Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

eclectica

Very excited to let all followers of the blog know that I have just started a new Kickstarter project to bring a whole new Variety show to the stage in Melbourne. Poetry! Music! Clowns! Improv! Circus! Theatre! Comedy! Dance! Stuff! Yes, all of that.

The show will focus on unearthing new talent, or giving a boost to established talent that need an outlet.

It’s a bit scary, but you know what? If you don’t do, you … er … don’t do.

This has been my dream for as long as I can recall, and I’ll be frank, a recent health scare (all is well, never fear) has made me realise time is passing.

I will post more news of the project in a few days when Kickstarter hopefully approve it. Watch this space!

PS! Performers in the Melbourne area, don’t delay, signal your interest to me by emailing me on steveyolland@yahoo.com now.

UPDATE! PROJECT NOW LIVE!

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Wandering Facebook today brought us across this lovely snippet from our friend and reader Mimi in California.

“Today’s irony, brought to you by Hailey’s school:

“Let’s have a moment of silence for the deaf” at the end of the afternoon prayer.”

How thoughtful of them. Next week, poking our eyes out for the blind, no doubt.

marceauxAnyhow, it did remind us of the only joke we have ever consciously written. It ran thusly:

“So when Marcel Marceau died, did they hold a minute’s noise?”

Hardly enough to establish us as one of the world’s great humourists, but we are proud of it. Years later – and we never published the joke apart from gleefully sharing it with friends and acquaintances in the pub and over dinner – it was fed back to us from a comic in the UK. Amazing how the world works.

Marceau was a French actor and mime most famous for his stage persona as “Bip the Clown.” He referred to mime as the “art of silence,” and he performed professionally worldwide for over 60 years. As a youth, he lived in hiding and worked with the French Resistance during most of World War II, giving his first major performance to 3000 troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Following the war, he studied dramatic art and mime in Paris.

In 1959 he established his own pantomime school in Paris, and subsequently set up the Marceau Foundation to promote the art in the U.S. Among his various awards and honours, he was made “Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur” (1998) and was awarded the National Order of Merit (1998) in France. He won the Emmy Award for his work on television, was elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, and was declared a “National Treasure” in Japan. He was friends with pop artist Michael Jackson for nearly 20 years, and Jackson said he would use some of Marceau’s techniques in his own dance steps.

Marceau’s work was frequently whimsical and humorous, but also often exquisitely beautiful and sad. Given that existentialism is basically a French invention, it is hardly surprising that he addressed it in his work.

His famous performance of “A Life” in three minutes was happily captured on film and is on YouTube with a number of his other history-making performances, and although the quality is very poor – it almost obscures the fact that he starts and ends in a foetal position – it is well worth viewing. What is fascinating is how he can create tension through repetition, can create suspense through inaction, and can provide shock through the tiniest changes in facial expression or bodily position. In a word: exquisite.

 

Robin Williams

The world has woken up today to the loss of one of the finest comedic talents of his generation – perhaps, of any generation – and the outpouring of words will no doubt be liken unto an avalanche.

We do not propose to add to them to any great extent, if for no other reason that others will do a better job.

But not to mark Robin Williams’ passing would be to do the man a dis-service. This is a day for many in the world to pause, and to remember a great man who gave freely to all of us of his hugely generous heart. And also to contemplate sadly the persistence, the common-ness, the vile pressure of this scourge of an illness which has now stripped him from us and which ruins so many lives, and touches uncountable others.

For him to apparently take his own life – yet another high-profile victim of depression, which afflicts so many of those creative souls who truly see into the world with clear eyes – is the ultimate cruel irony. A life spent making untold millions laugh, snuffed out in a moment of existential hollowness and hopelessness. And a life capped by triumphantly fighting a battle against addiction – so often the fellow traveller with depression – that was lost when he was determinedly sober. This is a bitter, bitter day.

For a man who gave the world so much, he will, like many others, be tragically defined to some degree by the nature of his death. His wife has already pleaded that it not be so, but it is inevitable. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

For the rest of us, whether battling depression or not, we are today surely reminded of the most powerful call to celebrate life – to seize life by the lapels and give it a great shake – that he ever delivered in his multi-faceted and endlessly inspiring career. He is delivering the lines of a writer, to be sure, but he was surely also speaking for himself. See it in his eyes.

Carpe Diem.

 

Amen.

 

flashheart

We have been in an exceptionally grumpy mood all day, Dear Reader, at the news that Rik Mayall has suddenly died at the ludicrously young age of 56. Our condolences go out, firstly of course, to his family, and secondly to his vast army of collaborators, fans and admirers.

angry young poetOne of our very obscure but absolutely true stories is that we once shared a few pints with him in the Students’ Union Bar at Southampton University.

We were contemporaries, and he was appearing with a rag-taggle bunch of co-conspirators, performing as the “Angry Young Poet” character that later morphed seamlessly into anarchist Rik of the Young Ones.

We remember thinking at the time that “Angry Young Poet” (which monniker could frankly have been on our business card had we had such things back then) was not only hilariously well written, but also brilliantly and compellingly performed, with all of Mayall’s trademark angst and gusto, despite being in front of an audience that comprised maybe 25 rather sloshed students lying awkwardly across retired leather chairs with the stuffing hanging out of them and some collapsed on the floor, entwined in drunken embrace with various paramours.

That from his first word he held us all utterly captivated tells you all you need to know.

Neil! Somehow it was always Neil's fault.

“Neil!” Somehow it was always Neil’s fault.

Much will be said about the Young Ones, which he imbued with his unique anarchic style and broke new ground for comedy with his colleagues. It’s hard to believe, given it’s gigantic influence on humour then and since, that it only ever comprised 12 episodes.

Along with the regular cast, the series featured a wide variety of guest appearances by comedians, actors, and singers, including co-creator Ben Elton, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Hale and Pace, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Mark Arden, Stephen Frost, Jools Holland, Terry Jones, Chris Barrie, Norman Lovett, Lenny Henry, David Rappaport, Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson. It was a veritable cornucopia of talent.

Mayall’s many other successes stand the test of time, including the charming “kids” movie Drop Dead Fred, which captured his genuinely charming inner nature perfectly, and which has long been one of our favourite movies.

But he was always at his best delivering Ben Elton’s mildly insane dialogue, (Elton was co-author with Mayall on the Young Ones, with Mayall’s then girlfriend Lise Mayer), and that’s why for us he will always be, immortally, Lord Flashheart in Blackadder.

 

Woof!

Huzzah!

Sob.

 

Mel Smith dead at 60

Rest in peace – or rest disgracefully as is your wont – Mel Smith

I am really – genuinely – sad to see that Mel Smith has died aged just 60.

Apart from being a scary intimation of one’s own mortality, he was one of the funniest, wittiest, and most important comedians of his era.

I have lost track of the number of times he and his collaborators reduced me to tears of helpless laughter.

He was an intimate and unmatched part of the soundtrack and video closet of my youth, and he epitomised a fresh, wry and perceptive view of the world that never shirked from being less than honest and truthful.

He also had impeccable comedic timing.

To lose someone of his talent at his age is a terrible shame. Apparently he has been seriously ill for some time.

To enjoy, again, his talent, especially from the Not The Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones, and the read the reaction, just head to this BBC page.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23390982

Or just enjoy the genius of Melvin with his great friend and collaborator Griff Rhys-Jones in the immortal Drunk/Darts sketch.

And although this showcases the whole NTNON team rather than more specifically Mel, it is my favourite sketch, so please indulge me. If you can watch this without tears of appreciation in your eyes, well … well, we obviously are cut from different cloth. Perhaps the most charming thing is watching Mel trying to keep a straight face – along with everyone else in the sketch – while Griff riffs on as only he could …

Enjoy.