Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scrambled and skimble-skambled

At the TLS, Patrick O'Connor reviews Andrew McConnell Scott's biography of the clown Grimaldi. On Grimaldi's farewell performance:
Barely able to stand, he chose a favourite old routine which “called for Clown to be seated while a barber worked busily around his chops”. Grimaldi held the basin of soapy water between his knees and sang one of his most famous songs, “Hot Codlins”, about an apple-seller who gets drunk on gin. Each verse would end with a double entendre, but Grimaldi would not utter the word; instead the audience shouted it out, at which he would turn to them, and cry in mock outrage, “For shame”. And there it is, that London humour that found its way down to the likes of George Robey, Nellie Wallace and Max Miller. Robey – “The Prime Minister of Mirth” – once he had his audience roaring with laughter, would turn to them with the admonishment, “Please, remember where you are – kindly temper your hilarity with a modicum of reserve”, while Wallace (always billed as “The essence of eccentricity”) would wag her finger, and say, “Ah, I don’t mean what you mean”.

No comments:

Post a Comment