Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Houdini's humor

Once, during a Q&A, someone asked me if Houdini used humor in his act. I told them I didn't think so. That Houdini took himself pretty seriously. In fact, he once kicked a comedian (hard!) in the leg when he began telling jokes as Houdini struggled in a straitjacket.

But Patrick Culliton later told me I was mistaken. Houdini did use humor in his act. From that moment, I've kept an eye open for evidence of this, and, by gosh, it's out there! Check out the below from Houdini's appearance at the Regent Theater of Varieties in Salford, England.

This point was further driven home when I was shown a remarkable document at the Harry Ransom Center last year. It's a typewritten page of all the jokes Houdini had at hand during his performances. The jokes are pretty corny, largely dependent on puns and colloquialisms, but they apparently worked on audiences of the time. It's a fantastic glimpse at a part of Houdini's act that is (almost) forgotten.

Where can you read this remarkable document? The Harry Ransom Center, of course! Or you can read it as a member of my Patreon by clicking below.

Thanks to my patrons for supporting my research and content like this.



  1. I only recognize Vickery, and Kukol in the back section. And nobody is smiling.

    1. The not smiling is what makes it funny. :)

    2. There's another photo of HH in those stocks smiling and reading Variety magazine. That little park might be in London or Paris. I wonder if it's still there with the stocks.

    3. Yep, there are a few photos. This is Samford Park in Ashton-Under-Lyne in the UK. Taken March 2, 1909. I've looked online and never found any sign of the stocks.

  2. https://outgress.com/proxy/aHR0cDovL2xoMy5nZ3BodC5jb20vX3VnNzNSbkxUNHU1RzdFb09XRGJxalBNZS1xV1RMaEd2d3lRX21TNzA0YnJJWmYxWU42WlVUMUhCdmtFeDBRT0oyUXNEZVM1cmVLQjlzMWp6WU11UXc%3D/image.png

  3. I’ve just read “they replaced the old stocks and replaced them with new ones”. This comment was posted 10 years ago.

    Perry from NJ.

  4. https://www.alamy.com/stocks-in-stamford-park-ashton-under-lyne-lancashire-1913-image459080312.html?imageid=58E2A356-A708-486F-8220-2FD799474E42&p=283958&pn=1&searchId=40c711115d96260814816f69cdc27138&searchtype=0