Short reviews of comedy old and new, and other bits of info which don’t fit anywhere else on the site, updated weekly.
The Ghost Of Peter Sellers
A documentary directed by Peter Medak (A Day In The Life Of Joe Egg, The Ruling Class, The Krays) this is all about the making of Ghost In The Noonday Sun, a 1973 effort Medak also directed and which starred Peter Sellers, with a script from Spike Milligan, that was completed but the studio then refused to release (though it did eventually come out on video in the eighties, something oddly not mentioned here). In the film Medak revisits the surviving individuals who were involved with the movie and journeys to old locations where it was shot, and the story of the production is told as we learn it was beset by a number of problems from the ship they were filming on crashing in to rocks to terrible weather and cast and crew vomiting all over the place. The biggest issue was undoubtedly Sellers though, who suffered from terrible mood swings and was allegedly jealous of anyone who was funny in the film, and who somehow managed to get the film’s first producers fired very early on. Despite initially being behind the production and recruiting Medak as the director, Sellers then decided he really didn’t want to be involved in it anymore, faking a heart attack and heading off to dinner back in England with Princess Margaret, and when he returned (complete with a fake letter from a paid off doctor saying he was unfit to work), shortly afterwards he tried to get the crew to try and stage a vote of no confidence in the director. He failed, but then was a general arse, late to the set all the time, along with refusing to work with one of the lead actors, and then Sellers demanded Spike Milligan rewrote the film half way through the production. It’s a fascinating documentary but one which occasionally feels a little manipulative, certainly the use of music at times portrays Sellers in a very melodramatic light, and though there’s a lot of other talking heads around to suggest what a nightmare Sellers could be, including other directors and his own daughter, sometimes it feels a little over the top. It’s a real shame it’s not a little more balanced as even a tiny bit of research shows people who did praise the man, and weirdly at the end Medak goes on about how much he loved Sellers, even though he’s just spent the ninety minutes tearing him apart, so I can’t help but wish it had been directed by someone else so that we got a possibly more fair and honest take on what really happened.
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
DeWitt is best known for his superb novel The Sisters Brothers which was adapted in to a not very good film starring Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly back in 2018. I’m also very fond of his first novel, Ablutions, about a barman who became dependent on alcohol and pills and which is a very wry read indeed, so chances were always high that I’d like his latest work, and that turned out to be the case. It’s quite a different creation to his previous work though, a very arch comedy of manners concerning a mother and son and their close and often sweet friendship, a third of the way through the novel it becomes darker when it becomes increasingly clear that she intends to commit suicide now that she’s almost lost everything and been forced to move to Paris to live in a friend’s apartment for free – but will she actually go through with it? It has an unusual cast of supporting characters, a nicely odd fantastical element when it’s suggested that their cat Small Frank is possessed by the long deceased husband/father and there’s a medium who can chat with him, and DeWitt imbues his characters with many a superb turn of phrase, making them often very funny. The only problem I had with it is that I’m not quite certain about the ending, but it’s something I have a feeling will grow on me over time, and otherwise it’s a book which made me laugh out loud a good deal, and another novel by DeWitt that I’m very fond of.
The Man In The White Suit
Alec Guinness is a softly spoken Cambridge graduate who keeps on getting fired from the mills he works at because he’s conducting experiments he really shouldn’t be, as he tries to create a material which is self cleaning. It starts off punchily but then slows down to a rather annoying pace and it’s not until 40 minutes in that Guinness’s white suit is finally fabricated and it finally becomes a satire of industry, as of course many (including stinking rich types but also trade unions) are against something which could see the end of clothing manufacturing, or it reduced an enormous amount, anyhow. Guinness is fine in a role which doesn’t make many demands on his comic talents, Vida Hope is great as the very earthy Bertha, and Jean Greenwood has some spiky moments and is occasionally amusing, but most of the time it’s a bunch of tedious white men bickering with each other and though there’s occasional slithers of black humour and satire of capitalism and class, as a whole it isn’t that funny, to me it felt rather mean spirited and it’s a rare example of an Ealing comedy that I just didn’t get on with.
Sold as the movie where “Garbo Laughs!”, this is a Paris based lark set before the second world war, as Russian envoys are sent to sell rare jewellery, but their plan is complicated by a legal issue. Cue the entrance of Greta Garbo to sort things out, whilst Melvyn Douglas tries to fuck her, but the problem is that she’s a surly communist – and can her heart really be won over by a flirty french type / western decadence? The answer might amaze you! Or not, and though it’s co-written by Billy Wilder and has a smart and funny script, with some very pointed satire of Russia, it lags in the middle and the romantic sections certainly weigh it down, and I wasn’t won over by the occasionally sexist Douglas in the way Garbo was. It’s still a decent enough watch, but I don’t think it quite deserves its reputation as one of the best ever American comedies of its time.
Video Of The Week
The Toussant Douglass Shows is a short sketch show clearly filmed since the lockdown, but despite that meaning it uses a lot of green screen and only stars Toussant it’s still really very funny stuff, and hopefully we’ll get more episodes soon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTKjNeLQnsU
Link Of The Week
I love Joe Pera here and miss his presence on our screens nearly every day, and if you’re the same perhaps you’ll find this interview with him might soothe your angry soul. https://www.gq.com/story/joe-pera-talks-with-you-about-fashion
Previous Comedy Snippets:
28/06/2020 – Man Seeking Woman, Spoiled Brats, The World Of Simon Rich, Inside Out
21/06/2020 – A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Crossing Swords, The Insecurities Of Dill, Manborg
14/06/2020 – Upstart Crow, La Princesca de la Woking, Solar Opposites, The Muppet Movie
07/06/2020 – Jeeves And Wooster, JJ Villard’s Fairy Tales, She Loves Me, Where’s Marlowe?
31/05/2020 – It Started As A Joke, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Best Worst Movie, The Aristocrats
24/05/2020 – Solar Opposites, Daniel Kitson – The Interminable Suicide Of Gregory Church, Jimmy O. Yang – Good Deal, How To Marry A Millionaire
17/05/2020 – What We Do In The Shadows, JJ Villard’s Fairy Tales, Down The Line, Bolt
10/05/2020 – The Toxic Avenger The Musical, Kinky Boots, The Simpsons, Wrong
03/05/2020 – Crank Yankers, Code 404, Upload, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
26/04/2020 – Oh Hello On Broadway, Emily Heller – Ice Thickeners, Sam Morril – I Got This, Were The World Mine
19/04/2020 – American Dad, Maeve In America Essays By A Girl From Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins, Quiz, Simple Men
12/04/2020 – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Dave, Broke, Bran Nue Dae
05/04/2020 – Super Buddies, Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, Future Man, The Magicians
29/03/2020 – Kate & Koji, The Unicorn, Miracle Workers: Dark Ages, The Suicide Shop
22/03/2020 – Eugenius The Musical, Cake, Modern Family, Avalanche Sharks
15/03/2020 – It’s Personal With Amy Hoggart, Mike Tyson Mysteries, The Simpsons, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists
08/03/2020 – The Windsors, Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, The Big Sick
01/03/2020 – Everything’s Going To Be Okay, High Fidelity, Duncanville, His Girl Friday
23/02/2020 – Outmatched, The Secret Diaries Of Alan Bennett, Avenue 5, Hot To Trot
16/02/2020 – Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Indebted, Sex Education, Turn Me On, Dammit!
09/02/2020 – Joe Pera Talks With You, Miracle Workers: Dark Ages, Bless The Harts, A Boy And His Dog
02/02/2020 – Sex Education, Avenue 5, Digger, Premature
26/01/2020 – Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Goes Wrong Show, Mum, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!
19/01/2020 – You’re The Worst, The Skewer, Kongen Befaler, Sisters
12/01/2020 – John Mulaney And The Sack Lunch Bunch, Sex Education, Derry Girls, Frozen II
05/01/2020 – Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes, How To Produce Comedy Bronze by Jon Plowman, The Rocky Horror Picture Show Comic, The Rutles – All You Need Is Cash
29/12/2019 – Mrs Fletcher, Harley Quinn, What A Fucking Year On Tv With Mel B and Mel B, Cafe Society
22/12/2019 – Content, Ladhood, Silicon Valley Ten Years Later The Extended Documentary, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
15/12/2019 – Astronomy Club The Sketch Show, South Park, Joe Pera Talks With You, Lavalantula
08/12/2019 – Mom, Mock The Week, Sunnyside, The Ten
01/12/2019 – Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out, Kongen Befaler (aka Taskmaster Norway), Harry Hill’s Clubnite, Scout’s Guide To The Apocalypse
24/11/2019 – Wellington Paranormal, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Tourist Trap, The Adventures Of Rocky and Bullwinkle
17/11/2019 – 2100: A Space Novelty, Silicon Valley, Zomboat, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
10/11/2019 – Do You Want To See A Dead Body?, Taskmaster, The Good Place, A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
03/11/2019 – Bojack Horseman, Comedians Giving Lectures, Living With Yourself, A Town Called Panic
27/10/2019 – Joe Pera Talks With You, Would I Lie To You?, The Band Wagon, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
20/10/2019 – Star Trek Discovery Short Treks, Zomboat, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, High Society
13/10/2019 – Perfect Harmony, Family Guy, Afternoon Delight, The Death Of Dick Long
06/10/2019 – Bless The Harts, South Park, Stath Lets Flats, She’s Out Of My League
29/09/2019 – Danny’s House, Hot Date, Idiotsitter, Crimewave
22/09/2019 – Alternatino with Arturo Castro, The Good Place The Selection, American Dad, American Reunion
15/09/2019 – Off The Air, Taskmaster, Elvira Mistress Of The Dark Issues 1 – 3, Smiley Face
08/09/2019 – Amusical, The Mind Of Herbert Clunkerdunk, Fleabag, Digby The Biggest Dog In The World
01/09/2019 – Final Space. On Becoming A God In Central Florida, In Fabric, Archie’s Final Project
25/08/2019 – A Black Lady Sketch Show, Bajillion Dollar Properties, The Righteous Gemstones, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
18/08/2019 – Sherman’s Showcase, Succession, Hesher, God Bless America
11/08/2019 – The Day Shall Come, Preacher, Archie Vs Predator II, Juan Of The Dead
04/08/2019 – Mike Tyson Mysteries, The Boys, Los Espookys, Hamlet 2
28/07/2019 – Lodge 49, Fortysomething, Mutafukaz, Brazil
21/07/2019 – Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, Neighbors From Hell, Live At The BBC – Desiree Burch, Robot and Frank
14/07/2019 – Another Period, Suzi Ruffell – Dance Like Everyone’s Watching, The Mark Thomas Comedy Product, Observe And Report
07/07/2019 – Bridget and Eamon, Action Team, Everything Sucks, Sisters.
30/06/2019 – Taskmaster, Year Of The Rabbit, Santa Versus Dracula, Poultrygeist – Night of the Chicken Dead
23/06/2019 – The Unauthorised Bash Brothers Experience, Trigger Warning With Killer Mike, Taskmaster Sweden, City Lights
16/06/2019 – Rick and Morty Issue 50, Spiderman / Deadpool Issue 50, Lobo Goes To Hollywood, Superhero Movie
08/06/2019 – Archer, The Jellies, Mom, Bye Bye Birdie.
01/06/2019 – Rostered On, Historical Roasts, American Dad, The Phantom Of The Paradise
23/05/2019 – Barry, Urban Myths, Goatface, Shazam!
18/05/2019 – Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Taskmaster, Documentary Now, The History Of Future Folk
10/05/2019 – Dead Pixels, Santa Clarita Diet, Scot Squad, Lemon
03/05/2019 – What We Do In The Shadows, Lazor Wulf, Al Murray’s Great British Pub Quiz, Brigsby Bear
26/04/2019 – Barry, Bonding, Special, Repo The Genetic Opera
19/04/2019 – Hot Streets, Lazor Wulf, Tacoma FD, The Tick, Safety Last
12/04/2019 – The Unexplainers, The Tick, The Funny Women Awards 2019, Popstars Never Stop Popping
04/04/2019 – Santa Clarita Diet, Abby’s, This Time With Alan Partridge, Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein
28/03/2019 – Wayne, Blockbusters, Bill And Ted Face The Music, Hoodwinked
21/03/2019 – Shrill, A.P. Bio, One Red Nose Day And A Wedding, PK
14/03/2019 – Corporate, The Harry Hill Movie, CJ7, The Day Will Come
07/03/2019 – This Time With Alan Partridge, Frank Skinner On Demand, Girlfriend’s Day, Comic Relief
28/02/2019 – Hot Streets, Warren, Mom, Stage Fright
21/02/2019 – Jon Glaser Loves Gear, Corporate, Doom Patrol, Nudist Colony Of The Dead
14/02/2019 – American Dad, Pen15, Afterlife, The Return Of Captain Invincible
07/02/2019 – The Other Two, Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas, Roast Battle, Guys And Dolls
31/01/2019 – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Tigtone, Angie Tribeca, Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life, Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Podcast
24/01/2019 – Oh Lucy!, Blark And Son, Angie Tribeca
17/01/2019 – The Day Shall Come, Family Guy, Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Podcast, Jon Glaser Loves Gear
10/01/2018- Best Week Ever With Paul F. Tompkins, Vice, Catastrophe, Angie Tribeca