Recognized for his solo performances and extravagant theater events, comedian and circus performer Leo Bassi is descended from a long line of Italian, French and English comedy "eccentrics". For over 130 years, the family has continously and proudly performed.
Six generations ago, a Bassi ancestor fought with Garibaldi before creating one of the first modern circuses in Tuscany. Then, in the heyday of Vaudeville, Leo's British grandfather, Jimmy Wheeler, starred regularly at the London Palladium before pioneering comedy on T.V. in the early years of the B.B.C. More recently, his father, Leo Bassi Senior, a world-renowned juggler, worked in the U.S. (where Leo was born in 1952) with such notable entertainers as Groucho Marx, Luois Armstrong and Ed Sullivan.
From his family (...and maybe in his genes!) Leo Bassi has inherited all the tricks-of-the-trade and extremely skilled in circus arts such as foot juggling (he is cited in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Performing Arts), yet more than continuing a theatrical tradition his real intent is to keep alive, in today's reality, the madcap and provocate spirit that has been the Bassi's hallmark since the family has been in the business. For Leo, entertainment is not only about pleasing and amusing the audience, that is just an excuse! The real meaning or any show should be, more than anything, to give people a thrilling experience. Make them feel that what they experiencing is an exclusive and unique moment of their lives, never again to be repeated... Searching for that magic intensity without which a show is just a show and going to any length, both legal and illegal, to reach it, is Leo Bassi's bottom-line!
True to his artistic philosophy, Leo has always maintained a strong taste for getting involved in outrageous real-life antics to stun his audience. Over the years he has created havoc with the Italian Airforce, German Civil Defence, Dutch and Swiss Firebrigades, conned the Mayor of Tashkent, Uzbekistan; cream-pied the Mayor of Montreal, performed a circus show with 22 Heavy Caterpillar earthmovers in Barcelona and has been arrested 11 times in Paris. (More details of these anecdotes and other stories can be found at the end of this presentation).
Leo Bassi's career starts at the ripe old age of 7, in the Australian Outback, where his parents are touring with a well known road-show called Sorlies. In a roudy, Aussie version of "Aladin and the Magic Lamp" young Leo is cast as the Genie's Assistant... A less than Oscar winning role, but a way to get the lad on stage. The next ten years are spent touring around the word, in and out of theater dressing-rooms, attending school where and when it was possible and training in juggling skills. By the time he reaches 17, he is an accomplished juggler ready to officially join his father's comedy juggling act, the Trio Bassi, and, thus, become part of what was left, after the onslaught of T.V., of the Variety and circus World.
Six years later, Leo's career is at a dead-end. Being a Vaudeville artist in the seventies doesn't make you feel you're in a growth market! In an effort to rediscover who he is and what it means to be a performer, he leaves his family's act and for 5 years, roames the world, street-performing, with an eclectic show called the world's smallest Circus. In 1978, a long interview by a French intellectual magazine, Bouffonneries, lands him a series of appearances on the international Theater Festival circuit and quite quickly his reputation gets established for having created a very personal style of provocative comedy. Since then, his work has continued in many different areas, from the one-man solo shows on Off Broadway to big out-door events as inaugurations ans publicity stunts, without forgetting T.V. appereances and University Conferences.
On stage, in these last years his show include:
- NERO'S LAST FOLLY, New York, 1989
- THE ELECTRIC SUICIDE, Barcelona, 1990
- C. COLOMBO INC. EXPORT/IMPORT, New York, 1992
- THE BUSINESSMAN, Milan, 1993
- STRANGE INSTINCTS, Hamburg, 1993
- Participated with an original creation in the Dutch production "CIRCUS WHITMAN", Hollnad, 1995 ...
In 1996 he is preparing a big event called "Cybercus, the Great Internet Circus" where circus meets the Internet. An on-line show with links around the world. ...
Also in store for Autumn 1996 "Brains" a theater show around the idea of the history of philosophy.
In 1989 he obtained the Off-Broadway Award, OBIE, for NERO'S LAST FOLLY, New York.
In 1994, the golden "Clown's Nose" for STRANGE INSTINCTS, Barcelona Clown's Festival.
In jan. 1996 was named "Stern das jahres" for Comedy by AZ newspaper in Munich Germany.
T.V.He has performed extensively on Italian T.V., featuring several times has resident comedian on Variety Shows. He has been seen on many other national T.V. stations through the world and appeared on popular Talk-Shows in Germany, Spain, Canada and Russia. In 1995 the German T.V. station 3SAT produced a 40 minutes special on his show.
Over the years he has directed big out-door events like Carnavals and Inaugurations. For instance, 7 times at the Italian Motor Show in Bologna until 1994. Last year, 1995, in Germany for the "Open Flair Festival" in Eschwegge (Kassel) he staged "Carmen" an out-door pageant using over 150 local artists to enact a crazy version of the Opera. In Italy, he is also known for his eccentric forays into the world of Rock Concerts and Disco Clubs and for many young people there, he is now the wild old man of techno music. He has taught and given conferences on the themes of comedy and communication in a number of universities around the world.
- Conning the Italian Airforce into having a squadron of "104 Starfighter" jets dive bomb an open-air stage during one of his shows while two companies of soldiers with armored vehicles rounded up and arrested the bewildered audience.
(Nogara, Verona. 1986)
- Convincing the mayor of Montreal that receiving a cream pie in the face would be a graphic illustration of pure democracy.
( Canadian T.V.. 1992)
- Posing as the vice-minister of the Ministry of Laughter for the E.E.C. during a tour of the ex-Soviet Union and getting away with it, to the point of giving a lecture on "Laughter and the Free Market", in front of 3000 students at the university of Tashkent.
(Kazakistan, Uzbekistan. 1991)
- Selling hundereds of small bottles of normal tap water for 2 dollars each to eager buyers though he had told them before hand that it was, in fact, normal tap-water! They reasoned that if he was selling it for 1 pound it couldn't just be tap-water and so they imagined that the bottles contained some miracle treatment... They were wrong.
(Barcelona, Madrid Spain. Many occasions!)
- Juggling an upright piano on his feet and hanging from famous buildings, every Sunday for the Italian RAI T.V.
("Prove Tecniche" RAI, Italy. 1990)
- Having been challenged to liven up, a bit, the city of Bielefeld, Germany, getting 200 Hells Angels Riders to wreck havoc, artistically, on the historical downtown for a weekend. One of the highlights was their rendering of "Carmen" by Bizet, using, mostly, the revving ups of their bikes' engines.
(Bielefeld, Germany. 1986)
- Asked to imagine Circus in the 21st century, developping a show using only workers and their heavy industrial equipment, accomplishing their normal but amazing everyday tasks. The performance was accompanied with a regular circus band and several thousand people in the audience responded with laughter and applause after seeing, from a different angle, real life scenes.
(Barcelona, Spain. 1985)
- Organizing one of the biggest cream-pie fights in the world with more than 5000 pies and about 500 participants for an audience of 10,000.
(Just for Laffs, Montreal, Canada. 1993)
- Jumping in a bath of Chocolate Spread "Nutella". Diving from a third floor balcony, into a trock loaded with 10 tons of ripe tomatos
(Mantova, Italy. 1991)
- Left for dead after being battered and clubbed, by a few hostile members of the audience, escaping with broken shoulder and ribs.
(South str. Philadelphia, P.A., U.S.A.. 1988)
- Working in a brothel in Taiwan, doing 6 shows a day for japanese businessmen... As a comedian.
(Taipei, Taiwan. 1976)
- Creating a commotion and being followed by a crowd wanting to be cured from various illnesses, after successfully hypnotising 8 people.
(Archangalsk. N. Russia. 1992)
- Getting into a potentially dangerous theological discussion about the nature of comedy with the 4th highest spiritual leader of Islam, the Rector of the islamic university of Bukhara.
(Bukahara, Uzbekistan. 1991)
- Catching fire, by mistake, on stage and being taken by ambulance to the emergency ward while the audience roars with laughter thinking it was all part of the show.
(Vancouver, Canada. 1993)
- Inventing the first elastic band powered Dragster and being propelled on it at 60 km/h over 700m at a car show, in front of 50,000 people. The elastic band had been powered by 30 people.
(MotorShow, Bologna, Italy. 1984)
- After having been presented to Mr Ralph Klein, Premier of Manitoba, as the Italian Consul, jumping into a small lake, fully dressed and inviting the bewildered politician in with him, in front of all the press, as a gesture of friendship between Canada and Italy.
(Calgary, Canada. 1993)