Today is the birthday of vaudeville and Broadway comedian Frank Tinney (1878-1940). His shtick was to tell the corniest of jokes, implicating others (bandleaders, fellow performers, audience members) in the crime by dragging them onstage and making them the feeder. To make it more bizarre, he did this act in blackface** (without accent) for most of his career. A drunkard and womanizer, his career ended in the 1920s after a scandal, else there might have been a cinematic record and he’d be better known today.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville and performers like Frank Tinney, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.