Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Life and career
Dan was born in London, England where his parents had been music hall entertainers. He made his debut at the Cosmotheca Music Hall in Paddington when he was billed as Little George, the Infant Wonder, Contortionist and Posturer.
In the 1880s he became probably the most popular music hall act in England, performing in up to 20 shows a night. He was a very good clog dancer and actually became World Champion Clog Dancer in 1880. When audiences began to turn away from that, he set about creating various characters, includes dames, a policeman, a Spanish bandit, a fireman and a hairdresser. His monologues with the audience, particularly the You know Mrs. Kelly?... routine, increased his stardom. He proved to be so popular that he even entertained royalty at Sandringham, later earning him the nickname the King’s Jester.
In 1896 he was hired by Augustus Harris , manager at the Drury Lane to appear in pantomime productions that included Jack and the Beanstalk, Babes in the Wood and Mother Goose. In virtually all of these production he played the dame.
Dan Leno remains an important figure in the development of comedy in the late 19th century. Along with the likes of similar music hall stars such as Marie Lloyd, Albert Chevalier and George Robey , legendary masters of mirth such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy owe a debt to him and the enduring humour from this period.
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