Humour? (was Re: trash vs literature)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Jan 19 15:00:47 EST 2005


>Minnow:
>> I used to enjoy The Goodies, though, and Up Pompeii!, and Monty Python,
>and
>> Marty Feldman.  Is anybody doing stuff like that any more, or is all TV
>> comedy now like Graham wossisface, the scatological bloke?

Charlie:
>I'm only guessing about your tastes here, Minnow, but
>surreal-yet-essentially-good-natured comedy is done pretty well (for my
>money) by Reeves and Mortimer.

Aha!  I'll keep an eye out for them, then.  Thank you.

>On the other hand, Graham Norton seems to
>have borrowed quite a lot of his act from Frankie Howerd, and you like him,
>so maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree. Or just barking. (GN is funnier when
>he 'appears' on Radio 4 programmes like *Just a Minute*, I think.)

I find him entertaining in those, certainly.  Maybe it is the other people
being equally important that makes him tone it down a bit, or something.

He may have borrowed material from Frankie Howerd, but the joy of Up
Pompeii!, and come to that the Goodies and Monty Python -- I'm suddenly
seeing a trend here -- was that it didn't rely on making a fool of anyone
for the humour.  Marty Feldman played up to the "oh I am an idiot" gag, but
that is self-mockery.  The audience were not made a butt in any of the
shows I enjoyed: they may have had their expectations turned on their
heads, but they weren't suddenly put on camera and used as the target of
prepared gags for which fairly obviously they had no ready answer.  I
watched one part of one show GN did, and I may be doing him an injustice,
but it seemed to me that there was an element of cruelty involved that
simply was not there in the programmes I mentioned as enjoyable to me.
Frankie Howerd may have been hell to work with, for all I know (probably
was: most of the great comics seem to have been, perfectionist and scratchy
beyond belief) and a bully in private life (I have no evidence on this),
but GN seemed to me to be being a bully plain and simple, and I didn't find
it either fun or funny.  So, yes, "essentially good-humoured" is definitely
a criterion.

I suppose it all depends on whether one found Candid Camera hilarious or
cringe-making, really.  I found it either embarrassing or dull, as far as I
remember.

>How pleasant it would be to see the Goodies again, by the way - something
>they don't seem to have shown for many years. Or would it be embarrassingly
>dated and awful? Perhaps it's better not to know.

There was one episode being reshown recently on some obscure channel a
friend of mine gets (was there some sort of anniversary?  They were on the
radio talking about the Good Old Days too), and I was surprised by how much
it still *was* funny.

I was also surprised by how completely Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In had
dated, when I saw a rerun a couple of years ago.  I had remembered it,
vaguely, as a rival to Monty Python, and this time round it wasn't in the
same league at all.  Maybe it was too topical.

Minnow


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