Frank Richards (performer)

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Frank Richards
Frank "Cannonball" Richards shot in stomach with cannonball.jpg
Frank Anson Richards

February 20, 1887
Minneapolis, Kansas, United States
DiedFebruary 7, 1969 (aged 81)
Long Beach, California, United States
Other names
  • Frank "Cannonball" Richards
  • Cannonball Richards

Frank Anson Richards also known as Frank "Cannonball" Richards and Cannonball Richards (February 20, 1887 – February 7, 1969) was an American carnival and vaudeville performer whose act involved taking heavy blows to his stomach.[1]

Richards began by letting people (including heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey) punch him in the gut. Dempsey hit him in the stomach a reported total of seventy-five times.[2] He then progressed to letting people jump on his belly, being struck by a two-by-four, being struck by a sledgehammer, and finally being shot by a 104-lb. (47 kg) cannonball from a compressed air cannon 12 ft. (3.6 m) cannon.[3] Richards limited his cannonball act to twice per day, as performing it more often was too painful.

Early life[edit]

Frank Anson Richards was born to Richard Jones Richards and Ellen Elizabeth Richards on February 20, 1887, in Minneapolis, Kansas. He had two siblings, sister Rose May Richards and brother Edwin H. Richards, both of whom would later end up in Long Beach, California as well. Before he became a performer, Richards served in World War I.


Prior to 1924, Richards joined the theatrical world of vaudeville, creating an act for himself by exhibiting how much his stomach could take. These included being hit in the solar plexus with a sledgehammer, battering rams, and allowing people to jump on his stomach. He also allowed champion boxer Jess Willard to punch him in the gut, to prove its strength.

Richards's most famous act involved him being shot in the stomach with a cannonball weighing over one hundred pounds. He performed this act twice a day during the peak of his career, but more than that was too painful.

Personal life[edit]

Richards made Long Beach, California his permanent home, despite touring a lot for work. He was a Christian, a member of the Presbyterian Church of Pomona. As a proud veteran, Richards was a member of American Legion Post 27, and gave free shows at Legion meetings, Elks Clubs, and many military camps during World War II.

Because of his act being centered around getting hit in the gut, he became acquainted with most boxing champions of the time. These included Jim Jeffries, Jack Johnson, Ad Wolgast, Joe Rivers, Joe Lewis, Jess Willard, and Jack Dempsey.

Richards is Daniel Tosh's great uncle.


Richards died on February 7, 1969, in Long Beach, California at the age of 81. He was buried at the Pomona Cemetery and Mausoleum in Pomona, California.

In popular culture[edit]

A short clip of Richards performing his cannonball trick has become a well-known example of stock footage in popular culture.

In the Freakazoid! episode "The Chip: Part 1", the clip is shown as the character Roddy MacStew says that he has seen many strange things in his lifetime, which include a man being hit in a stomach with a cannonball.[4] It was also used in the 1977 documentary Gizmo!, The Fairly OddParents episode "Fairly OddBaby", and the Chuck episode "Chuck versus the Fear of Death", as well as being referenced in the "Seinfeld" episode "The Apology".

Richards's cannonball act was parodied in The Simpsons episode "Homerpalooza", which shows Homer Simpson becoming a carnival freak catching cannonballs, but quitting after it is revealed it would kill him to keep going.

Other uses include a still image from the clip being used for the cover of the album Van Halen III and stuntman Preston Lacy reenacting the trick in the opening to Jackass 3D.



Year Title Role Notes
1995 Freakazoid! Himself (Archive footage) Clip used in the episode "The Chip: Part 1"
1995 Extremely Weird Himself (Archive footage) TV film
1999 Sideshow: Alive on the Inside Himself (Archive footage)
2000 Ripley's Believe It or Not! Himself (Archive footage) TV documentary
2008 The Fairly OddParents Himself (Archive footage) Clip used in the episode "Fairly OddBaby"
2020 Irresistible Himself (Archive footage)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FRANK 'CANNONBALL' RICHARDS - Belly Cannonball". July 12, 2007.
  2. ^ "Did Frank "Cannonball" Richards Have the Strongest Stomach Muscles in the World? - Zippy Facts".
  3. ^ Wallechinsky, David (1978). The People's Almanac Presents the Book of Lists. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell. p. 351. ISBN 0-553-11150-7. With photo.
  4. ^ "Freakazoid References Guide". Freakazoid References Guide.

External links[edit]