Bob Bell as Bozo
Posted in Robert Feder | Chicago Media blog by Robert Feder on Dec 11, 2012
No, it turned out it wasn’t just childhood nostalgia or a middle-aged man’s faulty memory. Bob Bell really was as great as I’d remembered.
Watching Bozo’s Circus: The Lost Tape Sunday night evoked a flood of recollections about a show that defined growing up in Chicago for hundreds of thousands of us kids. And the legendary performer at the heart of everything was the peerless improvisational comedy actor who brought Bozo to life for nearly a quarter-century.
Seen publicly for the first time since it originally aired 41 years ago, the recently discovered and magnificently preserved episode of the WGN-Channel 9 production showed Bell in his prime. It was all there: The impeccable timing, the quick wit, the fearless showmanship, the warm-hearted interaction with children, and the occasional asides that only adults in the audience could appreciate. (When Roy Brown as Cooky takes out a cake covered with brown splotches, Bell as Bozo quips: “Looks like that could use a shot of penicillin!”)
What’s more amazing is that Bell and his castmates performed their corny vaudevillian sketches, waged pie fights, played games with the kids, marched around the studio, and made it seem like they were having nothing but fun live on television for an hour a day, five days a week, year after year, decade after decade. They treated every show as a special performance because it was special — for those in the studio audience and those at home.