The Power of Silence

Trav S.D. makes the case for wordless mirth, then and now

Image courtesy of Bean Manor Media Trav S.D. lanches his latest book, at Dixon Place, on April 10.

Image courtesy of Bean Manor Media
Trav S.D. lanches his latest book, at Dixon Place, on April 10.

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Performer, playwright, producer, author and all-around troublemaker Trav S.D. — who until recently served as this publication’s beloved Downtown theater columnist — is one of the best friends comedians, musicians and uncategorizable stage performers ever had. He proved that with the publication of 2005’s  “No Applause, Just Throw Money, The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous” — a sprawling tome which, like much of the author’s prolific blog work, was written with a scholar’s sense of dutiful reporting leavened by an incredibly sharp sense of humor and cut with a generous amount of cultural observations and criticisms that put today’s “New Vaudeville” and burlesque circuit into its appropriate context.

The good Mr. S.D. is at it again, with a new work destined to function as, if not a sequel, then most certainly the other half of a pair of damn fine bookends. The space in-between might well be filled with DVDs of everything from Chaplin films to “Our Gang” shorts to “Cannonball Run” and the complete library of Jerry Lewis films. All of these, and dozens of deserved but forgotten also-rans, get the detailed examination they so richly deserve — in “Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube.”

Dense and detailed but always written with an infectious fan’s love of the game, “Chain” — as its title implies — is a chronological examination of laugh-inducing wordless expression that the author actually manages to trace all the way back to 27 centuries ago…right up to the sort of physical comedy that’s being posted on YouTube as you read this. That means you’ll come to enjoy (or at least aesthetically appreciate) the relevance, and relative merits, of The Keystone Cops as well as Adam Sandler. The author even manages to explain why all of France seems to be in love with Jerry Lewis.

Curious? Ask Trav S.D. about that (as well as why he’s so hard on Tim Conway), at the book launch party (April 10, 7:30pm, at Dixon Place). Before the book signing and celebration, there will be a screening of new, original silent comedies made by the author himself (with Hilary Chaplain), Piper McKenzie Productions (Hope Cartelli & Jeff Lewonzyk), Jeff Seal, Jim Moore and Christopher Michael.

BOOKS
CHAIN OF FOOLS: SILENT COMEDY AND ITS LEGACIES FROM NICKELODEONS TO YOUTUBE
By Trav S.D.
Price: $21.95
Published by Bear Manor Media
Visit bearmanormedia.com
Also visit travsd.wordpress.com

TRAV S.D.’s “CHAIN OF FOOLS”
BOOK LAUNCH
Free
Wed., April 10 at 7:30pm
At Dixon Place
161 Chrystie St.,
btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.
For info, call 212-219-0736
Visit dixonplace.org

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