HISTORIAN HAS PROOF THAT POE DABBLED IN TITTERS BEFORE TERROR!
Everyone knows that Edgar Allan Poe was a master of horror, both as a tale-teller and a poet. But Professor Rufus Malady has found proof that Poe started off as a stand-up comedian and, often, fell back on it when money got tight during his serious writing days.
“Things were always rough on Poe, financially,” says Malady. “The most he ever made for a story was $100. He sold ‘The Raven’ for nine dollars. He needed a boost in income.”
Poe’s secret life as a stand-up was revealed when Malady, through an underground network of mimes, was given a hand-written ledger belonging to a comedian in 1830s New York billing himself as “Crazy” Eddie Allan. “I leafed through it and knew immediately it was Poe. There were a lot of one-liners that just fit in. ‘Now, take my wife – she’s dead.’ stands out. There was an entire routine entitled ‘5 Ways To Know If You’ve Been Buried Alive.’
“It included such riffs as ‘#1: You find yourself in a dark, cramped space and it isn’t a womb. #2: Your fingernails are broken because you’ve been clawing at the wood above you.’ Not exactly knee-slappers.”
Apparently, “Crazy” Eddie Allan was not a hit with audiences. Says Malady, “During his professional lifetime, Poe spent a lot of time in New York, living in the Bronx, the Upper West Side and Greenwich Village. He performed regularly in a Village pub called ‘Master Chuckles.’ There are two reviews of his shows appearing in ‘The New York Mudslinger.’”
In the first review by one Tucker Doubt, the writer summed up: “I don’t know what we in the audience expected, well, I do know, comedy, but ‘Crazy’ Eddie Allan delivered a routine, last night, that was more funereal than funny. The man has the face of a professional mourner and his routines, ‘Mr. Usher Builds His Dream House,’ ‘I Hate Birds’ and ‘Guess What’s Behind the Brick Wall?’ didn’t exactly produce laughter from the audience, although a good deal of fruit was thrown at the stage. As a comedic performance, I would rate this a zero. As an impromptu farmer’s market, it rates an 10+.”
A later review stated: “This was like watching a nervous breakdown. The man did ten minutes on dwarves. Dwarves? How many dwarves do you encounter in your lifetime? This is beyond lunacy. He spun out this long and exhausted tale of his roommate Major Moses, an African potentate, who eventually turns on the comedian and ‘Attempts to kill me. Stabs me with a fork. In the toe. I used the other foot to kick him back to Virginia.’ ‘Crazy’ Eddie Allan should be institutionalized.”
“At that point,” says Malady, “Poe began to earn money as a literary critic, and a harsh one. He hated Longfellow, for instance, and never shied away from cutting the most popular writer in America down. He shelved his comedy routines for a while. Then, he apparently decided to step on stage, again…as an insult comic.
“But he didn’t want to be the target of the audience’s scorn, so he came up with a hand-puppet that would do the ‘insulting.’ Soon, thereafter, at ‘Master Chuckles,’ the act of Wadsworth Raven and Astonished Al debuted.”
According to Malady, the ensuing performance was a disaster. The Raven would insult Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the audience loved Longfellow. Poe and his puppet were forced to flee, pursued by an angry crowd. Running through an open market, the audience picked up pies and hurled them at Poe. Poe returned fire. The crowd withdrew when police were called. For the record, this proves that Edgar Allan Poe invented the comedic pie-fight.
Another WWN exclusive!
HIS LAST FORAY INTO COMEDY
“The next week,” continues the Professor, “’Ruffy Raven and Smilin’ Ed’ made their debut, and did quite well in terms of content but not in terms of audience reactions. In the 1800s, people weren’t used to insult humor. In fact, in you insulted someone; they’d probably shoot you in the head or stab you at the very least.
“Poe researched coarse humor for a solid week and came up with lines like: ‘I was going to give you a nasty look, but God beat me to it.’ ‘I’m not insulting you. I’m describing you.’ and ‘If I wanted to hear from an asshole, I’d fart.’”
According to the Professor, there were no reviews of the show. The next day, however, there were numerous news articles detailing the fire that engulfed Master Chuckles as a demented mob cheered.
“I believe that was his last foray into comedy,” sighs the Professor, “although, I have heard that he was planning a big stage comeback at the time of his death. He was only forty. He died in Baltimore, raving in the street in another man’s clothes. There’s quite a dispute over his last words. Some say it was ‘Reynolds.’ Others say it was ‘Lord help my poor soul.’ I’ve heard it was ‘Rectum? Damned near killed him!’”
The Professor smiled. “Can you imagine that set?”
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