Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

The black comedian who quietly shattered racial barriers

“The funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew.” W.C. FIELDS

Born in the Bahamas in 1874, Bert Williams moved with his family to California, where he began performing in minstrel shows after graduating high school.

There, he developed a partnership with performer George Walker. The two became popular for their two-man vaudeville acts, with one usually playing a clever con man and the other a dumb mark. Williams in particular was praised for his mastery of physical comedy and ability to garner laughs with the slightest facial expression.

At the time, convention dictated that black characters be depicted by actors in blackface. Despite being black men, Williams and Walker had little choice but to follow this practice. Rather than legitimize it, their use of the unnecessary makeup subtly highlighted its artifice.Their partnership eventually led them to New York, where in 1903 they…

Source: The black comedian who quietly shattered racial barriers

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This entry was posted on 02/29/2016 by in Comedy, History, Reblogs, Theatre and tagged , , , , .
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