Immigrants and African Americans decisively shaped a multiethnic urban popular culture in the late 19th century, built in large measure on the emergence of vaudeville. Vaudeville blended slapstick comedy, blackface minstrelsy, and sentimental songs into a rich and highly popular cultural stew. Among the most successful vaudeville practitioners were two Jewish singers and comics from the mean streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Joe Weber and Lew Fields. Weber and Fields’ routines usually featured broad stereotypes of German immigrants: Fields played “Meyer,” the shrewd German slickster who wanted to “put one over” on Weber’s “Mike,” the dumb “Dutch” newcomer. At the peak of their popularity in 1904, Weber and Fields recorded this popular routine, “The Hypnotist,” for commercial sale. Ironically, just a few months after recording this routine, the Weber and Fields team broke up, ending nearly three decades of public performances, the longest of any team in American popular theater.Listen to Audio:
Lew Fields: Ha, ha. How are ya, Mike?
Joe Weber: Hello, Meyer.
Fields: Say, Mike.
Fields: Did I tell ya what I was?
Weber: What is it?
Fields: I’m, I’m, I’m a mesmerist.
Weber: A what?
Fields: A mesmerist.
Weber: What is that?
Fields: You know . . . a gizzard [wizard].
Weber: A gizzard?
Fields: Yes. I can, I can, I can look at you, and you close your eyes, and make you do as you don’t want to do.
Weber: Oh, you mean a tipmohist [hypnotist]?
Fields: A tipmohist [hypnotist], that’s the idea. Yes.
Weber: Ah, I see.
Fields: Did you ever have that done?
Weber: No, I never was.
Fields: I can do it.
Weber: Let’s try on it.
Fields: Sure, sure. Look at me. Now, close your eyes. Now, open your mouth. Now close your eyes. Open your mouth. Close your eyes!
Weber: Oh no, no. I had that already.
Weber: I know that game: shut your eyes and open your mouth.
Fields: No, no. That ain’t a game. Here, look at me. Now, close your eyes. Stand still . . . . You feel something?
Weber: You got a hose in your mouth?
Fields: No, gracious, no. Look for the light.
Weber: Who does?
Fields: Does what?
Weber: With his wife?
Fields: Gracious! Now here, stand here. Now look at me. Now close your eyes. Now Mike, you think the same as I’m thinking.
Meyer: If I do that, we are fired.
Fields: Gracious. Will you listen to me, please? How can I get power over you, you don’t stand and listen? Now, close your eyes. Now Mike, I got you.
Meyer: You can have me.
Fields: I don’t want you. Now when you open your eyes, you’ll imagine you’re traveling in the Twentieth Century train. The train is going very fast, so hold on to the strap. Open your eyes. Brrrrp! You’re off. You’re in Chicago! You’re in Cincinnati! You’re in Pittsburgh! You’re in Baltimore! You’re in Washington! You’re in Philadelphia! You’re in Paterson! You’re in New York! You’re in New York! You’re in New York! Mike, Mike! Come out of Paterson! Mike! Mike! Listen to me Mike! Mike, please listen to me! Five [inaudible] I can’t get him out of Paterson. Mike! Mike! He must have a girl in Paterson. All right, all right, all right.
Fields: Ha, ha. I’m glad you come to. Well, what do you think of it?
Meyer: I fooled ya: I was in Brooklyn all the time!
Source: Courtesy of the Michigan State University Voice Library.