to sight and clicks with her mouth to make the sound of a shot.  This is done with an offhand carelessness just to keep things lively.  And then that giggling, deprecating flap of the hand, with the broad, good-natured smile accompanying it it is quite her own and is just the gesture that a Billikin should make.  Her audience is speedily engulfed in laughter like a rock at high tide.  And how she responds to and gloats over their mirth, and reabsorbs it to radiate it on them again."

Caffin wrote with great fondness of Isabel d'Armond.  She noted, "Her tiny, laughing, piquant personality with its air of droll seriousness, has something of the intentness of a child at play.  Dressed in the most freakish of costumes and with lines that are often more than a little risque, she carries them all off with this air of absorbed briskness, as unmindful of the laughter of her audience as Kate Elinor is responsive to it.  I remember her in absurd pantalettes and a very unmanageable hoop-skirt.  Her preoccupation with this unruly garment and apparent annoyance with its uncouthness, all the while seeming to try to carry off her embarrassment without attracting attention, was as cleverly depicted as it was laughable.  She can dance, too, very neatly and nimbly.  So can her partner, whose legs, describing wild circles and arches far above her head make him seem, in comparison with her tiny figure, like some huge daddy-long-legs."

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