Why silent comedy will always make Tony smile

June 05 2016

A FAN of silent comedy has battled several life-threatening illnesses - but it seems nothing will keep him away from his favourite festival celebrating the golden age.

Tony White

A FAN of silent comedy has battled several life-threatening illnesses - but it seems nothing will keep him away from his favourite festival celebrating the golden age.
Granddad Tony White, 79, who was left with left side paralysis after having a stroke, has battled cancer twice, pneumonia and been in a coma for nearly a month.
But he has only missed the Slapstick Festival once since it started 12 years ago – when he was rushed to hospital with heart failure.
Tony, from Esson Road, Kingswood, attends with his wife of 55 years Sheleagh, who claims it has given him a new lease of life.
Tony, who has met the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Frank Sinatra and Marlene Dietrich, said: “I am lucky to be here. I may be unwell, but it’s not going to stop me living the good life. The Slapstick Festival has definitely brought more interest and joy into my life.
“I was brought up in the war years, when going to the theatre or cinema was a big source of entertainment. The Slapstick Festival, with its live orchestra, brings back the old memories.
“I love comedy and could even go to a funeral and laugh. There’s something about physical humour which really makes me giggle.”
Tony, who has had kidney and throat cancer and was put in an induced coma after he contracted pneumonia, missed the 10th anniversary celebratory show when he suffered heart failure.
He said: “It was midday and I was breathless and dizzy. I was rushed to Southmead. I was really sad to miss it, but it was very much unavoidable. But I am lucky to be here.”
Tony even has his own honorary seat at the Colston Hall – the first seat on the aisle – in recognition of his dedication.
The festival, held in mid-January, includes around 20 events over four days and Tony and Sheleagh always attend the annual Gala.
Sheleagh said: “I think the Slapstick Festival has given Tony a new lease of life. We both laugh out and have a great time.”
Tony has been a friend of the festival founder, Chris Daniels, for nearly 30 years. Chris had cared for Tony’s late son, Richard, who was blind and had learning disabilities after catching meningitis as a child. Sadly, Richard died aged 29, from tuberculosis.
Tony encouraged Chris to set up the Slapstick Festival and to this day Chris seeks his guidance.
Tony said: “Chris has put Bristol on the comedy map.  I think it’s as important as the Balloon Festival. I’ve seen it grow over the years – from not being able to half fill the auditorium to sell out success.”
A fundraiser event, Stand-up for Slapstick, boasts an array of comedians and takes place on Sunday June 12. For more information visit www.slapstick.org.uk/