75 years ago, on June 9, 1947, Bohdan Smolley was born. His performances at Tey Cabaret brought him great popularity. He created sketches with Zenon Laskowik, which became classics of a Polish cabaret.
Bohdan Smalley was born on June 9, 1947 in Bielsko-Biała. Working in theater and acting was not the first choice in his life.
“After graduating from high school, he went to Piła, to the Auto Officers School, because he liked to drive cars. But when he was in uniform, armed and ordered to run through the ditch with water, he quit. He went to Krakow, transferred to animal sciences at an agricultural school. And there he met people who saw this divine spark in him, ”- said Krzysztof Deszynski, a colleague and friend of the satirist, in an interview with PAP in 2021.
While studying at the Faculty of Zoology at the Agricultural Academy in Krakow, he performed in the cabaret pod-bodo, of which he was a founder. In July 1972, he won the main prize at the FAMA Academic Youth Arts Festival in Wonoghese. At the invitation of Zenon Lasquik, he joined the Pozna Thai cabaret, with whom he collaborated in 1977-1984. It was the period of his greatest popularity.
Tey cabaret performances aroused applause from the audience, but also the interest of censors from the Central Bureau of Control for Press, Publications and Performances. The GUKPPiW memo described “the political damage to the actions of Krzysztof Jaślar”, the founder of the cabaret. Communist extremists were angry among others a sketch of “Czymu ni ma jamu”. Laskwik described the reaction of the Secretary of the Polish United Workers Party from Pozna as follows: “What is this hostile propaganda?! After all, we have jam in the shops, comrades, and at least three varieties!”.
Bohdan Smolley, as one of the founders of the success of Tey cabaret, was distinguished by a satirical vision of the reality of the People’s Republic of Poland, full of ironic references and references to the political and social situation of that time. It was always a balance on the limits set by communist censors, while a single sentence, word, or gesture could mean the intervention of the censors.
Smoleni’s performances with the duet Zenon Laskowik brought widespread recognition, especially the cabaret performances performed during subsequent editions of the National Polish Song Festival in Opole.
At the turn of the 70s and 80s, among others, the famous skits “Little Kid” and “Poland in Crisis”. In June 1980, in Opole, Smoleń and Laskowik presented the program “At the Back of the Store”, which today is considered one of the best shows in the history of the Polish cabaret. One of the characters was the character of Mrs. Pelagia created by Smoleń, employees of an alleged factory of Christmas balls. In the diagram “Five zlotys of trinket” to the reporter’s question (Lasquik): “Mrs. Pelagia, can you still tell us what kind of baubles you produce?” , Smoleń, or Mrs. shaped mushroom and cigar. Smoleń phrases entered everyday Polish, such as: “You will be cut off! or “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
In 1983, the head of the culture department of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Bohdan Smolec, was banned from practicing his profession.
In an interview with PAP in December 2016, Krzysztof Jaślar, co-founder of Tey cabaret stated:
“Pogo had the so-called comic. His comedy was also because of his situation – it was the slender little guy who made up for the big scene. He was an artist with a quiet range – he stunned with a punch line in a very inconspicuous moment. He taught for a long time. Learn scripts , but when he learned it, he gave it very kindly, a lot ”- emphasized Gaylar. He also said that Smoleń loved to communicate with the audience, he was a very warm person in his off-stage communication, and on the course – especially what he did not know – he was closed; I opened only in contacts with relatives and friends.
Bohdan Smalley was an extraordinary artist. He always reminded me of Buster Keaton – a guy with a straight face. I don’t know of any other artist who can compare to his playing style, Smoleń’s style. Keaton was not tall either, but without such hair. Smoleń, upon hearing the comparison, said: + I agree with Buster + ”- said Krzysztof Deszczyński in an interview with PAP.
In the 1980s, the paths of Smoleń and Laskowik diverged irrevocably. Cabaret Tey turned into Teyatr, but did not repeat the success of her predecessor.
At the end of the decade, Smalley lost his wife and one of his three children within a few months. After this tragedy, he withdrew from cabaret shows.
He was also an actor and singer. In 1981, he starred in Joseph Jobsky’s comedy “Filip z hemopi”. Later, he appeared in the films “My Mom’s Lovers” (1985) by Radosław Piwowarski and “Mr. Kleks in the cosmos” (1988) by Krzysztof Gradowski.
Since the end of the nineties he played in the series “Świat according to Kiepskich”, where he created the character of the postman Edzia. With Krzysztof Krawczyk, he recorded cover plates in Polish for the works of Iglesias and Nelson.
In 2004, he moved to Baranówek (Mosina municipality), where he founded the Mr. Smoleń Creation Foundation, which has been dealing with hippotherapy for disabled children since 2007.
He was awarded a Knight of the Order of Bologna Restituta, the Order of Ecce Homo, the Silver Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artes and the Golden Cross for Merit.
When asked in an interview if Smoleń will perform again, he replied, “I don’t feel good yet. There will be time, and I’ll have something to say, and I’ll go up on stage and tell him. But I don’t have the greed to speak in strength. For now, take a break.” .
At the beginning of 2016, Mr. Smoleń’s creation foundation reported that the actor is paralyzed and needs intensive neurological therapy. The foundation raised funds for his treatment.
In February 2016, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Dr. Piotr Gliński awarded Bodan Smolini a special award “in recognition of his valuable services to Polish culture, especially cabaret art”. It was performed during a concert at the Kamienica Theater in Warsaw, the proceeds of which were allocated to the artist’s treatment.
Conductor and composer Zbigniew Górny, who for many years collaborated with Smolen on various occasions, told PAP that the artist was “created for what he did on stage”.
“He was an exemplary naturalist who killed his life head-on and found piercing lines in every occasion and situation. He was an excellent partner, companion on stage – especially for Zenek Laskowik. Then after that, already on various projects, with Krzysztof Jaślar. And then life suffered greatly. Painful, and I broke him mentally. He lost his natural way of being, no longer had vitality, and fled into loneliness; he was more on his way with animals than with people ”- noted Gurney.
Bohdan Smalley passed away on December 15, 2016 after a long illness. In June 2021 in Pozna, on the square between Rybaki and Strzałowa streets, a monument to one of the most prominent Polish cabaret artists (PAP) was unveiled
Author: Maciej Replewicz