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Fred Karno
Background information
Birth name(s): Frederick John Westcott
Date of birth 26 March 1866(1866-03-26)
Birth location Exeter, Devon, England, U.K.
Date of death 18 September 1941 (aged 75)
Genre(s) Music hall comedian & theatre impresario
Spouse(s) Edith Westcott (1889–1927)
Marie Moore (1927–1941)

Frederick John Westcott (26 March 1866 – 18 September 1941), best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was a theatre impresario of the British music hall.

Karno was born in Exeter, Devon, England, in 1866. Originally a cabinet maker with a workshop in Waterbeer Street, he became a slapstick comedy pioneer, Karno is credited with inventing the custard-pie-in-the-face gag. Among the young comedians who worked for him were Charlie Chaplin and Arthur Jefferson, who later adopted the name of Stan Laurel. These were part of what was known as "Fred Karno's Army", a phrase still occasionally used in the UK to refer to a chaotic group or organisation.

With the advent of cinema, the music hall's popularity declined. As a result of this decline, Karno went bankrupt in 1926, and his wife Edith, from whom he had been separated since 1904, died a year later of diabetes – dying in her sleep on 24 May 1927. Three weeks later, Karno married his second wife, his long-time partner, Marie Moore. Karno died in 1941 from diabetes, aged 75.

His houseboat, the Astoria, on the River Thames at Hampton, Middlesex, is now used as a recording studio by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour.


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