Ike Delavale “The Assassin of Sorrow”

The Australian Variety Theatre Archive proudly presents…

a newly revised and updated biography of Australian comedian


Also known as Ernie Vockler, “Australia’s Charlie Chaplin of Vaudeville,” and Charles Delavale (of Delavale Brothers fame)



(1897-1968) Eccentric dancer, comedian, Charlie-Chaplin impersonator, actor, producer, writer, and manager.

Melbourne-born vaudevillian Ernest Charles Vockler carved out an extraordinarily-long career between ca. 1911 (as a juvenile comedian and dancer) and at least the mid-1950s  He found initial success in the 1910s as a Chaplin impersonator before firmly establishing himself as one of the country’s leading entertainers in two popular partnerships – the Delavale Brothers, and Delavale and Stagpoole. Known as “Ike” Delavale from 1923 onwards, he managed his own revue company during the 1920s and 1930s, and had toured for many years with soprano Maggie Buckley (1930-1940s). This later partnership also coincided with his new billing –  the “Assassin of Sorrow.”

Highly regarded as a revusical writer/director, troupe manager/proprietor, and radio celebrity, Delavale worked for most of the big Australian-based firms and had long associations with Harry Clay, Fullers’ Theatres, Les Shipp, Stanley McKay, and Bruce Carroll (Perth). He also toured New Zealand twice with the Delavale Brothers (1917 and 1919) and twice with Stanley McKay’s Gaieties (1935 and 1936).


Click below to go to the AVTA page containing Ike’s biography.

<<Take me to Ike Delavale>>

“Stiffy and Mo: Iconic Comedy Made their Debut 100 Years Ago”

Stiffy and Mo - closeup

On 8 July 1916 comedians Nat Phillips and Roy Rene stepped on to the stage of Sydney’s Princess Theatre, presenting their alter-egos Stiffy and Mo before an audience for the first time. By the end of their partnership 12 years later the pair had firmly cemented themselves as one of the country’s greatest ever comic duos. New research by Dr Clay Djubal (Australian Variety Theatre Archive) shows that Phillips and Rene were brought together while in Queensland at the end of June 1916, less than two weeks before their historic debut in a one act musical comedy (revusical) called What Oh Tonight.

Fuller Pantomime Scene [TT Jan1919, 7]

Roy Rene (Mo), Daisy Merritt (The Dame) and Nat Phillips (Stiffy) in Babes in the Wood, Grand Opera House, Sydney (1918-19). Source: Theatre Magazine Jan. (1919), 7.

The first truly urban Australian larrikin characters to be developed on the variety stage, Stiffy and Mo captured the Australian popular culture’s imagination at a time when the country was attempting to deal with the crisis of World War I, and particularly the Gallipoli campaign. Despite their Irish and Jewish heritage, Stiffy and Mo came to exemplify a developing Australian national identity. Whether they were policemen, shopwalkers, sailors, bell-boys, jockeys, soldiers, beauticians, orderlies, porters or even bullfighters, Stiffy and Mo were all about mateship, loyalty, egalitarianism, larrikin attitudes, practical joking, self-deprecation, and an outright refusal to bow to authority figures.

Stiffy - portrait

The story of Stiffy and Mo begins several years earlier when Nat Phillips, already a veteran of the Australian and international variety stages, began developing a stage character, Stiffy the rabbitoh, in sketches with his wife, Daisy Merritt. As he recalls in a 1919 interview: “Until I brought Stiffy on the scene the Australian low-life character – the larrikin – was always portrayed as a [London] coster…. I decided to try the experiment with the Sydney larrikin. Steele Rudd made Dave an Australian bush type. I determined to come nearer home and present a city type. I couldn’t have wished for greater success.”

Phillips and Rene toured their alter-egos relentlessly around Australia and New Zealand until late-1928, albeit with an 18 month break in the mid-1920s. During their time together the pair starred in more than 30 individual revusicals, featured in five pantomimes, and published a Book of Fun. When they reunited in 1927 Just It magazine said the event almost overshadowed the Duke and Duchess of York’s royal visit.

Roy and NatThe influence of Nat Phillips and Roy Rene on the Australian variety industry and the development of an Australia comedic tradition cannot be over-estimated. They not only played a significant role in developing and popularising the revusical genre in this country, but also established a precedent in comedy partnerships by doing away with the comic/straightman format. Their legacy can also be seen in a line of comedians to follow them, beginning with George Wallace and Jim Gerald, through to the television era (with partnerships like Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton, Hoges and Strop etc) and beyond.

If you’d like find out more about this iconic comedy duo click on the link below:

Stiffy and Mo

Scroll down to their entry in “Stage Characters” and click on ‘More details’ to access a PDF biography.
The Stiffy and Mo entry includes sound recordings, images, links, an engagements chronology, and a list known revusicals. You can also learn how new research has overturned a number of long-standing myths and historical errors relating to the partnership.

The University of Queensland’s Fryer Library holds the Nat Phillips Collection, 11 boxes of manuscripts (including four complete Stiffy and Mo scripts), photographs, sheet music and ephemera.

See also the Fryer’s blog celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stiffy and Mo’s debut.

Stiffy &amp; Mo Poster [Fabian]


Additional images. Top: Theatre Magazine July (1919), n. pag. • Middle: (1) Nat Phillips as a porter, (2) Roy Rene and Nat Phillips – Nat Phillips Collection, Fryer Library • Bottom: Courtesy of Jon Fabian
Published in: on July 6, 2016 at 6:06 am  Comments Off on “Stiffy and Mo: Iconic Comedy Made their Debut 100 Years Ago”  
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Australian Variety Theatre Archive – Now Online

About banner 3b

Dr Clay Djubal proudly announces that the Australian Variety Theatre Archive, a new research website devoted to popular culture entertainment between circa 1850 and 1930, is now online.

Coming Attractions / Recent Additions
is a post page that will announce recent updates and forthcoming entries

The first post is due for publication following the AVTA’s official launch in late June 2011.

The AVTA is another publication from

Published in: on May 12, 2011 at 12:47 am  Comments Off on Australian Variety Theatre Archive – Now Online  
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