Tuesday 5 October 2010

Norman Wisdom 1915-2010

photo the Guardian.

Why do people always die in the Autumn............?

At a certain time I was on the fringe of the theatre world in London, England. I was a juggler but thought of myself as a clown and would have reacted badly if you had asked - “circus?”

At that time, among clowns on the fringe of the theatre world in London, it was fashionable to cite our influences as Keaton, Tati, The Marx Brothers and if we really wanted to impress, Yengibarov.

Chaplin was only claimed by a few; it was fashionable to deride him as “too sentimental”. (Personally he made me laugh and cry so I had him in the section marked “untouchable genius”).

Norman, though, never got a mention.

He died last night.

At a certain time, in London on the fringe of the theatre world, I stopped and thought a litlet more about my own influences when it came to the stage and work thereon.

I decided, that if I were honest and not intellectualising, then I would really have to look at my formative years, my childhood.

My influences then were, unfashionably, The Black and white Minstrel Show, Charlie Drake, Eric Sykes, tommy Cooper, Morecombe and Wise - and Norman.

I was British, this is what I saw, this is what made me laugh and lit a desire to do something a bit similar.

I only really got inspired by The Marx Brothers later, when I was already struggling in the business and decided to attend an all-night Max Brother screening at the Screen on the Hill cinema.

All-night, by the way was all-night - we entered the cinema at 11, we emerged, dazed at about seven in the morning. I nodded off somewhere during the fifth harp solo.

I never got anywhere near seeing them on stage.

I was lucky to see Norman on stage.

Which was good, because although I grew up with his films I had been frustrated by their inconsistency, and it had taken a trip to Berlin to see film archive of the night he had been the only guest on the London Palladium Show (following an artists strike) to confirm his all round talent and status as “clown”.

I saw him on stage at a certain time in a high street theatre somewhere on the fringe of London, – the place was packed, you had to be there.

You won’t get the chance ever again.


Mary said...

Thanks for this Chris. I watched the Palladium show -- what classic clowning.

There's a lot up on YouTube. He has not been forgotten. Check out this sentimental clip:


You were very lucky to have seen him in person. Great physicality - I can see the influence on your comedy and even to some extent I see some of Krissie there.

Will watch more when I get the chance.


Mary said...

Here's a tribute to Norman in the Mirror:


The article says that his showbiz break was in a show called "The Successful Failure"

popps said...

Mary, thanks for the links.
there is a second part to the Palladium Show - it's worth watch it all.