Professor Zeidler, ‘Man of Laughter’

Professor Zeidler on Madeira Drive
Professor Zeidler on Madeira Drive

‘Professor’ Charles Zeidler died in Brighton in June 1937. Known as the ‘man of laughter’, he had entertained the public in Brighton for twenty years. He stood outside ‘Laughterland’, the hall of mirrors, on Brighton’s Palace Pier and laughed. He would laugh as people went in and as they came out.

Born in Hastings in 1873 to German parents, the family had moved to Camelford Street, Brighton by 1881. Ten years later, he was listed as a ‘ventriloquist’ sharing lodgings in Portsmouth with a Herbert Clark, described as ‘pianist – this man is half developed’.

He married Amy Kirby, a well known music hall singer, in Doncaster in 1892 and by 1911, he and Amy and his four children had moved to Grosvenor Street, Brighton. He was again listed as a ventriloquist.

According to the Brighton Gazette in 1937, he was once the youngest conjuror in the world, performing at the age of twelve in London. He played at the Brighton Hippodrome, Brighton Alhambra and the Grand Theatre. Persons of note were said to have witnessed his laugh including the Duke of Kent, Earl Haig, and the Bishop of Birmingham. So famous was he that in 1936 he was featured on the radio show, In Town Tonight and told the country how he made his living by laughing.

Palace Pier programme, 1920s
Palace Pier programme, 1920s

He once boasted how he had put on seven stone by laughing, describing his occupation as a ‘healthy one’. But as the Gazette reported:

‘it was probably his weight which was a contributory cause to his death .…. He died from degeneration of the heart’.

Paul Jordan, Senior History Centre Officer

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