Skip to content


The Silent Clowns Film Series is New York City’s longest-running regularly-scheduled showcase for classic silent film comedy! Over the past 25 years, we have presented monthly, year-round showings of the silent movies of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, and many others, all with live musical accompaniment by renowned silent film accompanist Ben Model. Our shows are programmed and hosted by film historians Ben Model and Steve Massa, who introduce the films and hold Q&As after each screening. Our programs are geared to classic film fans as well as to families.

The Silent Clowns Film Series is dedicated to the memory of Walter Kerr, whose landmark book, The Silent Clowns, was the inspiration for our series (and its name), as well as to the memory of Eileen Bowser, Lee Erwin, William K. Everson, Herb Graff, Ron Hutchinson, Eric James, Cole Johnson, Eleanor Keaton, Irving Kleinfeld and Don Krim.

Our shows have been presented in NYC’s Upper West Side since we began in 1997, at the 78th Street Theatre Lab, the New-York Historical Society, The West Side YMCA’s Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater, Makor, and the Arclight Theatre. Since 2010 we have been presenting our shows at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at the Library for the Performing Arts, and in 2023 welcomed Cobble Hill Cinemas as a second venue, allowing us to better serve and entertain silent comedy fans in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Producer/Accompanist: Ben Model
Programmers: Ben Model, Steve Massa
Program Notes: Steve Massa
Graphic Design: Marlene Weisman
Library for the Performing Arts: Steve Massa, Doug Reside
Treasurer: Susan Selig
PR Volunteer: Janet Heit
Membership: Lydia Edwards
Special Thanks: Mike Abadi, Mana Allen, Robert Arkus, Alice Artzt, Crystal Kui

President, Chair: Robert Arkus
Vice President, Vice-Chair: Michael Abadi
Treasurer: Susan Selig
Secretary: Yair Solan
Members at Large: Janet Heit, Alice Artzt

At the Silent Clowns Film Series, we celebrate comedic history and the brilliant performers of the past. However, we are fully aware that these films often include offensive content. At the beginning of the twentieth century, American culture was rife with racism, sexism, and virtually every other type of prejudice one can imagine. These sentiments appear regularly within the films of the time.

As film historians and archivists, we must consider the negative impact of these films.  On the one hand, we acknowledge the danger in presenting this material at the expense of disenfranchised groups. On the other hand, we also believe there is a danger in forgetting what was the norm just a century ago, lest history repeat itself.

These films are a window into the time of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents that show how problematic things were then. Forgetting the attitudes of these times might make it easier for us to ignore the systemic prejudice that pervades today, and easier for us to think we have done enough.

We can enjoy the humor, the athleticism, and the art of these performers, but it is important to do so in a conscious way. When we do that, we can appreciate these films as a glimpse into the growth of an art form.

In programming and presenting our shows, we are acutely sensitive to these matters. We strive to make our programs accessible to all by providing appropriate context in our introductions and opening a dialogue about the films in our Q&A sessions with the audience. As we look at the evolution of film humor, we must also look at the evolution of cultural prejudice and take steps to ensure that this part of history stays in the past.