The DNA of Comedy

FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
The Styx thread anent Circus hosting caused me to think of the resemblances between Mornington Crescent and the Gamesmanship books of Stephen Potter. The ISIHAC team were of an age to read him when he was popular in the 1950s

Spike Milligan was a great fan of Beachcomber (fl 1930s) and it’s easy to see a line of descent from Captain Foulenough to Grytpype-Thynne, and Sideways Through Borneo could be the title of a Goon Show.

I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue references I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again (they had personnel in common) and ISIRTA begat The Goodies and Monty Python - and the latter’s offspring are I suspect legion.

What comic originals do you see behind current styles? Are there writers who deserve to be reintroduced to modern audiences? (Or is it a case of You Had To Be There?)
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  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I also see it in terms of comedy being influenced by (centred around, even) a culture's particular traditions, quirks, foibles, etc. I guess I see comedy as being an expression of that as much as influencing other comedy. I think the kind of humour in Sterne's Tristram Shandy is present and enjoyed in today's humour, including the Mornington Crescent humour, regardless of whether people have read it.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    edited May 5
    Interesting idea. I admit I could never get on with Sterne - all that innuendo. Actually, there’s an idea - Tristram Shandy and its influence on Are You Being Served?

    I’m more of a Swift fan and the ice-cold rage a la Modest Proposal.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    It is more the whimsy than the innuendo that I like about Tristram Shandy. And the exaggerated, conscientious trying to capture everything about his life and so not even getting to his birth till well into the book - and in fact the whole thing being more of a digression, and the layers of meta-ness. Quite whimsically post-modern before its time. I didn't really pay much attention to the innuendo, to be honest, but yes, now I think of it, it also seems to be a common British humour form, and from literature before Sterne too.

    I quite like Swift's satire, but I'm not sure I read it as ice-cold rage. Anger and pointedness, yes, but also I read him as kind of having fun with it too - an enjoyment of the absurd. Guess it's also what our minds focus on though. The thing that sticks in my mind most vividly from Swift is when Gulliver is in Lilliput and the Lilliputians are having to dispose of his huge amounts (to them) of poo! I was quite intrigued by the practicalities of the situation of being a very big person among much smaller people.

    I like the parodies that were created in that period - Fielding's Shamela and Joseph Andrews, for instance. That seems to be a form of humour which has prevailed to the present day.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    I’m not sure I agree with ‘playful’. Remember his epitaph -

    Ubi sæva Indignatio
    Ulterius
    Cor lacerare nequit,

    Savage indignation there
    Cannot lacerate his Breast

    (Yeats)

    But anyway, anyone remember Paul Jennings or ES Turner or Brahms and Simon - or any other inhabitants of the Humour Section in the public library back in the day?
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    This is a little clip from the show Lano and Woodley, the comedy duo of the same name. I find their TV show a cack a second, and can barely stand to watch it sometimes. They are both getting on now, as am I. Their humor is pure clown. It's not just visual, but its mostly visual. I believe Frank Woodly is a great fan of Jacques Tati, but this sort of clowning is very old, I'm sure.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    I think I saw them in the Edinburgh Fringe once.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Terry Gilliam in the 1960s worked for Harvey Kurtzman, the founder of Mad Magazine, and I've seen it argued that Gilliam's style owes something to that of Mad in its early incarnation as a comic book.

    I think it was working for Kurtzman in New York where Gilliam met John Cleese. You can do a duckduckgo on "John Cleese barbie doll" to see a piece that Cleese worked on for Kurtzman. (I'm at work, and the photo might be considered slightly NSFW)
  • SparrowSparrow Shipmate
    Firenze wrote: »
    Interesting idea. I admit I could never get on with Sterne - all that innuendo. Actually, there’s an idea - Tristram Shandy and its influence on Are You Being Served?

    I’m more of a Swift fan and the ice-cold rage a la Modest Proposal.

    Are you being Served was certainly a close relative of the Carry Ons!


  • FredegundFredegund Shipmate
    Who came straight out of the seaside postcard.
    Any views on who might have been influenced by E F Benson's gentle-ish satire in Mapp and Lucia et al?
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    Fredegund wrote: »
    Who came straight out of the seaside postcard.
    Any views on who might have been influenced by E F Benson's gentle-ish satire in Mapp and Lucia et al?

    Midsommer Murders? (Because they are comedy, aren't they?)
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    Fredegund wrote: »
    Who came straight out of the seaside postcard.
    Any views on who might have been influenced by E F Benson's gentle-ish satire in Mapp and Lucia et al?

    Any and all sitcoms featuring snobbish, socially competitive middle-aged women? Not a genre I I watch tbh, though I have read a few of the Benson books. They’re not particularly nice people are they? Especially Mapp.
  • Comedians like Miles Jupp and John Finnemore follow that gentle satire route. Miles Jupp in for example, In and Out of the Kitchen or John Finnemore's Souvenir Programmes or Cabin Pressure but have expanded to include other things. Miles Jupp included "they're a great bunch of lads" into his long winded mark spiels on It's Not What You Know. Sadly, he stopped chairing that one when he moved to the News Quiz. ]

    Then again there is John Osborne, who wrote a number of sketches about Newsagent's Window, John Peel's Shed and Valentine's Day, none of which are available, or Tom Wrigglesworth's Hang Ups, all of which are all gentle situational comedy
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I wonder if Tristram Shandy also has a descendent in Spike Milligan? In the sense of challenging the use of the medium, pushing the boundaries of acceptability?

    The Goodies => The Young Ones. And, actually, a lot of sitcom. Even, maybe, One Foot?

    I think The League of Gentleman is in the DNA of any black comedy. (And vv)
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Firenze wrote: »
    Fredegund wrote: »
    Who came straight out of the seaside postcard.
    Any views on who might have been influenced by E F Benson's gentle-ish satire in Mapp and Lucia et al?

    Any and all sitcoms featuring snobbish, socially competitive middle-aged women? Not a genre I I watch tbh, though I have read a few of the Benson books. They’re not particularly nice people are they? Especially Mapp.

    I think the Savage Seething Toward Pre-Eminence of Village Dames may be an acquired taste, which I did acquire several years ago, and read straight through several of them. On visiting some I'd missed a few months ago, I found I'd un-acquired the taste and indeed was quite disenchanted by most of the characters. Perhaps living in times where real barbarians are burning down one's democracy robs such entertainments of their, er, charms.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    True. I think we’re in the era of savage satirical polemic and black farce.

    The comedy that survives in my recollection is always either the surreal, subversive or witty (not exclusive categories by any means). The cosy or gentle or situational or observational not so much.
  • ShubenacadieShubenacadie Shipmate
    Firenze wrote: »
    But anyway, anyone remember Paul Jennings or ES Turner or Brahms and Simon - or any other inhabitants of the Humour Section in the public library back in the day?

    I like the work of Paul Jennings, even though three of the four books of his that I have were published before I was born, and the fourth when I was probably too young to appreciate it.

    I grew up from an early age with Flanders and Swann, because my parents had (and still have) both Hat shows on vinyl records; and I've met other people born after they ceased performing together who also admire their work, so no doubt there are others who would appreciate it if introduced to it.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    The art of the witty song seems to have passed with them and Tom Lehrer.

    Though it’s notable how little either have really dated.
  • Fascinating Aida and Dillie Keane? - you might enjoy We're so sorry Scotland. But there's more out there. I'm another one who grew up with Flanders and Swann.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    Cheap Flights is my favourite.

    But who else? Sadly Kit and the Widow ceased in 2012.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Doing a parody song is a staple of the sketch comedy show in Australia. Mostly they are not original compositions, but new words to a popular tune. My favorite British sketch shows, such as Armstrong and Miller, often do songs too. I recently learned that one long-running Armstrong and Miller sketch was a takeoff of Flanders and Swann, who I had never heard of. I know and love Tom Lehrer, who's songs are timeless.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    I know and love Tom Lehrer, who's songs are timeless.

    And prophetic.


    "In German, oder Englisch, I know how to count down
    Und I'm learning Chinese!" says Wernher von Braun

  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I am occasionally reminded of the brilliant series "Big Train". Very much the sketch show format, but superbly surreal.

    We haven't really had a standard sketch show since, have we? There seems not to be that style in vogue. I suppose the personality-hosted news-related style does some of that (Frankie Boyles New World Order and The Mash Report come to mind).
  • Others who are writing witty songs are Mitch Benn - he's political, sweary and involved in the Remain campaigns, so lots of songs on that - but the Ed Sheeran loop is recent and not political. Or Grace Petrie that's I Wish the Guardian Believed I Exist - she's playing the folk gigs now. Both have done the song spot on The Now Show
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    I'm finding it rather depressing that I don't recognise the names of most of the shows you're talking about. I reckon the most recent Britcom we're getting over here is The Upstart Crow, which is excellent IMHO, but as it's a direct descendant of Blackadder that's hardly surprising.

    Apart from that, it's just endless repeats of Are You Being Served?, Last of the Summer Wine and Keeping Up Appearances, which rely on slapstick, snobbery or smut for their laughs, but are hugely popular, especially with older people. I get the feeling that the networks here don't have a very high opinion of their viewers' sophistication.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    That's true Piglet. I watch them on streaming services.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    Flanders and Swann, who I had never heard of....

    Heathen!
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited May 17
    Piglet wrote: »
    I'm finding it rather depressing that I don't recognise the names of most of the shows you're talking about. I reckon the most recent Britcom we're getting over here is The Upstart Crow, which is excellent IMHO, but as it's a direct descendant of Blackadder that's hardly surprising.

    Apart from that, it's just endless repeats of Are You Being Served?, Last of the Summer Wine and Keeping Up Appearances, which rely on slapstick, snobbery or smut for their laughs, but are hugely popular, especially with older people. I get the feeling that the networks here don't have a very high opinion of their viewers' sophistication.

    Nor do ours really. You don't get Red Dwarf and Father Ted then?

    Are you being served has three jokes - Mrs Slocombe's pussy (and probably her name, although that might just be my filthy mind), Miss Brahms' attractiveness to men, and Mr Humphreys' being as camp as a row of tents. Keeping up Appearances has only one - Hyacinth is a snob. The continued popularity of both of them is a complete mystery. Summer Wine had a watchable period during the reign of Foggy but went downhill quicker than Compo in a bath on wheels thereafter.

    If you can get Radio 4 on demand, then I'm very pleased to report that John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme is back on Wednesday next.

    "And now, because you're up to your armpits in washing up bubbles so can't get to the radio to turn it off, it's time to unavoidably catch the first few minutes of The Archers..."
  • I had tickets to one of this series' recordings of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, and to my sorrow had to miss it. I've attended quite a few, particularly before people realised what a good thing it is. It's really enjoyable being in the studios. John has an armchair to sit in front of stage and glass of wine he swigs on and gesticulates with for the shaggy dog stories. And you get to sing choruses if one of his songs features.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    Piglet wrote: »
    it's just endless repeats of Are You Being Served?

    That would be one definition of Hell.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Firenze wrote: »
    Piglet wrote: »
    it's just endless repeats of Are You Being Served?

    That would be one definition of Hell.
    Quite!
    ... John [Finnemore] has an armchair to sit in front of stage and glass of wine he swigs on and gesticulates with for the shaggy dog stories ...
    Sounds familiar - is he as funny as the late, great Dave Allen?
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    In American stand-up comedy, there's before Richard Pryor, and there's after Richard Pryor.
  • Colin SmithColin Smith Shipmate
    I had tickets to one of this series' recordings of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, and to my sorrow had to miss it. I've attended quite a few, particularly before people realised what a good thing it is. It's really enjoyable being in the studios. John has an armchair to sit in front of stage and glass of wine he swigs on and gesticulates with for the shaggy dog stories. And you get to sing choruses if one of his songs features.

    I've managed to find all the previous series on Fourble, along with 'Cabin Pressure'.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited May 19

    Ah yes. The Man Who Went For A Walk...

    Second only to the one with the Eagling Boots and the Terrible Fire...
  • Some happier moments of my childhood were spent listening to early broadcasts of the Goon Show on my old valve radio. My parents disapproved, but they thought 'Take it from Here' was worse. For me, at any rate, there has never been anything to compare, and they are still my gold standard of humour. Monty Python was getting close, but perhaps it was something about the overlapping of the real and fictional personalities of the Goon characters that remains appealing.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    Oh, Ron

    Yes, Eth?

    Ron, beloved, it says here everyone has a flaw. Do I have a flaw, Ron?

    No, Eth. You’re perfect.

    Oh Ron! What, none at all?

    Well, you’re a bit ugly.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Firenze wrote: »
    Oh, Ron

    Yes, Eth?

    Ron, beloved, it says here everyone has a flaw. Do I have a flaw, Ron?

    No, Eth. You’re perfect.

    Oh Ron! What, none at all?

    Well, you’re a bit ugly.

    That takes me back. To when they repeated them; I'm not old enough to remember the original broadcasts.

    They did a telly series once didn't they? Didn't last long, as I recall.
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