Conroy and Fox: Irish Comedians

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s a wee post to add to our over 270 Irish and Irish-American artists profiled on Travalanche. I first became aware of the team of Conroy and Fox during my recent trip to the Smith Opera House. I don’t know their actual dates of birth, so we selected this as a suitable day to share.

John C. Fox (c. 1866-1902) was born to Irish immigrants in New York City. He’d been a boy singer in the church choir of St. Patrick’s Cathedral when spotted by Ned Harrigan, who made him part of the Harrigan and Hart musical comedy company as a child actor. At the age of 18, he left to perform with other troupes. In 1887 he paired up with John H. Conroy (1849-1923), former partner of James L. Dempsey, to create the variety team of Conroy and Fox, Irish Comedians. They were known for performing witty crosstalk and songs, and were more prized for the former, as their musical repertoire was deemed hoary and old fashioned. In New York, they played Tony Pastor’s, but they toured vaudeville venues throughout the country and even played London music halls in 1893. The following year they formed a company to tour with an original musical entitled Hot Tamales. This was followed in 1895 by O’Flaherty’s Vacation .

Conroy and Fox broke up in 1896, and Fox married Katie (Kittie) Allen, with whom he toured in vaudeville and with a play they co-wrote, The Flat Next Door (1897). In 1898 he bought a theater in Reading, Pennsylvania, but in 1899 he filed for bankruptcy. He died three years later. Conroy had success on Broadway for a few years, appearing in The Good Old Summertime (1904), The Rogers Brothers in Paris (1904), The Rogers Brothers in Ireland (1905), The Governor’s Son (1906) with the Four Cohans and Ethel Levey, and Cohan’s The Talk of New York (1907) with Moore and Littlefield.

For more on vaudeville and show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.