Joe Frisco

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Joe Frisco was an American vaudeville performer who first made his name on stage as a jazz dancer, but later incorporated his stuttering voice to his act and became a popular comedian.

Born Louis Wilson Joseph (Milan, Illinois, November 4, 1889). In the mid and late 1910s he performed with some of the first jazz bands in Chicago and New York City, including Tom Brown's Band from Dixieland, the Original Dixieland Jass Band, and the Louisiana Five. He made his Broadway debut in the Florenz Ziegfeld Follies in 1918. Frisco was a mainstay on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s and 1930s.

His popular jazz dance act (called by some the “Jewish Charleston”) was a choreographed series of shuffles, camel walks and turns. It was usually performed to Darktown Strutters’ Ball. It, or at least a minute or so of it, can be seen in the film Atlantic City (1944). He typically wore a derby hat, and had a king-sized cigar in his mouth as he danced. He often performed in front of a backing danceline of beautiful women wearing leotards, short jackets and bowler hats—and “puffing” on big prop cigars.

Frisco was a compulsive gambler and spent many afternoons while in New York City at the track with actor Jay C. Flippen, playwright Jerry Devine, actor Martin Gabel (husband of Arlene Francis) and Danny Lavezzo (owner of P. J. Clarke's), and when he began to incorporate stand-up comedy into his act, his humor revolved on tales about his bad luck gambling, speakeasies, and his constant...
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