Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Laughter and Comedy

I've always admired people who can make others laugh. During some of my time growing up we had older cousins lodging and they had an amazing ability in making everyday things very funny. A few of my aunts and uncles had the same gift. When I first met the girl in my life it was our mutual sense of humour which helped us initially hit off. We still make each other laugh every day and I must say our three grown daughters have a wicked sense of humour and have us cracking up laughing at times.

Regarding TV/movie comedy, it has to be witty for me to enjoy it. I'm not a fan of mindless slapstick stuff which normally doesn't relate to realistic situations.

I usually don't like American canned humour but I'm a big Mike Myers fan, enjoyed both the Waynes World and the Austin Powers series. The Arthur movies with Dudley Moore were brilliant. Most of the older Woody Allen movies were very enjoyable and clever but they had moments of too much pure slapstick. I feft Allen lost the opportunity to develop his messages using increasingly more intelligent humour. Manhattan and Annie Hall were the closest I felt he got to going in that direction, but I confess I haven't seen all his more recent works. Love and Death was my personal favourite though. Frazier is a very good series and I thought Friends was just about okay. The latter worked reasonably well as the chemistry between the cast was good.

One of the few old time funny guys I liked was Groucho Marx. He was way before his time. I loved his lines like... "I'd never join a club that would have me as a member". A lot of people liked Bob Hope. I didn't personally, but he wasn't the worst of his era, he did raise a smile from me at times, mainly his facial expressions. George Burns as an old guy wasn't bad too - a gifted exponent of deadpan and not laughing at your own humour. An interviewer said to Burns on about his 93rd birthday something like... "You are amazing, I hope to see you on your 100th birthday" Burns replied without smiling..."I don't see why not, you're a young man!" He did make it to 100 as it turned out.

I loved many British comedians. I thought Peter Sellers was great in the US produced Pink Panther series. He was a very talented comic. Dudley Moore was brilliant in the Arthur movies as mentioned above - again US produced - must be some extra ummph that certain UK comedians bring to the USA. I was never much of a Monty Python fan, it had intelligent humour potential but was too slow and somewhat over stressed it's own humour, which is a mistake. Yes Minister was a good series and Fawlty Towers was very good too. I never rated Tommy Cooper much nor the late Ronnie Barker. I thought Ronnie Corbett was good though. He had a great way of telling yarns and digressing brilliantly into sub-plot stories. I thought Corbett made Barker look better than he was and the same could be said of the Morecombe and Wise combination. Eric Morecombe was superb, great timing and use of silence and body language.

Only Fools and Horses was a very funny and well written series by John Sullivan. It just worked so well with a great range of characters. One of the recognised funniest moments on television was the pub scene where Del Boy is standing talking to his dimwit friend Trigger. Del goes to lean on the bar flap which unknown to him has just been lifted and he collapses from view. Trigger's reaction is priceless as he can't figure out where Del has disappeared to! And who can forget the two chandeliers scene in another episode.

One British mini-series I loved and which is largely forgotten was "The life and loves of a She-Devil" from about 1986. Really brilliant. It was based on a Fay Weldon novel. It was great identifying with Ruth as her revenge on husband Bobbo gets worse and worse. I also thought her husband Bobbo's mad mother was great in it as was Tom Baker as the vicar. I must get it on DVD.

In Ireland there is often a lack of good comedy. We exported some of it. Dave Allen was a great Irish talent in the UK. Dermot Morgan was a genius comedian and Father Ted was a superb series. Pauline Glynn deserves special mention too in this series. Speaking of Irish exports, you might think this strange, but I also rated Terry Wogan when he was running Blanketty Blank. It was a stupid program and Wogan knew it was stupid and he brilliantly exploited this fact to make it funny and witty. He got the most from his celebrity guests. Les Dawson and others were very poor at running this show.

Dermot Morgan mentioned above was probably our best while he worked here. I loved the Scrap Saturday radio satire pieces while they lasted in the late 80s. Brilliant send up on the politicians. I also used to like Kevin MacAleer a lot, but his style has aged a bit. It was his deadpan face and black humour which was effective. He was very good at describing changing life in the 1960s era from a Northern Ireland perspective. For example describing his family getting their first B&W TV. "Oh, the whole family and the granny and grandad all sat in front of the TV and we were glued to it for 20 minutes or more. Then the father said - lets turn it on!"

I've a lot of respect for Tommy Tiernan and Ed Bishop too. Hector is a bit of an idiot, I just about tolerate him. Brendan Grace is not bad too. He works hard at being a comic, I often think he is rather shy and not entirely naturally funny. I've met him once and he is a very nice person.

I think Deirdre O'Kane is an excellent female comic. Very talented in so many ways. One RTE mini series I really enjoyed was "Fergus's Wedding". The guy who played Fergus was brilliantly retro and Deirdre O'Kane was excellent as the wedding planner. Brendan O'Carroll is very talented too, he brings a lot of clever humour into working class situations. I also like RTE's "The Panel". Dara O'Briain and all the regular contributors are very good, especially Colin Murphy. It has good momentum and energy.

Pat Shortt is a very gifted comic but I think Killinaskully portrays an Ireland we no longer want to know and many no longer recognise. The so called old Irish country moronic humour. It grates too many nerve ends for me.

Comedy is a subtle, complex and often subjective form of entertainment. It usually works by just exploring people trying to live or improve their daily lives and highlighting their spectacular human failure in doing so. It is as much about actions, silences and body language as it is about what is said. Comedy is an amazing tonic though. Laughter makes us feel good and it's also said to reduce stress levels and make us healthier. I'm inclined to agree with Tommy Tiernan that there is probably nothing we shouldn't see the funny side of. It just depends on how well it's handled.

Glad to hear what others like, I could rant for hours on this subject!

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