`Barry Anthony has learned so much more than I about the great little clown who became the King's Jester. He has brought it all together in this fascinating and so well documented story of Dan Leno's life and times.' Roy Hudd, President of the British Music Hall Society
In 1901 everyone in Britain knew Dan Leno. Only Charlie Chaplin, often compared to Dan in style and appearance, was to occupy a similar position in the hearts of the British public. They had seen Dan live on the music hall stage or in Drury Lane Theatre's famous pantomimes, listened to his jokes on the new gramophone and watched his funny antics in some of the earliest moving pictures. Even the newly crowned King Edward VII was a fan, commanding Dan to give a special performance at Sandringham. Immediately, the popular press dubbed him `The King's Jester'. But his path to such acclaim had been hard and painful, starting as a child performer in the slums of London and Liverpool and progressing to a chaotic career in hard-bitten northern variety theatres. Dan's final position as the nation's favourite comedian involved severe strain as he struggled to meet the requirements of widely varying audiences. His stage act itself presented a series of contradictions as he attempted to present the opinions of both male and female characters. As one of the first mass media stars, Dan suffered the damaging effects of continual exposure and public expectation. After a series of much publicised physical and mental breakdowns he died at the early age of forty three.
Barry Anthony has drawn on a wide variety of previously unused sources to produce this authoritative biography of one of the greatest comedians of all time. In telling the full story of Dan's life and career on the stage and screen, he throws fresh light on the everyday life of Victorian Britain, as well as on Dan's unique brand of humour and its resonance with later comedians such as Spike Milligan and the Monty Python team.