Jack Coogan was a vaudeville dancer and the father of Jackie Coogan, the little boy who played “The Kid” in Charlie Chaplin’s film of the same title. Here is fun clip of him in a Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton short film. It’s a little unusual as his dance isn’t a solo bit, but is used to motivate other physical comedy.
Hal LeRoy is another great eccentric dancer for animators to study.
HERE IS A LINK to a blog post from Filmstruck about him.
This next one has a unique camera angle from below a glass floor. You can get a great sense of how rotated his feet are.
I chose this next one for the staging. So many old Hollywood dance routines are on stages. Here is something a bit different. The trolley driver who dances on his station, then the platform, then dances through the car. Imagine the possibilities for places to dance.
This next one features something I can’t say I have seen before. Dancing on stilts. This is from a short film, “Rythmitis” which has the gimmick of pills that turn the user into an energetic dancer. It appears that this is another dancer in a Hal LeRoy film, but I’m not sure of his name.
Often, it’s fun to see an eccentric dance routine put to contemporary music. Enjoy Jack Stanford dancing to Uptown Funk.
In this video, you can also hear him sing.
James “Stump” Cross and Eddie “Stumpy” Hartman were a comedy dance duo popular on stage and film from the mid-30s to the 50s. In addition to excellent dancing, the two also were a classic comedy duo with contrasting heights. The taller “Stump” made funny faces and shifted his hat and jacket around for comical effect, while the shorter “Stumpy” simply smiled and danced. Cross would also shift into a much slower motion, which also contrasted with Hartman’s continued speed.
I’ve recently read a couple of posts on other blogs about 2 man comedy teams.
The first was Pretty Clown, Ugly Clown by Anthony Balducci. It is a look at some interesting combinations of actors in movies.
The second post, Odd Couples by John Towsen is about some lesser known comedy pairings from the stage.
For animators, the idea of a comedy duo usually starts with the simple idea of Fat Guy/Skinny Guy like Laurel and Hardy, and Abbot and Costello. But really, the physical appearance won’t take the work very far. There needs to that special chemistry that creates contrast. Tex Avery is often remembered for his wacky wolf character. But it was the second wolf who was smooth and debonair who completed the scene.
Tex also created the ever calm Droopy Dog, but Droopy always played against a high energy partner:
The dysfunctional friends Ren and Stimpy had one of the more complex relationships in animation. More like a classic comedy team. They were real partners, sharing in each other’s lives, but each had very different personalities, and were often at odds.
When Porky Pig and Daffy Duck worked together, they were somewhat similar to the classic team. While they weren’t enemies, they weren’t pals either.
Another classic way to put two characters together is the star/sidekick team, such as Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. Wallace and Gromit, due to their owner/dog relationship can be considered an evolved example of this. While the sidekick is often the smarter of the two, the star is the character who causes the action. I’m thinking that Rocky & Bullwinkle fall into this category.
I suppose it’s possible to consider a pair of antagonists to be a comedy team. In fact, it may be the most common kind found in cartoons. You have your Roadrunner and Coyote, Tom and Jerry, Bugs and Elmer, Sylvestor and Tweety, Foghorn Leghorn and George P. Dog. Those arrangements obviously have a predator/prey relationship with the predator usually getting the worst of the situation. Still, each has unique characters that carry out their parts in their own style.
Comedy teams don’t always have to be in contrast with each other. Animation has the unusual combination of two characters that are very similar, such as Chip n’ Dale, and Heckle and Jeckle. These characters always work as a team to harrass a third character.
Mac and Tosh were a pair of gophers who premiered in the Bob Clampett short, Goofy Gophers. They played against a dog character. Here is a bit of trivia from wikipedia:
The gophers’ mannerisms and speech were patterned after Frederick Burr Opper‘s comics characters Alphonse and Gaston, which in the early 1900s engendered a “good honest laugh”. The crux of each four-frame strip was the ridiculousness of the characters’ over-politeness preventing their ability to get on with the task at hand.
The pair’s dialogue is peppered with such over politeness as “Indubitably!”, “You first, my dear,” and “But, no, no, no. It must be you who goes first!” The two often also tend to use unnecessarily long words, for example, in Lumber Jerks, instead of “We gotta get our tree back”, they say “We must take vital steps to reclaim our property.” Clampett later stated that the gophers’ effeminate mannerisms were derived from character actors Franklin Pangborn and Edward Everett Horton.