Archives for category: Comedy

This British Pathe Newsreel from the 1960s is a delightful reminder why we should cherish The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

The Bonzos (1962-1970) musical jesters of the swinging sixties, lasted as long as The Beatles, and were, in some areas as influential; for they were, in cultural terms, the evolutionary link between the Fab Four and ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.  Indeed the Bonzo’s Neil Innes would go on to write the songs for, and star as Ron Nasty in Eric Idle’s classic mockumentary The Rutles.

The Bonzos mixed jazz, comedy, Music Hall, and rock pastiche into aural delectations. Here they perform ‘Music for the Head Ballet’ and ‘Equestrian Statue’ (the latter inspired by Innes reading of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Nausea‘), from their 1967 debut album ‘Gorilla‘, shown here together with two clips from ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set‘: ‘Love is a Cylindrical Piano’ (accompanied by Eric Idle) and ‘Metaphorically Speaking’.

‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ was a children’s TV comedy series, which starred Eric idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, David Jason and Denise Coffey, and was a favourite of my childhood’s TV schedule (along with ‘Batman’ and ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.).

If there is any truth in St Francis Xavier‘s saying, ‘Give me the child for the first seven years of his life and I will make you the man’, I wonder what affect ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set‘ had on my adulthood?  I loved the show with its mix of comedy sketches from Idle, Palin, Jones & co. and musical interludes from The Bonzos. As  a 5-year-old, it was the funniest, most bizarre and dangerous TV show I had ever seen -and this less to do with the embryonic Pythons, more to do with the benign madness of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Under the guidance of Vivian Stanshall, the Bonzos (Neil Inness, Rodney Slater, Roger Ruskin Spear and ‘Legs’ Larry Smith) offered a moment of indulgent childish joy, where anything was possible – one week a dastardly rendition of ‘Sound of Music‘ the next a classic pop hit.

Whatever the effect on my adulthood, I know the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band made my childhood happier, funnier, and more exciting. ‘Nuff said?

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The hit success of the internet comedy series, ‘Svengali’ asks big questions about the future of TV.

Made by the team behind ‘Wedding Belles’, ‘Svengali‘ is jointly self-financed by director Philip John, writer Dean Cavanagh and actor Jonathan Owen, through their company, Burn After Listening.

Their series follows a wannabe’s dreams of pop success, and is available through posts on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, runs a tie-in blog and episodes can be downloaded on i-Tunes.

‘Svengali’ is heralding a mini-revolution in self-financed, programme-making and has managed to attract the talents of Martin Freeman, Roger Evans, Sally Phillips, Alan Mcgee, Sean Harris, Jodie Whittaker, Jordan Long and Colin Tierney.

Add to this a supporting cast like a DJ’s guest list: Carl Barat, Maggot, Michelle Gomez, Bonehead, Ciaran Griffiths, and Boy George, ‘Svengali’ has proved what talent and ambition can achieve outside of the Box.

Vivian Stanshall‘s rather fine version of the Cliff Richard hit ‘The Young Ones‘.  Not often you see Cliff Richard and Vivian Stanshall in the same sentence.  My goodness, there they are again.

What hasn’t been said about Laurel & Hardy?  Not much, for they were the greatest comedy double act ever, and still hold sway over millions of fans.  Here is rare peek at the men behind that superb comedy act from a 1954 edition of the TV series ‘This Is Your Life’.  look out too for a young Benard Delfont, the legendary British theatre impresario.

And here from 1943, is Laurel & Hardy’s only appearance on colour film – a one reeler made for the promotion of wood products.

After ‘Monty Pyhon’s Flying Circus‘, Eric Idle went on to write and star in one of TV’s lost comedy classics, ‘Rutland Weekend Television‘.  The series co-starred Neil Innes, Henry Woolf, Gwen Taylor and David Battley, and ran for two series over 1975 and 1976.  ‘RWT’ was required viewing for a generation of impressionable youngsters, myself included, who had arrived late to ‘Python’ and were just at the right age to enjoy the brilliance of Idle, Innes et al.

For me, ‘Rutland Weekend Television‘ was better than ‘Python‘, as it was edgier, closer to Spike Milligan‘s ‘Q‘ series and all the better for being mainly one man’s vision.  Now ‘RWT‘ is best known for unleashing The Rutles: Ron, Dirk, Stig and Barry, the original Prefab Four, who first appeared in a comic musical homage to The Beatles’ ‘Hard Day’s Night’ and then later in 1977, through Idle’s and Innes’ genius collaboration with ‘Saturday Night Live’ producer, Lorne Michaels, in the brilliant mockumentary ‘All You Need Is Cash‘.

Now, over 30 years later, The Rutles return with ‘Lunch‘, one fan’s brilliant musical celebration of Idle’s and Innes’ original concept.  ‘Lunch‘ owes much to the Cirque du Soleil’s show ‘Love‘, which was based on a cycle of Beatle songs, and even claims to be a collaboration bewteen Rutle Stig O’Hara and Circle of Hay’s founder, Captain Liberty.

Have a listen and hear how Rutlemania brought joy and laughter to the world, and made The Prefab Four wider than Elvis and taller than The Beatles.  Enjoy.

Listen here: The Rutles – Lunch

The Rutles – ‘With A Girl Like You’ (from ‘All You Need is Cash’)  This was released as The Rutles first single

The Rutles – ‘Piggy in the ~Middle’ (from ‘All You Need is Cash’)

The Rutles – ‘Cheese and Onion’ (from ‘All You Need is Cash’)

Once upon a time there were only three TV channels.  BBC 1.  BBC 2.  And ITV, which was split up into local stations – STV was ours.  Back then, TV finished at around 11 o’clock or midnight, depending on the day of the week, after the announcer reminded viewers to turn off their sets and unplug them from the wall (in case of fires).  Then ‘God Save the Queen’ played out over a rippling Union Jack and colour snap of HMQ, and the picture shrunk to a tiny dot.

There might not have been much choice, but there were plenty of shows I’d rush home from school to watch.  One was ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set‘ starring the embryonic Python team and the unforgettable, toe-tapping Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.  Another was ‘Michael Bentine’s Potty Time‘.

There always seemed something likable about Bentine.  He smiled a lot, and had a wheezy asthmatic laugh.  He looked like a well-to-do relative, back from a jaunt, in Cavalry Twills and an RAF blazer, with a look in his eye that suggested great adventures to be had.

Bentine was legendary by then.  Born in Watford to a Peruvian father and an English mother, he had been party to his parents interest in seances and table turning, and developed his own psychic talents, which was to inspire his life-long interest in mysticism and the occult.

During the Second World War Bentine served in the air force, and in his autobiography, ‘The Long Banana Skin‘, he wrote how his psychic abilities meant he was able to see who would return from a flying mission and who would die.  The actor David Lodge once told me how Bentine said he saw a skull instead of the face of those who were doomed.

At the end of the war, Bentine took part in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  It had such a traumatic affect on him he was never able to describe what he had seen, other than to call it “the ultimate blasphemy”.

After the war he started his career as a comedian at the Windmill Theatre, home to nude tableaux, dirty macs and a generation of great unparalleled comedians – Tony Hancock, Morecambe and Wise, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Tommy Cooper and Jimmy Edwards. It was through the Windmill that Bentine met Secombe and Sellers and later Spike Milligan, with whom he formed The Goons.

He left ‘The Goon Show‘ after 38 episodes, and before fame struck, and followed his own route to success, travelling to Australia, before returning to present his first great children’s TV series ‘The Bumblies’.

During the sixties Bentine achieved international fame with the BBC comedy series ‘It’s a Square World‘ and made a superb but sadly neglected film ‘The Sandwich Man‘.  But for all this incredible and brilliant work, to a generation of young things, ‘Potty Time‘ is what Bentine is remembered for best.

Michael Bentine’s Potty Time‘ (1973-80) followed the comic’s investigations into the funny and surreal world of cuddly, chubby, big-nosed puppets that reenacted their way through classic novels and historical events – Sherlock Holmes, Hadrian’s Wall, the Northwest Frontier, Vikings and Pirate Buses amongst others. The show was recorded live and with Bentine performing to his own taped voice, avoiding all of the explosions and  with the puppeteers hitting their marks perfectly – timing, like the show’s viewing, was essential.

The show was simply genius because it allowed the young audience in on the joke, and encouraged them to let their imagination soar.