by Lewis C. Strang, Introduction by Matthew Brewer
In his catalogue of their character and artwork, Strang’s book becomes as much an exploration of the requisites of comedic performance as of the individuals who epitomized it. In the narratives of their lives, one sees the power these individual performers had to shape the very course of light and comic opera through their own personal star power, their capacity for sculpting an art form around their personal magnetism and their mastery of comedy, from high wit to slapstick buffoonery. In fact, Strang’s own analysis of what makes these performers so compelling is in itself a window into the comedic sensibilities of the time. His attempts to quantify the humorous elements of each performer, as well as quotes from the performers themselves attempting to explain their own success, are an interesting exercise in attempting to explain the inexplicable. The anatomy of humor has long evaded analysis, but the lives and characters of these extraordinary performers serve to illustrate the lasting power of comedy and the role of individual performers in defining a genre.