Routine Help

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Re: Routine Help

Postby Chris » 26 Jan 2013, 21:48

Oh Richard, please no! I can't stand this pseudo-academic buzz word speak so beloved of social workers, psychologists and salesmanship coaches.

Also it wouldn't really fit puppets as well as magic would it? I would imagine what gave the chap the idea was the word itself, and that from its appearance it could conceivably be thought to be related to Prestadigitation?

What frightens me is that it will be already appearing in the magician's message boards as established fact - just as you happily picked up from CvdC. Anything in a film must be true, musn't it. After all, 8% of Brits in the last goverment census put their religion as Jedi!

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Re: Routine Help

Postby CvdC » 26 Jan 2013, 22:00

I did mention that I thought it may be a myth but I think it may still be something to consider. It certainly doesn't go as far as the "pseudo academic". I wonder where the author Christopher Priest got the concept from?

You will also notice I wrote above that the routine, however it may be conceived, needs to be rehearsed.
However it is simply the rule of three (+1) which is no complex theory and very often actually used as shown by Chris's example above. I'd be quite happy to edit together a number of Punch videos showing it put into practice.
But it is a very odd coincidence for Richard to have to deal with. It must mean something Richard. I happen to think there is a link between doing a magic trick and a puppet show.

Visual jokes are very much the stuff of puppetry, surely. So here is an often quoted anecdote that may be of interest:

The playwright Charles MacArthur had been brought to Hollywood to do a screenplay, but was finding it difficult to write visual jokes.

"What's the problem?" asked Chaplin.

"How, for example, could I make a fat lady, walking down Fifth Avenue, slip on a banana peel and still get a laugh? It's been done a million times," said MacArthur. "What's the best way to GET the laugh? Do I show first the banana peel, then the fat lady approaching, then she slips? Or do I show the fat lady first, then the banana peel, and THEN she slips?"

"Neither," said Chaplin without a moment's hesitation. "You show the fat lady approaching; then you show the banana peel; then you show the fat lady and the banana peel together; then she steps OVER the banana peel and disappears down a manhole."
Last edited by CvdC on 27 Jan 2013, 05:07, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Chris » 26 Jan 2013, 22:11

But children will still laugh at a fat lady slipping on a banana - over and over again.
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Harvey » 30 Jan 2013, 21:58

Thank you everyone for your tips does anybody have the history of Blowey the clown I will add some photos of me renovating it
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Trevek » 04 Feb 2013, 12:57

Chris wrote:But children will still laugh at a fat lady slipping on a banana - over and over again.


You've reminded me of a "comedy" lecture I once attended, Chris.
The lecturer was going on about how comedy often "involves the undermining of authority". She went on to say, "This is why we would laugh if we saw a policeman slipping on a banana skin..." (silence from the audience) ... but it's not so funny, if we see an old lady slipping on a banana skin". The sniggers and giggles of the audience at this image made her stop and visibly ponder... "Or maybe it would... hmmm, that's interesting!"
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Chris » 04 Feb 2013, 16:41

Yes, falling over is always funny. Your lecturer was confusing the person with the result. We would not laugh if someone fell in the street and was obviously hurt. And the fall, contrary to what Chris vdC maintains, is more funny if we anticipate it. Surprise can shock us into laughter but most laughs come from a feeling of superiority in that we have worked something out (ie "got" the joke) or something we have anticipated actually happens. That is why clowns always signal what they are going to do with the custard pie or the bucket of whitewash "Shall I?....Shall I?..." Surprise can have it's place, but too strong a surprise can kill laughter.

The Chaplin scenario uses the banana skin to create the anticipation, when the person doesn't slip on it the audience are disappointed until their expectations are fulfilled, albeit in a different manner, with the manhole. They were correct, after all, that someting was going to happen.
Kids are wonderfully easy to get laughing because their sense of humour is not jaded and they will laugh at the same situation over and over again. This does not mean one should do the gag ad nauseum. Two or three repetitions are usually best, and if you can add an element of surprise (as the Chaplin manhole) to the third then better still.

Oh, and if the fat lady falling can also show her knickers that's a bonus. Knickers, bottoms, smelly socks and sausages are sure fire laughter ingredients for children's entertainers.

Eric Sharp, a Magician and Punchman who really knew how to entertain children (and made a good living at it over many, many years) had one routine which resulted in tears of laughter from three year olds and the main ingredient was repetition of self-inflicted pain. Several cotton reels of different colours were tucked into his hand and changed to appropriately coloured handkerchiefs. Each time he tapped his hand with the wand, and each time he tapped rather too hard and howled with pain. The kids loved it.

And that reminds me of another bit of magic business, this time from the late Brian Eames who many of you will remember with affection. I don't know if this was original with Brian, but he certainly knew how to "sell" it. In some routine involving silks and a changing bag he had the child hit the bag with a giant wand. Each time he had left his hand inside and gave a yelp as the kid hit his hand inside the back. He repeated this a couple of times and then crying "Ouch! That was my thumb!" he withdrew his hand and holding up his thumb which was hugely swollen. A rubber swollen thumb which you can buy at the joke shop had been secreted in the change bag. "Look what you've done to my thumb!" he accused his laughing assistant.
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Trevek » 05 Feb 2013, 12:00

Wonderful, Chris. thanks for sharing. I'd have loved to have seen those routines.
I'm always amazed at how easy it is for kids to laugh, even after years of helping them do it (or were they helping me make them?).
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Tony James » 05 Feb 2013, 20:57

Harvey wrote:......does anybody have the history of Blowey the clown ......


We seem to have overlooked your question as to the background and history of Blowey the Clown.

It was put out in 1970 by Supreme Magic of Bideford and was one of the first of what eventually would become a range of over forty supplementary, novelty P&J figures. Supreme Magic transformed the UK Children’s Entertainment market providing a wide range of superb effects for magicians. There cannot be many children’s entertainers who have not used some Supreme items and a number claimed to use nothing but Supreme items.

You might also say that Supreme was a most significant influence on the P&J business, if only for the range and volume of figures made available. Actually, it went further. Edwin Hooper who founded the company in the 1950s always claimed that the money he used to start the business came not from performing magic, as many magicians supposed, but from his earnings on Wollacombe Sands performing Punch & Judy. He used a set of Wal Kent figures.

He wrote and published Hallo Mr Punch in 1963 would have put out a range of Supreme P&J figures sooner if he could only have found someone to make them. P&J makers were few and far between. P&J figures were but one of the range of puppets most of them produced – gloves, marionettes, rods, vent figures and living marionettes which are small articulated bodies that hook around the performer’s neck. The performer works by sticking their head through a curtain appearing as a cartoon-like figure, big head and tiny body and working the arms and legs with rods. People rarely see acts like that today in the UK.

P&J was really an evening sideline for most makers as they had day jobs and also worked as performers at weekends. Their output was quite small individually and small even collectively. And demand wasn’t there either. Edwin Hooper changed all that.

In 1968 Edwin approached Joe Parsonage, a vent maker, to copy his Wal Kent figures and thus was born Supreme P&J figures. I saw some of the first figures at Bideford early in 1969. They were not the best but Joe learned and improved. It can’t have been easy especially working for Edwin who always wanted things NOW!

Having launched the figures Edwin published a booklet written by the Dublin based children’s entertainer Neville Wiltshire and entitled A Helping of Punch. 44 pages of which 26 are solid dialogue so there just has to be some useful lines and ideas there. Plenty of other ideas too but the first one on page 5 Neville called Bigger Joey Bigger. A balloon blowing clown. Edwin seized on this, renamed it Blowey the Clown and wanted figures from Joe and he wanted them fast, to be ready to meet the publication date.

Joe had no time to come up with a carved figure in the volume required so he simply used a head blank. In order to make heads quickly Wal Kent had bought in lath turned heads, barrel shaped and then devised a simple carving method of gauging out eyes and mouths. It was this method that Joe used to copy Wal’s style.

All Joe did to Blowey was drill three holes, nose, mouth and finger hole in the neck and nail on two shaped bits for ears. Sandpaper and the head was finished. It was then painted with the clowns face, a pushed-in nose and the air tube inserted into the mouth. A conical white felt hat was both glued and stapled to the head with a bit of black hair fabric nailed below.

It looked nothing like a ’Wal Kent Style’ figure and there was not one jot of carving on that head.. A pair of stock hands – Joe’s hands were always far too big for me – was the only bit that had any trace of carving. Nevertheless, Edwin got his figures.

Strange to say, simple as it is I’ve always thought Blowey was quite delightful, a lovely visual novelty and I have used mine for over thirty five years.

And what may have inspired Neville Wiltshire to come up with the idea? If you go back to 1941 and look in Sidney de Hempsey’s book How to do Punch & Judy you will find a novelty Belisha Beacon in which an orange balloon for the globe blows up and bursts. Same blowing system.

And before that? What inspired Sidney? Who knows, but I have a sneaky suspicion that way back some inventive Victorian – or even Georgian – P&J man might have had a novelty character blowing up a balloon. Full circle so to speak.

Over the years there must have been countless ideas created and used by individual performers which have gone unrecorded and been lost because they didn’t have the appeal to other performers who copied perhaps easier ideas which didn’t require extra preparation and figures and weight to carry about.

I know from my own experience that when a routine works well for you it is worth the trouble involved to keep using it because it is different, valuable and effective.

And if others don’t copy, all the better!
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Chris » 05 Feb 2013, 23:57

Thanks for that trip down memory lane Tony. Many of us remember the Supreme years with fond nostalgia. I think some of the collector/historians will probably have a different view of the pre-Edwin era. There were quite a few Punch figures available long before Edwin came on the scene. Wal Kent was of course supplying magic dealers before Supreme came into being. And what about Quisto? He had a considerable output. And sets of Punch figures and booths were imported from Austria and Bavaria and were advertised in Hamleys' catalogues and also in those of the Army & Navy type Stores which catered for the Colonial Market. There seem to have been would-be Punch profs (often clergymen) all over our Glorious Empire.

What Edwin did was to cleverly sell Punch figures to a whole host of people who would never use them. He sold the idea that Punch was a useful addition to the Children's Entertainers' armoury on a par with balloon modelling, chapeaugraphy and troublewit. All you had to do was buy a few puppets and you had an extra half hour to add variety to your magic show, and your bookings and fees would increase accordingly. The majority of purchasers discovered that to do a succesful Punch Show was far more difficult than they had imagined and the Punch figures were consigned to the attic. This has had the wonderful effect of creating a vast number of Punch and Judy puppets available for collectors at inflated prices on Ebay, many dating from the Supreme years and sold as "never been used" or at least in very good condition.

Of course Edwin must also be credited with helping not a few dedicated Punch men get started. Actually I think his book was as important as supplying the figures. I do not belittle his influence but I think his success was as a salesman. After all, if he had been as good a children's magician or Punchman as he would have us believe that's where he would have made his money, not as a dealer. And as a dealer he was brilliant.

If Edwin had still been going today I bet he'd have been selling the Supreme Flea Circus. I understand that is the latest way to spend a thousand pounds to bring success to struggling magicians.
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Tony James » 06 Feb 2013, 18:46

I know Chris is correct and I wouldn’t disagree with him. He’s right about Edwin and Hallo Mr Punch is one of the best primers. He had from early days been involved in magic dealing. He was a part of the original Unique Magic Company before it broke up and Harry Stanley took the name and set up his own company. Edwin was tea boy.

Gil Leaney went off to make for anyone including Harry and Jack Hughes – who had been instrumental in getting Edwin into the Unique Company – went off to run his own company and build on his own account – he too made props for Harry. Jack took Edwin with him. Edwin lived with Jack and the family for some time before Jack told him to go and set up a dealer business of his own. Which Edwin did and the rest is history

What I was trying to clarify was the state of the traditional market pre 1946. It was small and serviced by carvers who produced a wide cross-section of puppets during their spare time, after work and when they were not performing at weekends. I realise that in Conversations with Punch both Geoff Felix and Fred Tickner were speaking tongue-in-cheek when Fred suggested he had made about twenty sets in his lifetime. Fred was carving for over 50 years so I would suspect he made rather more than twenty. Rather a lot more! But he made them in sets rather than as individual figures and when he had made and sold a set he made another. Very much a cottage industry. No one made a lot. Not like Edwin.

Edwin flooded the market and they were bought by so many, working Punchmen as well as magicians who thought it a good idea to have a set. I’ve often wondered where they all ended up. The odd ones which turn up on EBay are a fraction of what were produced. Where are all the rest because they don’t come up at magic auctions very often.

The other Supreme influence is the carving style. Joe copied Edwin’s Wal Kent style and Tony Green copied Joe Parsonage because that style had become the Supreme house style and Bryan Clarke followed on from there. Each in turn produced their own variants.

But the traditional carved style associated with pre 1946 has given way to the Wal Kent style. I’m not suggesting one is better or more desirable than the other. That would be subjective. But they are different. Try this little test when you can.

Use a supporting figure. Close your eyes and run a finger down the face of a traditionally carved head and you will detect a forehead, curved from hairline down but quite flattish across the brow, then you come to the eye which first goes in and then curves out and over the eyeball, next the bulge of the rounded cheek sweeping back inwards and down to the corner of the mouth. Push your finger along the upper lip to just below the nose (ignore the nose as that’s an add-on) and the finger comes out and over the upper lip and then in and out over the lower lip and finally down to the bit of chin you get with supporting figures. Forget Punch & Judy – their chins are added.

Now do the same with a Wal Kent style figure. You will feel the difference immediately. There is a similar curve from hairline down but the forehead is quite pronouncedly curved from side to side (that’s the cut of the lathe) and the eye is created within a deeply gouged out eye socket. The eyeball is flat and angled and well within the socket, it doesn’t protrude at all (it can’t – all that wood was taken off by the lathe), the cheek isn’t rounded but flat with a sideways curve (again the lathe) and the mouth like the eye is gouged out of the face, not proud because there’s no wood there to carve the lips. The chin is virtually non-existent because once again, the lathe removed the wood.

In fact, if you take a straight edge to the face you will see that the forehead, cheeks and chin area are all in the same flat plane.

Do the same on a traditionally carved head and the undulating face will be revealed by the straight edge.

And one other detail. All the Wal Kent style figures I have handled (and there’s been a few) have round necks. Fred Tickner figures – carved traditionally from a square block of wood – have square necks with the four edges taken off.

This Wal Kent style was designed for and by a man (in conjunction with Fred Tickner who advised and helped Wal) who was not a carver and was looking for a simple way to produce good looking, effective figures both simply and fast. Wal wanted output though nowhere near the output Edwin would later require. You see, Wal needed income and he was wanting a retirement job. He was pushing towards 70. He had very little money and the new Welfare State was nowhere near as generous then as it is today.

Whether you prefer one style or the other is not the point. But I feel it is a shame that because of the dominance of Supreme the Wal Kent Style appears to have become the norm for commercially produced figures.

To sum up, Joe Parsonage started by making pretty awful figures – many were unbalanced and unusable. But he improved as he went along. Next came Tony Green, highly creative and inventive (so much good stuff in Professional Punch and his second book Puppets with Punch) and he made some lovely figures at the start. But as the pressure from Edwin became relentless quality gave way to quantity.

Finally came Bryan Clarke and he was the only supplier who had the measure of the job. He set up a production line. Read all about it in Geoff Felix’s Conversations with Punch. Bryan’s production for Supreme was consistent but made to the Supreme budget, his own lines whilst similar are made to his own standards and you can see and feel the difference. His commission work is something else again. I have a number of his commission pieces bought secondhand so I am aware of the differences.

Buying from Supreme was always chancy where P&J was concerned. Towards the end you could never be certain what mix of figures you might be getting. There was old stock mixed with later and new. It was best to visit and see exactly what you were getting. I remember receiving a Father Christmas and Rudolph.

The Father Christmas was a nightmare. The nose was a massive pyramid shape, so wide the eyes were forced out literally round the sides of the face. I knocked the nose off, chiselled it down and made enough room to fill in the eyes and remake them in a more normal frontal position.

The lined face had deep gouges across the forehead and down from nose to mouth which itself was a deep trench. All needed filling and remaking and the figure redressing. It was an early Joe Parsonage. To me it looked like a 1969/70 attempt.

The accompanying Rudolph was a delight and inside it was signed, Bryan Clarke. I’ve never had to touch it apart from applying a few specks of Velcro to the antlers and the head sockets to keep them all together when hanging.

But I did wonder what had happened to the Bryan Clarke Father Christmases. Perhaps he never made any for Supreme!
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Chris » 06 Feb 2013, 21:31

I don't want to argue about the information you've got from reading - but your flights of fancy are just that. Firstly to suggest that Wal Kent only did turned heads, is a calumny. Also to say that he wasn't a carver is another. True he developed a semi-masse produced method when the demand increased. Actually he didn't invent the idea of carving into a turned basic shape. The very same idea is illustrated in one of those Victorian Boys' Annuals in an article on building your own Punch & Judy Show. Kent, like most of us, had good days and bad days, and produced the pedestrian along with a some masterpieces. His best work has great appeal.
Then to suggest that Supreme maintained the Wal Kent style (ie that his style became the Supreme House Style) is hogwash. Well actually it's Edwin-speak. He always advertised his Puppets as being "in the style of Wal Kent" but they weren't. Probably the only one who could carve in the Kent style was Bryan - who at his best is, to my mind, superior to Wal Kent. Certainly Bryan can carve in a variety of styles and is clever and artistic. But the Green and Parsonage puppets aren't anything like Kent figures. Edwin sold a few actual Kent figures in his first years, but by and large he mis-used the name.
You are right that Fred Tickner didn't make a lot of Punch sets, he did other puppets. But so did Wal Kent. But he got into the mass market of the magic dealers.
Also what was this "traditional carved style" that you contrast with the Kent style? There's no such animal.
Individually the Rose puppets are totally different to the Codman style for example. While on the commercial side you had the very distinctive Quisto style where his carved heads owe a lot to his vent doll and papie-mache expertise giving a look totally different to the slick plane-carving of the German figures which flooded the market.

What I think you totally miss in your pre 1946 analysis is the fact that the further back we go, the more and more we find that Punch figures were made by the performers. They hadn't the money, by and large, to employ carvers and so they made their own puppets. Some were, themselves, superb craftsmen, and made conventionally beautiful puppets, others lacked technical skill but had a go, and used whatever materials and tools were at hand. They produced "interesting" puppets. Some of these, like primitive paintings, had a power and charm all of their own.

I too wonder where all those sets are hiding. Surely David and Steve can't have them all? And remember through the Supreme years Edwin was not alone in selling Punch. Quite a few other carvers were pretty active. Wastn't there a Walter Swanson, Colin SeeKay, Bob Wade and the chap who carved for Oscar Oswald? And in the Midlands there was another chap using his unique solid papie mache style which gave extremely strong heads. His name escapes me but at one period he was churning out sets.
PS I think the name was Waldo (added later)
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Re: Routine Help

Postby CvdC » 06 Feb 2013, 23:16

This is for me very interesting stuff Tony and Chris. I do wish you would illustrate your points with photos.
Do you have a copy of "Victorian Boys' Annuals" Chris?
And what is the typical Wal Kent style?
What would Green and Parsonage puppets look like?
And Tony ""traditional carved style", are there specific examples?
I gather the making of puppets for a consumer market("mass market of the magic dealers"), rather than directly for individual performers is mainly a post war thing. But Tickner started in the 30's perhaps?
My theory is that you will find in the years to come the puppets sold in the 50's and 60's will start appearing in deceased estates of those who bought them. There may be a delay as they get passed on to the grand kids but those that survive will turn up on ebay. There will be a baby bulge of them.
Also, wasn't there was a generation who in the late 60's and 70's that collected eclectic ephemera, which would have included the odd puppet. So the best of this sort of collecting is yet to come.
Here is an example of puppets made from turned heads:
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And here are puppets of the earlier style that may have been made by the performer:
Image
The famous Tickner:

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And a man holding a Kent puppet:


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Re: Routine Help

Postby Chris » 06 Feb 2013, 23:23

Most of your questions can be answered by looking on this website Chris.
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Chris » 07 Feb 2013, 01:19

I gather the making of puppets for a consumer market("mass market of the magic dealers"), rather than directly for individual performers is mainly a post war thing.


Not at all. I thought that was the point I was making. Pre-War - from at least the turn of the Century there was a market for Punch and Judy sets for sale particularly to the Colonies. These were carved to a pattern, expertly but soul-lessly churned out in various sizes, originating in Germany. With slight variations the same puppets were sold as Kasperl sets in Germany, as Punch sets to the British Empire and to America, and as Polichinelle sets in France. Quite often the policeman of whichever set will have a Prussian spiked helmet. These figures were certainly known in Victorian times but also of much more recent times so the patterns and style of carving have been passed down across the generations.
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The most distinctive thing about the carving is that the heads are carved across the diagonal - the corner of the block of wood forms the nose and chin.
Also smaller versions of these same figures appeared in Nurseries, often with very elaborately decorated child sized fit-ups. There were also lady versions or parlour sets.
Only last year I was performing at a birthday party in Cheshire for a monied family. While chatting afterwards the Grandfather mentioned that he had found a set of Punch and Judy figures in the attic of the family home. I expressed interest and he promised to send photographs. He said the puppets must date back to at least 1910. When I got the the pictures they were these same style of puppets.
I think there was probably a bigger market pre-war but the difference was where they were sold. Edwin created a market among the growing ranks of amateur magicians. Earlier the market was much wider. Remember in earlier times there was a whole class of people with means who didn't need to work and could indulge themselves in artistic and pleasurable activities. Those who did have overseas postings had a considerable amount of free time and a nostalgia for all things English. I suppose the Punch & Judy Show might take its place alongside Musical Soirees and Amateur Dramatics.
I don't think these puppets were much used by the Punch men in Britain although they were purchased as toys here. I have a set of quite good ones (the quality varied - presumably with the price) and mine were a performing set, but in Paris not Britain. They were actually sold at Christies I think, or at least some auction house in London, but the provenance shows them to have belonged to a French showman. Without looking it up I can't be sure but I think mine pre-date the 1914-18 war. But the point is that very similar sets appear periodically on Ebay (especially Ebay.com as opposed to Ebay.co.uk) of various dates and in various sizes, so there must have been an extensive market to account for such an industry.
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Re: Routine Help

Postby Trevek » 07 Feb 2013, 08:28

This is all fascinating stuff, Chris and Tony.

It may seem a strange question, as many of mine are, but do you think that the anti-German public sentiment of WW1 and 2 meant people stopped buying/using German-made puppets and allowed a home-market to develop?

I still find it interesting that in Germany there are at least two large companies producing Kasperl puppets for the toy market (almost every toyshop in Germany has sets of Kasperl figures), and one of these also makes figures for adults.
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