The Funniest Man in London: The Life and Times of H.G. Pélissier (1874–1913)

Forgotten Satirist and Composer, founder of The Follies

The Funniest Man in London by Anthony Binns is the first ever biography H.G. Pélissier, satirist, composer and bohemian – one of the most famous Edwardians before WW1. A visionary forerunner of The Goons and Monty Python.

The son of a Franco-German diamond merchant, Harry Pélissier was running his own seaside pierrot troupe, The Follies, at the age of 24. Six years later he was performing to audiences of 2,000 in the West End and in 1906 giving a Royal Command performance to Edward VII at Sandringham. As an impresario, he gave London theatregoers a unique blend of the absurd and the satirical, making the Apollo Theatre his theatrical home for four years. Banned by the Lord Chamberlain for his subversive satire, he arguably broke the barrier between the music hall and the West End. He published over 60 songs, effortlessly composing in a variety of styles. As his fame grew so did his wealth and hedonistic lifestyle. With homes in Pall Mall and Hampstead he had a legendary fondness for fast cars, cuvée champagne and cigars. In 1912, aged 37, he controversially married the beautiful 17-year old Fay Compton, the youngest daughter of one of London’s leading theatrical families, the Comptons. By 1913, Harry Pélissier was dead.

Hidden family letters, lost musical scores and undocumented material at the V&A Theatre Museum and British Library, reveal a forgotten theatrical pioneer.

Copies of this book may be purchased directly from the Pélissier Follies website.

2022 ISBN 978-0-9933203-8-5 Price £20.00

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