Ben Ali Shrine

Keystone Cop Patrol

Sacramento California

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  "We Play So Children May"

 
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The typical policeman of 1920's movies, the Keystone Kop was modeled like the English "bobby", with a long brass-buttoned overcoat, carrying long nightsticks that he (more often than not) whapped himself with, rather than anyone else. The Keystone Kops were very slapstick-like, relying on speed and numbers to achieve their comedy, rather than sophisticated wit.

 

Officially called "The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America" -- known today as the Shriners.

Shriners are famous for their parades -- the dazzling marching bands, the horse patrols stepping smartly through the streets, the miniature cars driven with precision, the colorful clowns, and the Keystone Cops..

But after the parades are over, when the cheers and applause are but a memory, after the last smiling child is tucked safely into bed, the Shriners put away their colorful gear and turn their attention to another important aspect of being a Shriner -- supporting Shriners Hospitals for Children, referred to as the "World's Greatest Philanthropy."

If you haven't heard, Shriners Hospitals are a unique charity. The Shrine operates an international network of 22 hospitals that provide excellent orthopedic , burn and spinal cord injury care to children from infancy to their 18th birthday, absolutely free of charge. All of our hospitals are located in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

 

Much American humor, since the beginnings of' our country, has been based upon a gentle ridicule of authority. From King George to our current president, no person or institution has been immune from providing a laugh.

During the 20's one of our most important authority institutions, the police department, became victim through the antics of Max Sennett's Keystone Cops. Americans universally laughed at the total ineptness of these guardians of law and order. Even today, the name Keystone Cops remains a synonym for confusion.

We as later day Cops have a decided advantage as we emulate these old timers. There are few people remaining today who can remember precisely what the Cops did as they romped through the two reelers. Since they were so much a part of the silent picture era, the total mystic of the silents has descended upon the cops. People today expect us to walk like Charlie Chaplin's famous tramp characterization. They expect pie throwing, high-speed chase, jerky movements and most important, no words; the real Keystone Cops as did all movie stars of their time relied upon the exonerated gestures so necessary to convey meaning in pantomime.

  To be true Keystone Cops, we must understand the humor of the silent era. Surprise had little place. Rather, laughs were produced by the audience Anticipating what was, going to happen and humor mounted as delay was extended. As an example today, shooting the shotgun through the floorboards of the paddy wagon is not Keystone Cop humor per se. Throwing a "stick of dynamite under the paddy, wagon with the total knowledge of the crowd and then joining them in the anticipation of the explosion caused by the shotgun is Keystone Cop humor.

In future issues we will further examine ways in which we can enhance our Keystone Cop image both as individuals and as a group. If we are going to remain number one, we've got to work at it 

Al Swanson 1976

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Last Updated 04/21/14  Best Viewed on a computer