Vaudeville: Patter; Shtik; Double Talk

By Ira Seidenstein

May 10, 2021

Vaudeville: Patter; Shtik; Double Talk featuring “Shaw and Lee”.

Vaudeville had sight acts, comedy acts, sketch comedy, and music. The comedians generally were multi-skilled using song, dance, verbal comedy, and Slapstick. Their acts also were the comedians acting as their own stock character. In the early days of Vaudeville the comedians performed as one of a few ethnic archetypes. Later the Vaudeville style clown emerged and Shaw and Lee are a fine example of that standard style. In Vaudeville when Chaplin toured in Fred Karno’s troupe he played a stock character “The Drunk”. Frankie Fontaine was one of the last ‘Drunk characters’. He can be seen acting with Jackie Gleason while Gleason plays the bartender. In those TV skits, Frankie is called by his character’s name ‘Frankie Googenheim’. Gleason’s bartender is ‘Mr Donahee’.

Shaw and Lee were excellent with double-talk patter. Those are two types of verbal comedy seen in the first videos below. Shtik is generally physical ‘comic business’ (action). Their Shtik also refers to the type of comedy that Shaw and Lee, for example, do as in their type of Patter and double-Talk.

My main exercises for teaching Patter are: The Laurel & Hardy Exercise; and, The Lucille Ball/Vivian Vance Exercise. Both are presented with instructions in the book Clown Secret, in chapter 2.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8INZsACbQf0&t=333s

Here you’ll be able to see how they use and vary some of their Shtik. Their Shtik includes their unique Double Talk as one them interrupts himself trying to find the correct ‘turn of phrase’.

Here Shaw and Lee are Acting in this film as the piano movers from 48 minutes until 55:00.

Another great Vaudeville comedy duet was “Burns and Allen” and they had their own signature Patter and Double Talk. The short biography below of Shaw and Lee mentions that they were friends with Burns and Allen.

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Ira Seidenstein