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Oh no, you did'nt!
December 18, 2011 3:50 AM   Subscribe

You may not know this but pantomime (overview for non-Brits) is a very lucrative business in the UK, especially for minor or fading stars of stage and screen (and Vanilla Ice) - Children's entertainers The Krankies (who have had a troubled relationship with panto in the past) have gone all out this year to pull in the punters via going to the gym (video), a lurid interview revealing their rather more adult private lives and a mind-blowing photo op with John Barrowman (SFW but what has been seen cannot be unseen and may prove traumatic for British people of a certain age) (previous)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (73 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The plot is very simple: The girl dressed as a boy who is the son of a man dressed as a woman, will win the other girl (surprisingly dressed as a girl), with the assistance of a person(s) dressed in an animal skin.

This is how Britain lost its Empire.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:06 AM on December 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Heh. In many ways, this is kind of the dual spirit of panto (for adults and kids). There's a lot of sexual symbolism/innuendo, and also there's a lot of parts of panto that have adults being too stupid to realize what is going on, whereas it's obvious to kids. When I was kid, I always thought panto was pretty weird, and in another language from another country, and I didn't like it. When we had the class trip to the local theatre, most of the other kids were excited, but I was very apprehensive, and couldn't figure out how I was supposed to be enjoying myself. I think the Krankies would have freaked me out.
posted by carter at 4:06 AM on December 18, 2011


Thanks for sharing this. I imagine it doesn't travel well, so it may be a while before I get to see a panto performance.
posted by etherist at 4:10 AM on December 18, 2011


@twoleftfeet having people dress their gender and species is too high a price for any empire deserving of its citizens' allegiance
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:45 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Krankies post. Well, that's my day ruined. Thanks.
posted by Decani at 4:55 AM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Panto is easy to sneer at and it certainly isn't high brow entertainment, but I go every year and it provides never-failing entertainment to 3 generations in one reasonably priced show.

The performers come into the audience, there is heckling, singing, jokes, bad props, elaborate costumes and drag, and then for the final number the stage is opened to all the kids in the audience to join in. Utterly childish in so many ways, but for many millions of people this is the only theatre they'll see (or want to) all year. Long may it live and thrive.
posted by samworm at 5:03 AM on December 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


My first pantomime is probably my first coherent memory: King's Theatre, Glasgow, late 1972. Aladdin, with Denny Willis. I was three. All I remember was the black light puppet dance, Willis's catchphrases ("So sorry!", "Stop laughing!") and the little geared mechanism on the toilet cubicle door that displayed vacant/occupied. Yeah, I've been an engineer a long time.

Panto is huge in Scotland. The King's, The Pavilion, The Ayr Gaiety; all lavish events that cost a fortune to put on, but fill the theatres every night. Names like Rikki Fulton (you might remember him as the grim Major Pribluda from Gorky Park), Gerard Kelly, and Stanley Baxter lit up the stage. Songs you wouldn't understand, like "Why Can't Daisy Have a Week Aff?" - which addresses the complex issues of childlessness ("a wee calf") and lack of vacation ("a week off") in the modern pantomime cow. Fun stuff, especially if you got to keep one of the chocolates thrown from the stage.
posted by scruss at 5:12 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


You do'nt spell did'nt that way.

Also: he's behind you!
posted by pracowity at 5:28 AM on December 18, 2011


Oh yes you do'!
posted by alasdair at 5:31 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's curious that, as a former British colony, this didn't catch on and stick with us Americans. Euro-America was British for about the same amount of time as it hasn't been, and yet there's absolutely no trace of it now.
posted by crunchland at 5:46 AM on December 18, 2011


It's curious that, as a former British colony, this didn't catch on and stick with us Americans.

That's because panto didn't start until after the Revolutionary War. It started sometime in the mid-1800's, I think.

So this is like our parents having finally gotten an X-Box for our younger brothers and sisters only after we moved out and started college.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:58 AM on December 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


Sure wish I'd had this overview before I saw Pantomime Princess Margaret on Monty Python. Although I guess that would have reduced the surrealism.
posted by theredpen at 5:58 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Panto is a vital part of British theatre. No just because it is the only theatre many people see, but because the custom and revenue it generates support productions year 'round. There would be very little regional theatre at all without the pantomime.

Also, I got to see Rolf Harris perform the Jake the Peg song and dance routine live at a childhood panto in Plymouth. There are few purer joys.
posted by howfar at 5:59 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure wish I'd had this overview before I saw Pantomime Princess Margaret on Monty Python. Although I guess that would have reduced the surrealism.

Surrealism restored. Monty Python: Pantomime Horse As Secret Agent
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:05 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


This isn't completely unheard of in the States, actually. In DC (well, Kensington, MD) the British Players are finishing up their run of the panto version of "Puss in Boots" today, a production I was involved with. It is... odd, but strangely compelling once you get used to the tropes of it all.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:20 AM on December 18, 2011


That's because panto didn't start until after the Revolutionary War. It started sometime in the mid-1800's, I think.

Although I can't speak for the U.S., as an expat Brit in Canada I've noticed over the past two or three years a sudden appearance of 'family musicals', such as this one.

I notice they share some of the same characteristics -- same type of plays, C-list stars, even the occasional pantomime dame -- but I don't know if Canucks are ready for two-person cows and nob jokes. Yet. Has anyone familiar with the panto concept been to a Canadian one?
posted by randomination at 6:22 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been to many Canadian pantomimes. They have quite a big one in Toronto every Christmas* but they're popular all over (Southern Ontario, at least). Saw one a few years ago with Ernie Coombs (aka Mr. Dressup). They're fun, the kids really get into it. Actors get to eat the scenery with glee and audience participation is mandatory.

My favourite part is where everyone hisses at the villain. Hisssssssssssssss.

*I see it's billed as a 'family musical' here.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:31 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's because panto didn't start until after the Revolutionary War. It started sometime in the mid-1800's, I think. -- Well the wiki page linked in the OP indicates that it existed in the early 18th century, if not before... but maybe not in its current form.
posted by crunchland at 6:33 AM on December 18, 2011


Those Barrowman pics are nothing. Here's an outtake from the 80s in which Wee Jimmy Krankie cackles "This is what we're really like" then pretends to suck Ian Krankie's cock.
posted by jack_mo at 6:33 AM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's one near me that boasts, "the longest running continuous panto in Canada".
posted by stinkycheese at 6:34 AM on December 18, 2011


Forgot to mention... Barrowman wasn't the first Dr Who / Pantomime cross-over... The Myrka was performed by the pantomime horse operators from another show.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:36 AM on December 18, 2011


I'm a 30 year old man. If I fancied Jimmy/Janette Krankie, would that make me a gay paedophile or a straight gerontophile? I need to know for a thing.
posted by howfar at 6:39 AM on December 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Here's a little history of pantomime at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. If you're familiar with Canadian 'celebrities', you'll likely recognize a great deal of these names (and think so *that's* what they're doing now).
posted by stinkycheese at 6:40 AM on December 18, 2011


I am the first to admit I know little about panto -- I think my first-hand experience is limited to having once seen a touring Lionel Blair in Dick Whittington -- but let me just say the Krankies have always struck me as a sort of platonic ideal of creepiness.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:40 AM on December 18, 2011


let me just say the Krankies have always struck me as a sort of platonic ideal of creepiness.

I certainly think it's possible that they lurk outside caves, casting distorted shadows onto the interior walls.
posted by howfar at 6:50 AM on December 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


As an American in London (and previously Bristol), I have been increasingly fascinated by panto ads I pass by on my commutes or when I passed by the Hippodrome in Bristol city centre. I am seriously considering making my way over to Medway to catch a bit of Robert van Winkle as Captain Hook.

But if I never see the horrid phrase, "perfect half-term treat" again, it'll be too soon. I don't know why that gets under my skin.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:05 AM on December 18, 2011


crunchland: "It's curious that, as a former British colony, this didn't catch on and stick with us Americans."

Your pantomime was all on film, in the capable hands of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. Buster Keaton: "They say pantomime's a lost art. It's never been a lost art and never will be, because it's too natural to do."
posted by vanar sena at 7:20 AM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


OH GOD DO NOT CLICK
posted by Artw at 7:24 AM on December 18, 2011


Years ago, my Dad played a terrifying Captain Hook in a local panto. I remember getting to go backstage at the end of the performance, and I was the only child that would approach him.

'Scuse me. I have something in my eye.
posted by subbes at 7:25 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I'm someone from the US, pantomime oddly reminds me of professional wrestling.
posted by underflow at 7:27 AM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The English are so damn weird!

*eats peanut butter & jelly sandwich and drinks iced tea in car while driving 1/4 mile to the 250,000 sq ft Walmart*
posted by leotrotsky at 7:29 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I certainly think it's possible that they lurk outside caves, casting distorted shadows onto the interior walls."

Creepy shadows.

Surely I can't be alone in intuiting that both panto and commedia dell'arte have great potential in the US? "Authentic" stagings are interesting and would be promising; but I also sense that there's more possibilities beyond the obvious. If I were involved in a regional theater which, of course, is struggling for survival like they almost all are, I'd be thinking long and hard about this stuff.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:29 AM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is how Britain lost its Empire.

When Pantomine first got it's start, England was busy pissing itself over the Spanish Armada. After that was over, some low brow humor with a blow hard Spanish captain was probably just the thing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:29 AM on December 18, 2011


You may not know this

Oh yes I do!
posted by MartinWisse at 7:43 AM on December 18, 2011


"...pantomime oddly reminds me of professional wrestling."

Rightly, it seems to me. This didn't occur to me, but it's arguably not a bad example of an American version of the larger tradition.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:47 AM on December 18, 2011


From Wikipedia article:
Nowadays, a pantomime occasionally pulls off a coup by engaging a guest star with an unquestionable thespian reputation, as was the case with the Christmas 2004 production of Aladdin that featured Sir Ian McKellen as Widow Twankey,
posted by benito.strauss at 7:50 AM on December 18, 2011


underflow: "As I'm someone from the US, pantomime oddly reminds me of professional wrestling."

You're on to something there. I can't think of any reason why it isn't pantomime, right down to the audience participation.
posted by vanar sena at 7:55 AM on December 18, 2011


Roland Barthes - The World of Wrestling.
posted by Grangousier at 7:58 AM on December 18, 2011


I can't think of any reason why it isn't pantomime,

I think it's a bit too obviously gay...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:01 AM on December 18, 2011


The canadian one is nothing like panto, which makes me sad.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:02 AM on December 18, 2011


Well the wiki page linked in the OP indicates that it existed in the early 18th century, if not before... but maybe not in its current form.

Right, but if you think about it, most of the first settlers here in the U.S. were starting to come here in the 17th Century -- and were either dour Puritans who put the kibosh on that kind of frivolity or lived out on the frontier where you made your own fun. Some colonies actually had bans against theater during the 1700's. So the panto of the early 18th century either never got a toehold, or people just plain hadn't seen it. Also, in the very early days of the newly-fledged U.S., people deliberately tried to divest themselves of any kind of "European" manners -- we were trying to put forward the image that we were plain, simple folk and didn't go in for any of that silly empty European old-world claptrap. United States theater didn't really get a toehold until just before the war of 1812, and they usually did either Shakespeare or melodramas.

Surely I can't be alone in intuiting that both panto and commedia dell'arte have great potential in the US?

Actually, what vanar says about panto having been on film is pretty true. The scenarios of commedia made their way into a squillion TV sitcoms, as did a lot of the characters; and instead of lazzi, we say "schtick".

The specifics of panto and commedia may not necessarily have translated, but a lot of the core principles -- some basic character archetypes, broad humor, scenarios that everyone can relate to, etc. -- have found their way all sorts of places. And hell, if you go back even further, they've been there since the time of ancient Rome -- commedia had its roots in Atellan farce.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 AM on December 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've seen one where John Inman was a dame - in Mother Goose, I think it was. It was funny to me, but my fellow American friends watching with me didn't get it and didn't seem to want to.

And I learnt of panto as a child through Monty Python; in the 3rd series there's an episode where halfway through, it suddenly becomes a panto of Puss In Boots, complete with a leggy, short shorts-wearing Puss and Terry Jones in a dress. Terry looks so into it naturally, that's funnier to me than the supposed joke!
posted by droplet at 8:38 AM on December 18, 2011


most of the first settlers here in the U.S. were starting to come here in the 17th Century -- and were either dour Puritans who put the kibosh on that kind of frivolity or lived out on the frontier where you made your own fun. --- That's a huge oversimplification. The Puritans were only a fraction of the colonizers in the early years of the European invasion of what is now the United States. For example, Jamestown, Virginia, was settled in 1607, thirteen years before the Pilgrim Fathers set foot in Massachusetts, and they didn't have the religious reasons to discard the traditions you describe.
posted by crunchland at 8:55 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Want to feast your eyes on some lovely Cinders, Jack or Dick?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:09 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


BTW those are tv pantos and I don't think they will have anything like the amount of topical or subversive adult aimed humour you'll find in a stage panto ("Well I do declare, the baron's balls get bigger every year!")
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2011


scruss: “Fun stuff, especially if you got to keep one of the chocolates thrown from the stage.”

Oddly enough, as someone living in New Mexico in the US, when I hear about "Krankies" I think of chocolate.
posted by koeselitz at 9:30 AM on December 18, 2011


You're here in NM?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:55 AM on December 18, 2011


Barrowmannn! *shakes fist*
posted by book 'em dano at 10:10 AM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Before he took to the stage as the evil Captain Hook, Robert Van Winkle said: “I’d never even heard of a pantomime before. I thought ‘what the heck is this?’ but it’s so much fun. I’m there for the kids but there may be some parents who come along who remember the Ice Ice Baby time.”

I remember that time. To The Extreme was selling a million copies a week.

Some times are too beautiful to last.
posted by Trurl at 10:35 AM on December 18, 2011


"As I'm someone from the US, pantomime oddly reminds me of professional wrestling."

Funny you should say that...

The casting of Bret "The Hitman" Hart in a Christmas stage production might set visions of Santa smackdowns -- and not sugarplums -- dancing in your head... A case could be made that pro wrestling and panto -- a uniquely British, low-brow, holiday stage production -- might just be where the worlds of theatre and sports come together. Both are rooted in histrionics, hyperbole and audience participation.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:38 AM on December 18, 2011


Ivan Fyodorovich: “You're here in NM?”

Indeed indeed, and ABQ to boot. Ought to update that profile one of these days...
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on December 18, 2011


The only proper panto I've seen (after years of reading the few books available stateside on the form) was some years back when, as a b'day present, we flew over to London and saw Ian McKellen in Aladdin at the Old Vic. Beautiful seats and, really, for me the perfect panto experience. I don't know how representative it was of your average panto, but I had a marvelous time seeing all the stage business and the audience participation. Sir Ian was brilliant. I wish we had panto on this side of the Atlantic. We certainly have enough B-list celebrities, a history of vaudeville/burlesque and at least passing collective knowledge of the children's stories that comprise the canon.

(Same weekend we saw His Dark Materials at the National Theatre. Playgoing Heaven that trip.)
posted by the sobsister at 12:24 PM on December 18, 2011


There's a lot of sexual symbolism/innuendo, and also there's a lot of parts of panto that have adults being too stupid to realize what is going on, whereas it's obvious to kids.

When I was seven I called out from the audience that the Grand Vizier was obviously Evil and that the King shouldn't listen to him about Aladdin. The king promised he'd bear it in mind, but later he completely didn't. Stupid King.
posted by Sparx at 1:04 PM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Favourite* panto gag ever, from DICK WHITTINGTON:

Mother: Oh Gertie, you're looking sad!
Gertie: Yes, Mother, I am sad.
Mother: You miss Dick, don't you?
Gertie: Yes! I can't stop thinking of Dick!
(Repeat ad nauseum)

[Adults eat their own infants in fits of hilarity]

* British spelling for this thread.
posted by alasdair at 1:07 PM on December 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's curious that, as a former British colony, this didn't catch on and stick with us Americans.

That's because panto didn't start until after the Revolutionary War. It started sometime in the mid-1800's, I think.


Pantomime productions in America were interrupted by the Revolutionary War, according to a 1984 article in American Music (link to abstract):

"The appeal of pantomime seemed to work in the colonies as well. From 1736 to the interruption of stage entertainment in 1774, no fewer than thirteen distinct pantomime titles are found (see the appendix).Comparison of these titles with pantomimes current in Britain shows thatAmericans probably made changes in the imported productions, changes possibly necessitated by reduced physical circumstances but also by local preference and talent."

The article goes on to say that American panto was changed by an influx of French players in the second half of the (18th) century who were inspired more by France's Ballet d'Action, making Amercan pantomimes more grand, serious, and spectacular than the British type. According to the article, American pantomime had given way to melodrama by the 19th century.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:26 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a huge oversimplification. The Puritans were only a fraction of the colonizers in the early years of the European invasion of what is now the United States.

Which is why I said the settlers were EITHER Puritans OR something else. But it is indeed something of a simplification, even so.

And it is still true that a number of Colonies had laws against theater for a time:
In the 18th century, laws forbidding the performance of plays were passed in Massachusetts in 1750, in Pennsylvania in 1759, and in Rhode Island in 1761, and plays were banned in most states during the American Revolutionary War at the urging of the Continental Congress.[citation needed] In 1794, president of Yale College, Timothy Dwight IV, in his "Essay on the Stage", declared that "to indulge a taste for playgoing means nothing more or less than the loss of that most valuable treasure: the immortal soul."


When theater first finally came to the U.S., it was in some of the more established cities, and was trying to be more highbrow from the look of it.

So: to address the original observation, the reason why panto didn't catch on here -- even though we were a former British colony -- is because at the time panto was just getting started in England, the colonists were either shunning theater entirely or were too busy doing survival-on-the-frontier types of things. The need for that kind of escapist entertainment was still there, it just got satisfied with more home-grown entertainments.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:48 PM on December 18, 2011


I wouldn't say that all non-Puritans were doing "survival on the frontier," having just completed a semester immersed in 18th century pop culture among the urban super-wealthy elite. Sometimes things just take different trajectories, and I think oneirodynia has it. Timothy Dwight's pronouncements aside, he was just one of many ultra-religious people decrying stuff that was happening anyway (otherwise there'd have been no need to outlaw it, it just wouldn't be offered).

I'd also mention that at times in New England at least, not only was theater sometimes outlawed, but Christmas celebration was too, taking any Christmastime pop culture, including theater, pretty much with it except for what could go underground.

Thanks so much for the post. As a Yank who had no exposure to the tradition, I have had to try to cobble together some understanding of pantomime based on the thirdhand mentions you find in places like Python, Are You Being Served?, Blackadder, and the Beatles Christmas Messages. It pops up in literature, too, enough to puzzle a younger me trying to parse the plots of say, Adrian Mole Diaries or something.

It never added up to a lot of sense, but neither do any of the other English folk plays; they come out of a really specific cultural context and it just didn't all migrate in whole form. Someone above mentioned Buster Keaton, and yes we have the tradition of slapstick, but I'd say that tradition is larger and more general than what's going on in panto, with the codified roles.

The cross-dressing thing also seems peculiarly English. It's never played as big a role in American humor as in English humor. I can only speculate as to why - does having it reinforced annually just ensure that it's a standard comedy trope? Did America's tendency to focus more on racial or urban/rural humor just redirect the comedic impulse to other topics? Dunno.
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on December 18, 2011


What, you don't have Shakespeare?
posted by Artw at 7:57 PM on December 18, 2011


We do but we know the dude was English.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on December 18, 2011


Also, Shakespeare's usually been perceived as "Serious drama for serious people". Not so much with the comedy (even the comedies were for the upper-class folk, who were a bit more genteel and refined and didn't really appreciate the broader humor so much -- too common, after all!).

(At least, that's my hunch.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:29 AM on December 19, 2011


Panto in the late 19th and early 20th century crosses over with Music Hall - including Fred Karno's Army, which gave the world Charles Chaplin and Stan Laurel. Panto tropes suffuse low British comedy - the Carry On films, Are You Being Served? and The Rocky Horror Show are full of them.

(What is The Rocky Horror Show other than a panto for grown-ups, or at least excitable adolescents? Especially in post-Fame audience-partici-say-it-pation mode).

Another thing about it is its relation to the Christmas holiday, which is huge in the UK - for a lot of people it will last from this Friday until January 3rd - I don't know if that's as true in the U.S. Ten days, of which four are weekend and four actual public holidays, dedicated to eating and drinking as much as your wallet and ingestive capacity allow. The ridiculous delirium of panto slots right into that.

It would be nice (though one couldn't really support it) if one could say it dates back to Saturnalia.

(The true meaning of Christmas really is to have an enormous party right in the middle of Winter, just to keep you sane 'til spring. That's what it's for. Luminous babies, peripatetic stars and gifts of myrrh are all very well, but nowhere near as important as enormous puddings and middle-aged men pretending to be washerwomen.)
posted by Grangousier at 5:01 AM on December 19, 2011


The cross-dressing thing also seems peculiarly English

Hmm, really? I went to see the Phantom of the Opera last week and was struck by how the parody of 18th century operetta was a lot like a pantomime - complete with cross dressing and innuendo. And Shakespeare certainly didn't exist in a vacuum.

Seems to me there's a long history of European stage farce and comedy which helped spawn pantomime, not to mention traditions such as punch and judy. This idea that tawdry innuendo and drag is especially English seems to be a kind of English/British exceptionalism.
posted by Summer at 5:08 AM on December 19, 2011


Shakespeare's audiences included everybody, lowest to highest status. I think that's one reason why they work so well - there's something in there for everyone, from kids and the commonest people up to nobility. Here's some stuff about Shakespeare's audiences.

That doesn't provide an answer as to why Shakespeare is distinctly perceived as highbrow entertainment in the US today. The Folger Library seems to have some podcasts about Shakespeare in American Life that are probably pretty enlightening. The NEA has this Shakespeare in American Communities project which doesn't go into early evidence in as much detail as I'd like, but this is interesting:
In his famous travelogue Democracy in America, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on the popularity of Shakespeare across the new nation in the 1830s: “There is hardly a pioneer's hut that does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare. I remember that I read the feudal drama of Henry V for the first time in a log cabin.”
So I don't know. By the early 1800s the US was also seeing the rise of minstrel theatre which was like a tsunami across the pop culture, and maybe that created a new sense of what popular entertainment should look like, making Shakespeare recede a little more into drawing-room reading and formal academic environments. It would be interesting to read about. If I had some more time I'd dig in, but have to go to work today, ugh.
posted by Miko at 5:12 AM on December 19, 2011


In the states, television and the movies ate Vaudeville, yet it seems to have lived on in the UK for a good time longer than it did here in the states. I was wondering if Pantomime also morphed a bit into the Minstrel Show genre, which was thankfully bludgeoned to death around the same time that Vaudeville died if not some time before.
posted by crunchland at 5:14 AM on December 19, 2011


Sure, Phantom of the Opera is based on an English novel. I'm not saying cross-dressing never appears in American performance, just nowhere near the frequency it does in British performance, comedy especially.
posted by Miko at 5:15 AM on December 19, 2011


I'm a 30 year old man. If I fancied Jimmy/Janette Krankie, would that make me a gay paedophile or a straight gerontophile?

Metafilter has long been liberal and non-judgemental in its attitude to sexual preferences and identity, accepting differences as regards lifestyle, living arrangements and more, but I would like to think there is one taboo that remains: It you fancy Jimmy Krankie then what you are is fucked up.
posted by biffa at 5:15 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Shakespeare's audiences included everybody, lowest to highest status. I think that's one reason why they work so well - there's something in there for everyone, from kids and the commonest people up to nobility.

Oh, I know -- I'm talking about the public perception of Shakespeare. He wrote for all ages, but for some reason in this country, Shakespeare is who you turned to for "serious and important theater" rather than "stupid escapist yuks", is what I meant. de Tocqueville noted that lots of Americans seemed to have copies of Shakespearean works on their bookshelves -- but I have a feeling that the reasons WHY those people read or saw his works wasn't because "I need something dumb and silly and escapist".

In other words: the fact that Shakespeare may have used fart jokes into his work is different from whether people THINK of Shakespeare when they think "fart jokes".

(And now I'm drawing a blank whether Shakespeare actually did use fart jokes. I think at least once.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:42 AM on December 19, 2011


> ... whether Shakespeare actually did use fart jokes

Every piece of Shakespearian dialogue becomes hi-larious if you substitute "Pull my finger" as the response.
posted by scruss at 6:35 AM on December 19, 2011


Panto and Morris Dancing, two forms of "entertainment" that just don't translate in America. I suppose you could add Benny Hill to that list too...
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2011


Pff. Americans will be obsessed with Benny Hill long after he is forgotten in the UK.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on December 19, 2011


Maybe I live in a particularly anglo part of Canada (though I don't think so), but for me the highlight of the local Canada Day parade is our local Morris Dancers jingling by.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:14 PM on December 19, 2011


Oh yeah,and I think Morris dancing is also far more successful in the US than pantomime ever was. There are a bunch of troupes that do it and you tend to see them at folk festivals and in parades and things.

I first ran across it at my college in the early 90s. I had been up all night - I forget whether it was for a legitimate reason like turning a paper in or an illegitmate one like hanging out all night partying - but in any case, I was walking back to my dorm room in the first light of dawn on May 1st, campus totally quiet, and what should I see but a bunch of men hopping up and down with jingle bells on their legs and hankies in their hands. A totally serendipitous moment, especially since I had no idea what it was, and in that fuzzy not-truly-awake all-nighter state that might have involved intoxicants, it was all kind of amazing.

Turns out that particular troupe always does a May Day marathon - they still do it. They dance on the campus at dawn, and then they go up to a nearby mountain (a small one) and dance up there, which is neat.

So yeah, Morris happens.
posted by Miko at 10:05 PM on December 19, 2011


And now I'm drawing a blank whether Shakespeare actually did use fart jokes. I think at least once

Comedy of Errors has one.

ANTIPHOLUS OF EPHESUS. Go fetch me something; I'll break ope the gate.
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE. [Within] Break any breaking here,
     and I'll break your knave's pate.
DROMIO OF EPHESUS. A man may break a word with you,
     sir; and words are but wind;
  Ay, and break it in your face, so he break it not behind.
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE. [Within] It seems thou want'st breaking;
out upon thee, hind!

Fucking terrible gag. Shakespeare was a genius, but not a very funny one. Don't give me no "cultural change" nonsense neither, Chaucer is still funny.
posted by howfar at 4:50 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


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