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The Kid at 100: Celebrating a Chaplin Masterwork

September 16 7:00 pm

Charles Chaplin 5 Reels of Joy posterIn 1921 Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid took the world by storm. The story of a penniless tramp who adopts an abandoned infant struck a powerful chord in the aftermath of a devasting war during which millions died and thousands of children were left orphaned.  In The Kid at 100 renowned mime artist and comedy choreographer Dan Kamin will reveal what keeps this film fresh, funny and incredibly moving to this day.  Author of The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin:  Artistry in Motion, Dan trained Robert Downey, Jr. for his Oscar-nominated performance in Chaplin, after which Downey said, “Dan’s insights are amazing.”

“Demented, charming, and brilliant” is how Allentown’s Morning Call described Dan Kamin, who created the physical comedy sequences for Chaplin and Benny and Joon, and trained Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Depp for their acclaimed starring performances in those popular films.

Another critic raved that Kamin’s stage performance was “a breathtaking display of theatricality that’s sharp, funny, and highly inventive.”  But Kamin’s favorite review came from eleven-year-old Kenneth:  “You made me laugh so hard I got a headache,” said the lad.  “Nobody’s ever done that before.”

Asked about his movie work, Kamin says, “Classic movies inspired me, and I came full circle by adding classic visual comedy to modern films.  I taught Johnny Depp how to roll the coin around his fingers the way he does at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean.  But does he call?  Never.”

In addition to working with Depp and Downey, Kamin played the wooden Indian that came to life in the cult classic Creepshow 2 and created the Martian movement for Tim Burton’s horror spoof Mars Attacks!

Despite his impressive stage and screen credits, Kamin’s artistic beginnings were humble. At age twelve he began his performing career as a boy magician.  “I struggled in vain to entertain hordes of hyperkinetic, sugar-crazed, children at birthday parties.”  He attended Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University to study industrial design, “but when I saw the eye-popping movement illusions practiced by master mime Jewel Walker my hopes for a normal life evaporated.”

The great silent comedy films of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin added more fuel to his fire, and soon Kamin was touring the country with his first original show, “Silent Comedy…Live!”  Undeterred by the fact that vaudeville was long dead, he cobbled a new vaudeville circuit out of colleges, theatres, symphony orchestras and corporations, for whom Kamin often appears as a keynote speaker who falls apart.  “I applied my industrial design skills to building a collapsing lectern.”  He also becomes “Mr. Slomo,” an eerie character who strolls through public places in slow motion “terrifying the very children who tormented me as a youth.”

Kamin returned to his comedy roots to write Charlie Chaplin’s One-Man Show, revealing the secrets of Chaplin’s comic art.  Hailed as a breakthrough work, the book boasted a preface by another Chaplin fan, the legendary mime Marcel Marceau.  Kamin’s recent book, The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion, updates his earlier book and features an account of how he trained Downey for his Oscar-nominated performance.

During recent seasons Kamin has toured his solo show throughout America and Europe, and “humiliated many symphonies”—including Cleveland, Atlanta, Montreal, Shanghai, Singapore and Malaysia—with his comic antics.

The Kid at 100 will be presented on Thursday, September 16 at 7:00 P.M.  The program runs two-and-a-half hours.  Click to register.

Note:  The film will be shown as part of the program, but participants who have problems viewing video over Zoom should watch the film in advance here.

Click for more info and a Q&A with Dan Kamin.