Norman Wisdom, Chaplin’s favorite clown

Norman Wisdom, star of British film comedy, died just last year, at 95 years old. The news releases all mentioned how Charlie Chaplin called him his favorite clown.

Here is a little introduction.

And here is the full length piece.

Mr. Bean and silence

Here are two of my favorite Mr. Bean clips.  One takes place in a library, and the other in a school exam.  I think the reason they work so well is because of the situation.  Both the library and the exam are places where quiet is expected, so Mr. Bean’s physical style seems natural.  The silence is normal and allows the audience to focus on the visuals and not be distracted by other sounds.   Places that have quiet imposed by rule have a certain tension, a certain formality.   Odd behavior is funnier when in happening in formal situations.  That’s why the Marx Brothers were usually juxtaposed with high society.

HA! @rowanatkinson just followed me on twitter!

The Mighty Boosh: The Legend of Milky Joe

For Christmas I got a DVD box set of The Mighty Boosh, a comedy series from England. It’s stars are Julian Barrett, and Noel Fielding. The two always end up in some sort of supernatural adventure with mystical characters. I am enjoying it very much. I am going to present images from “The Legend of Milky Joe”. It may not be their best episode, but it makes a great example of how you can build an idea to extreme lengths, and the extremity becomes the source of comedy.

The two characters Vince Noir (Fielding) and Howard Moon (Barrett) are stranded on a tiny island.

They have an argument and draw a line and build a fence between each other.  Vince Noir flourishes and builds a nice hut, while Howard can barely take care of himself.

Howard notices a coconut that appears to have a face.  This is where the barest of characters is created.

The coconut becomes the character “Milky Joe”.   He is Howard’s new friend, and they have intellectual conversations.  For most of the show, the coconuts do not actually talk or move.  The actors are carrying the entire relationship.  It’s almost a parody of the movie “Castaway” where Tom Hanks talks to his volleyball, Wilson.

Vince becomes envious of Howard and his new friend.

Later, Howard hears Vince in conversation inside his hut.  When he goes to see who he’s talking to, he discovers Vince has his own coconut friend, and this one is “Ruby” a female.  Vince acts like Howard is crashing the party.

It was always Vince’s character to meet girls, while Howard was desperate.  After that Vince has two girls, “Ruby” and “Precious”.

Howard pleads with Vince to set him up with Precious.  He arranges a nice dinner for the four of them.

Howard makes his move…

Another evening, Vince is having a party with a bunch of friends.

When he invites Howard to the party, he sees Howard has a black eye.  Howard is in an abusive relationship with Precious.

Howard confronts Precious.  Still there is no movement from the coconut.

She’s knocked to the floor and cracks her nut on a rock.

Vince arrives.  Note the dramatic lighting.

A coconut with a camera films the scene.  This is the first time a coconut is moving on it’s own.

Vince and Howard bury Precious

But some cops show up…

Vince and Howard flee in a bamboo car…

The police chase them.

They go to court…

They are convicted and sentenced to a sort of stoning, in a carnival arcade, but it’s just their heads.

When their heads are knocked over, they are awoken by splashing water.  It was all a dream.  A dream they both shared.  Even though they were sleeping, this is not as wacky as their “real” adventures.  I just like it because they create characters from coconuts, then build and build the relationships and the story to absurd lengths.

It also follows the basic rule of man made creatures.  If you give life to something other than a human being, it historically becomes dangerous.  They become a threat, like the monster in Frankenstein, or the replicants from Blade Runner, or the marching mops in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Then the story is a matter of who destroys who.


Spike Milligan

I seem to have a great gaping hole in my knowledge of comedy history. I had heard the name Spike Milligan, but never followed up on it to learn more. Of course, a quick visit to wikipedia to get started:

Terence Alan Patrick Seán “Spike” Milligan KBE (16 April 1918 – 27 February 2002) was a comedian, writer, musician, poet, playwright, soldier and actor. Milligan’s early life was spent in India, where he was born, but the majority of his working life was spent in the United Kingdom. He became an Irish citizen in 1962 after the British government declared him stateless.[1] He was the co-creator, main writer and a principal cast member of The Goon Show, performing a range of roles including the popular Eccles.

Milligan wrote and edited many books, including Puckoon and his seven-volume autobiographical account of his time serving during the Second World War, beginning with Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall. He is also noted as a popular writer of comical verse; much of his poetry was written for children, including Silly Verse for Kids (1959). After success with the ground-breaking British radio programme, The Goon Show, Milligan translated this success to television with Q5, a surreal sketch show which is credited as a major influence on the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

There is a wealth of material available on youtube, and I chose this because it’s done in silent movie style.

And this one is also silent:

And a musical number:

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