Comedian (theatre, radio and film), writer, director.
Claude Dampier was a British comedian who began his career in the mid to late 1890s. After playing in pierrot companies, musical comedy and comic opera he became closely associated with The Girl from the Kays, touring it through the English provinces (as principal comedian and general manager) for seven different managers. In 1910 he and his first wife, Irene Vere, came to Australia under contract to Edward Branscombe, making their debut in Adelaide with one of the entrepreneur's Dandies troupes. The following year Dampier was appointed its director. He and Vere remained with the same company (it was given the colour Red in 1914) through until January 1917, at which time they left Australia for South Africa.
Dampier returned to Australia in 1921 via South Africa for Harry G. Musgrove's Celebrity Vaudeville (Tivoli circuit), this time in partnership with Hilda Attenboro (possibly his second wife). After joining Pat Hanna's Famous Diggers in 1922, the couple were briefly engaged by Fullers Theatres. Although Dampier's Dandies of 1923 debuted in Adelaide on the Tivoli circuit in January that year, he and Attenboro later returned to the Famous Diggers, touring New Zealand with the troupe. The following year he put together the Trump Cards Revue Company and also starred in his first feature film, Hullo Marmaduke (1924). During the making of his next film, The Adventures of Algy (1925) he met Sydney comedienne Billy Carlyle, and by 1926 the pair had formed an on and off-stage partnership.
Dampier and Carlyle played engagements for the Fullers and Famous Diggers before moving to England in late 1927 where they established a successful comedy partnership on stage and in radio. Dampier also appeared in more than 20 films up until his death in 1955. Carlyle published a book in 1978 titledClaude Dampier, Mrs Gibson and Me (Mrs Gibson being a fictional audience member popularized by Dampier), and in the early 1980s donated a collection of letters, manuscripts and published music to the newly established Melbourne Performing Arts Centre (now known as The Arts Centre, Melbourne).