Category: humour

There will now be a short interlude …

Ten days between posts constitutes a break in transmission. Keen not to make a bad Impression and anxious to avoid “dead air” while still struggling to think of anything to broadcast, I will emulate the 1950s practice of good old Auntie BBC and fill the gap with an Interlude.

The principle, it seems, was to calm the audience who might otherwise get carried away with the excitement of continuous mental stimulus. In those days, with only one television channel, we had to sit through whatever tedium they chose to inflict upon us. But now, sensitive as I am to the modern preference for choice, here is a selection of interludes for your viewing pleasure.

If you have time to kill, you may choose to watch them all. If, however, you are pressed for time you may want to skip to the final example – a fairly brief spoof version from the 1990s.

As they used to say, don’t get square eyes …

Shock and Awe

For my final comedy clip, I’ve chosen a few moments that barely raise a laugh … more of a gasp, if truth be told. Very few comedians before or since can rival Bill Hicks in sheer, dangerous, furious bravery and this short sequence is something of a masterclass in satire.

The words are spare and there is as much mime as message. He doesn’t preach or hector – at least, not here – but simply allows the story imagery to do its work. His silences draw us in, making us complicit in calling a whole world of moral priority into question and leaving us with nagging discomforts that may yet – who knows? – translate into worldwide policy changes. We should Pursue such ideals with a vengeance.

I’m not holding my breath, though …

Pride Cometh Before A Fall

Here are two funny moments from the BBC sitcom Only Fools And Horses. We laugh at Del Boy’s attempt to impress the ladies and at his younger brother Rodney’s attempt to regain his lost dignity. You may have seen these before but it’s well worth focussing on the seriously deluded character Trigger who provides the comic foil in both clips and whose lugubrious, straight-faced clowning is so vital to the humour in each. There’s a sweet innocence about Trigger that contrasts with the brothers’ slightly Bitter edge …

In The Art Gallery

The fourth in my series of comedy moments features Peter Cook and Dudley Moore from their ground-breaking 1960s sketch-show Not Only … But Also. Their wild and zany humour was a refreshing change from the rather buttoned-up comedy of the time – Spike Milligan always the honourable exception, of course – and we particularly looked forward to their Pete & Dud routines, broadcast live in front of a real studio audience.

This left them excitingly vulnerable and Exposed. You never knew what would happen and neither, half the time, did they – although how much was planned and how much was spontaneous is still a moot point. Peter admitted that he tried to make Dudley laugh and it’s obvious in both of these extracts that the latter is trying hard not to – but if all this strikes you as rather juvenile, please remember that we were still at school and had to battle fits of the giggles in front of solemn and frequently pompous teachers almost every day …

 

Storm in a Teacup

My admiration for the US sitcom Frasier knows no bounds. There has never been a Better comedy series. The writing is sharp, the performances wonderful and the fully-believable characters are held together by deep bonds that replicate real life.

There are many clips on YouTube and this moment – from an episode I’ve never seen – struck me as a great example: the understated playing by Frasier’s screen family providing the perfect setting for melodramatic grand guignol acting from the mismatched couple, high tragedy crashing and burning into low farce. The ending is at once astonishing and understandable.

I find myself laughing as much out of amazement at its daring theatricality as I do from delight at its comedy.

Yer What?

My grandma used to complain she could understand None of the words in pop songs.

A more common problem, perhaps, is mishearing particular words or phrases. These errors are known as mondegreens and come from Lady Mondegreen, a misinterpretation of the phrase laid him on the green from the traditional ballad ‘The Bonny Earl of Murray’.

My search for stuff that makes me laugh – beginning with Spike Milligan in my previous post – continues with this wonderful (if slightly bawdy) example of stand-up comedy from Peter Kay. I was born in Bolton and can confirm that most people from Lancashire are funny, if not quite this amusing …

Gone West

Recently I was asked to perform a 10 minute sketch at a local music pub’s Americana night. My brief: you are Marshall Amp (geddit?) and we want you to devise a story to illustrate a line from a traditional American song. Oh, and you can do a harmonica solo …

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Always game for a laugh, I agreed. I found a risqué old blues and wrote a cod-Western script to accompany it. Now, two days before the show, I learn it’s been cancelled. I reckon the promoter and the landlord have fallen out … again!

Shucks!

Now it’s no skin off my nose.  I don’t sing and play for money – they do buy me the occasional beer – but just because I like doing it. However this time, because I’ve gone the extra mile and devised a little routine, thought I might as well make it the basis of a blogpost. So here, my friends, is an exclusive preview of the sketch that never was …

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(Marshall Amp, star pinned on his check shirt, leather waistcoat, jeans, boots, ten-gallon hat over his eyes, asleep)

Hunh? Uh … yeah … howdy! Mus’ say that it’s a reel honor and privilege to be sat here in the world-famous Runnin’ Horse listnin’ to me … Marshall Amp … kinda well-known hereabouts on account of that byoootiful big beast up there on the wall behind y’all …

(Points at the life-size facsimile of an American bison head)

… yup, that’s the very las’ prairie buffalo of ’em all and it was yours truly what pulled the trigger … got the pictures to prove it, too, put ’em up all over Facebook … you seen ’em, ain’tcha?

(Adopts smug pose with foot on imaginary dead animal)

Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it, Co-chise! … Now folk always tellin’ me – Hey, Marshall Amp, how come a lawman like you always out huntin’ endangered species like that? Well, I tell ’em, I reckon it give me summat to do since they stopped all that bounty huntin’ for lawbreakers … y’all seen them posters … Wanted, Dead or Alive!

‘Course the little woman always bitchin’ I ain’t never home, where’s the money comin’ from, all that stuff! You heard ’em – How’m I gonna make ends meet, Marshall? Well, take ma word for it, she know how to make ends meet! My back turn no more’n a minute on the trail o’ everlasting glory in shootin’ circles, know what ma wife done? Only high-tailed it downtown, cruisin’ all them there juke joints, fulla men with big pockets and no morals! You know them places …

(Looks suspiciously round audience)

Y’do? Well, I got my eye on you! You know Bootleg Sal? Howzabout Little Suzanne? Y’ever been down Django Hill?

Yeah, see, there’s this song they wrote about it. Kinda public-service warning to stay away from all that stuff. So I aim to sing it and all the while I’ll be watching out for signs o’ guilty knowledge. All you poker-faces out there, here come a li’l musical lie-detector test! Maybe you better join in with the chorus …

(Sings)

You know Bootleg Sal she used to live cross town
The law went there and he closed her down

Now you can’t get the stuff no more
You can’t get the stuff no more
No matter how you try
You can’t buy
You can’t get that stuff no more

You know that place on Django Hill
The law shut the gals and the liquor still

Now you can’t get the stuff, etc.

Little Suzanne used to sell hair grease
Got in trouble with the Chief of Police

Now you can’t get the stuff, etc.

(harmonica solo)

There go Amp with a great big knife
Somebody been foolin’ round with his wife

Now you can’t get the stuff, etc.

Old State street girl used to give it away
Now you can’t get it if you offers to pay

You can’t get the stuff, etc.

All the girls used to walk the streets
The law done put ’em off his beat

Now you can’t get the stuff no more
You can’t get the stuff no more
No matter how you try
You can’t buy
You can’t get that stuff no more

You get the message, people?

(Another hard scan of the audience)

Well, I guess you passed that test! So I aim to make some o’ you ma deputies ‘fore the night is out. Eyes an’ ears on the street, see … an’ hear? We gonna clean up this town, make it fit fo’ families, yeah? Make it a place where good ol’ private enterprise can flourish again.

So any o’ you folk wanna open up a house o’ ill-repute, won’t get no trouble from li’l old me, jus’ make a decent donation to the M.A.F.F.K.W.H. … that’s the Marshall Amp Fund For Keeping Wives Home. Don’t want no more How’m I gonna make ends meet, Marshall? Her end gonna stay jus’ where it is, thank y’very much, so howzabout a li’l old goodwill contribution?

(Holds out upturned hat)

Kinda shy, huh? Well, it’s not every day you meet a gen-u-ine hero. Jus’ think of it, folks, the very las’ prairie buffalo an’ I’ll be posin’ right next to her fo’ all o’ your pictures in two shakes of a –

(Promoter calls out “It’s plastic!”)

Whoa, baby, best not tell Ranger Rob (indicates pub landlord) or he’ll be asking me for his money back! Anyhow, I’ve been Marshall Amp and you’ve been … kinda patient!

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Me again! On second thoughts, perhaps it’s just as well they cancelled. They probably wanted a nice little fireside chat conforming to cosy 1950s stereotypes, Burl Ives meets Gene Autry …

O ma darlin’
O ma darlin’
O ma darlin’ Clementine
You are lost
And gone forever
Dreadful sorry Clementine …

 

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