comedy

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From “The High Sign” (1921)

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Comedy writing – Monty Python

As a fully-paid up comedy writing fan, I’m delighted by a Youtube documentary “Life before the Flying Circus” – featuring the background to the Monty Python comedy team.

I’ve watched lots of comedy documentaries in my time, and will seek out ones on Monty Python – but this programme seems to have the edge over so many I have already seen.  It not only has the boys themselves, but also brief but insightful contributions from the bigwigs in comedy who encouraged them at the start.  You get a sense of the industry.  The sight of Frank Muir, with the inevitable bow-tie, was delightful.

What comes across is an unglossy version of the beginnings of being an ‘overnight success’.  When you hear that Eric and Michael would spend all week writing comedy sketches, to only get 2 minutes of their material on air and earn £14 – which they then had to split between them – you realise things have always been tough at the bottom.

So, comedy writers – watch this and rejoice – there is hope, there can be breaks – and here, what worked was being hardworking, focussed and taking the unglamorous jobs and just grafting away – ironically while saying that at least we don’t have boring desk jobs.

The picture from the documentary which I’ve chosen as the photo for the top of this blog post is grainy and not taken with an eye to the future.  But I love it – it’s the start of something special, and it’s “in the room”, as it happens.

Friday Night is Health and Safety Film Night: Easy Money

Yes, Patrons, in 2018, back without popular demand: Friday night is Health and Safety Film Night at this particular blog circus tent.

Tonight’s lecture subject is: “Easy Money”.  Yes, that’s “Easy Money”.  See, I even said the word “money” quite simply.  It’s easy.  But not so simple to pick up.  Roll the cinefilm, Beowulf, there’s a lamb.

The obvious lesson here, lecturees, is to adjust your expectations to lower levels.  This particular safety film has inadvisedly been mal-labelled as: “One of the funniest Comedy Sketches of all time.”  No good can come of this.  Expectations are automatically set at the stratosphere; it is mildly amusing.  Be on the lookout for such misleading trade descriptions.

For previous important health and safety announcements in 2017, consult our archives on working conditions here and here.

That is all for now, tune in next Friday for the next lifesaving (potentially) Health and Safety Film!

Comedy Food: Letitia Cropley

I’m beginning to think that the overcrowded market of cookery books lacks one thing – a really funny cookery book.  Here is one of the Master Chefs of the craft: Letitia Cropley, a neighbour of the Vicar of Dibley.  Who always managed to add that little “Je ne sais quoi” ingredient to traditional recipes:

Letitia Cropley has previous “form” in rare cuisine, but is always generous at sharing her recipes, as you can see in this brief but unforgettable clip, in which she provides a birthday cake:

cartoon, housecleaning, after party

Clearing up after the party – animation

Betty Boop struggles to clear up after yesterday’s party.  Fortunately, her inventor friend, Gramps, has some inventive ideas.  I especially like way he deals with laundry.

The sound and picture may seem a little dated and scratchy – but what do you expect from a lady who’s 80 years old?  It’s still got energy and boop boopy boop.

silent movie, clown, Buster Keaton, Neil Brand

Review: Neil Brand Presents Buster Keaton

Last night, I went to see a Buster Keaton movie, ably accompanied by his musical partner for the evening: Neil Brand.

It was an early Christmas treat for me – and it was terrific in that quiet, enjoyable way of being served a delicious meal, where every course is a delight, but the chef isn’t in the room, waving his hands and being dramatic about it.

Right at the start, Neil introduced us to the public face of the actor – but explained that actually there were quite a few Busters in his own lifetime – and that the relaxed way he is represented in this photo (featured at the top of this post) belies the fact that Buster treated life as something to be attacked with energy.

As the first clip began to roll on the screen, Neil naturally began to play the piano alongside – no big dramatic announcement – it just happened, and was a beautiful, natural segue.

The “Silent Movies” of course weren’t silent when viewed – there would be a pianist, or organist playing – or if it was a posh cinema for the release of a major new film, perhaps sometimes a small orchestra.  The film itself had “titles” where a piece of card with words on it would appear on the screen, interrupting the moving picture – to let us know what was being said.

The first half of the night was introducing Buster the man and some delightful clips of his short films (the one in which he’s changing into swimming togs in a cubicle together with a large, hectoring man, where there is barely space for one skinny man is a particular joy).  It’s viewable on Youtube, but with an unsubtle organ accompaniment which I personally don’t enjoy so much as live piano accompaniment.

The full-length film being shown last night in the second half of the evening was “Steamboat Bill, Jnr“.  This is a classic – it is THE one where he stands, stone-faced, and the front of a house topples over him – his body going through an upstairs window.  It was a genuinely dangerous part of the movie.

This particular film was what began Neil Brand on his accompanist career – it was the first film he played music to.  He’s now able to play along with the film without having a musical score on the piano.  In fact, he teaches other people to accompany silent movies – and gives the same advice as to us the viewers – “Just hang with the main character – hang out with Buster Keaton.”  And then we simply spent the next hour with an ingenious, charming clown who made us laugh, gasp and watch in wonder.

Although I’m a Buster Keaton fan, have read Paul Merton’s books “Silent Clowns” (which features Keaton, among others) and though our family have a DVD of “The General” and watched it many times – this presentation by Neil Brand still had fresh joys to offer.

So – keep an eye out for silent movies with live accompaniment at your local independent cinema – they’re becoming more frequent.  And if Neil Brand is making a presentation – do go out and see it, even if it’s -5 degrees at the bus stop on the way home! (which it was, last night).  It will be worth it.  Here’s a taster introduction by the man himself.

Response to “Workout” prompt

Here is my doodle animation inspired by the word “Workout.”  Don’t blink or you’ll miss it; don’t turn up the sound, it’s silent. It’s very brief and simply made on mobile phone.

It seems to be that I’m getting slower and slower to respond to the prompts.  I wonder how you are getting on with them, if they are interesting or genuinely make you want to create.