There was something about movies and tv in their infancy…

An excerpt from Sawdust Is Thicker Than Water by Scott Linker


For all my grandmother’s humor and ability to know no strangers, she was a hypochondriac.  Long before her passing, when she was still relatively healthy, we use to joke her headstone would say, ‘I told you I was sick.’  Her doctors had discovered a cure for which there was no illness.

At this time she was complaining of memory loss.  She always had a good memory.  I think she just felt the need for attention.

When Comedy Was King movie posters

On this life altering visit, When Comedy Was King, a wonderful compilation of early silent screen comedy was playing on her tv.  It instantly captured my imagination.  There was something about movies and tv in their infancy that allowed clowns freedom.  We were all drawn to the tv.  The feeling of safe anarchy these heroes of celluloid created was fun and liberating.

The nineteen twenties held a fascination for many of us then.  The Art Deco architecture designed for optical effect and pleasure.  The music and film had innocence, fun, and rhythm, that’s still so easily identified with the twenties.  Before the depression, and World War Two, it was a time when it seemed life could only get better.

While we were enjoying a time when comedy really was king, my grandmother mentioned Harry, the baby faced clown.  My mother didn’t know who he was.  We both thought here she goes again.  My grandmother kept trying to recall his last name.  In time I would find a real bridge between the past and present in my grandmothers supposed imaginings.  That day I became a reel fan of early movie clowns.  I soon learned the names of every clown we’d seen at my grandmother’s.  Although video tapes made old comedies convenient and affordable, in the sixties and seventies you could see film comedies as they were intended.  On the big screen, with an audience, in glorious black and white.