English comedian Billie Reeves (1864-1943) was among those who played the part of the drunk in “Mumming Birds” with Fred Karno prior to Charlie Chaplin. He went on to be featured in several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies (1908-1910). Reeves was very excited when Sig Lubin hired him to make comedies for him in 1915; less so when he learned that Lubin wanted him to follow in Billy West’s footsteps by doing a literal Chaplin impersonation. Reeves put his foot down and created his own comic character. Both parties rapidly lost interest. After twenty-six films they parted ways, and Reeves went back to the stage.
You can see his 1916 comedy A Ready Made Maid here.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy, don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.