Category Archives: Comedy

The Wrong Way

Dene Kernohan asks: Is Ben Elton’s new sitcom the worst ever made?

wright way
I smell a hit.

“For me the sitcom is the holy grail of comedy writing, the toughest discipline but also the most rewarding”Ben Elton, April 2013)

The Wright Way (BBC One, Tuesdays 10.35pm) is a new Ben Elton studio sitcom about Gerald Wright, the by-the-book head of a local council Health and Safety dept. (David Haig).  Stylistically similar to The Thin Blue Line, Elton’s mid-90s ensemble series set in a police station and also featuring Haig, it aims to have some fun with today’s health and safety-conscious culture.

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“Count to five and tell the truth”

Laura Morgan watches the 50th-anniversary reissue of John Schlesinger’s Billy Liar

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‘Genius – Or Madman?’ Billy Fisher as Hero of Ambrosia

There are lots of good things about going to the cinema alone. You can go and see anything you like without justifying your choice to someone else, and you don’t have to tell anyone what you thought of the film afterwards. You don’t have to share your snacks, or miss parts of a trailer – or, worse, the movie itself – because someone wants to have a conversation with you. Going to the cinema alone is a selfish and glorious way to spend a couple of hours. The only downside to it is that when a film makes you laugh until you weep – not the silent shoulder-shaking kind of laughter that you could just about get away with, but the hooting, spluttering kind that marks you out as a genuine lunatic – when that happens, being by yourself only makes matters worse. Fortunately for me I have only done this once: the first time I saw Billy Liar. Continue reading “Count to five and tell the truth”

Parks and Recommendations

an unbiased view by the MostlyFilm poster known only as Ron Swanson

Good news everyone! Parks and Recreation begins this week on BBC Four. It kicks off with a double episode tonight (Wednesday) at 22:00, and is repeated on Sunday at 20:00. It is, quite simply, the best of the current crop of American TV comedy, and, thus, it’d be a terrible shame if you missed it.

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A Liar’s Autobiography

by Emma Street

Liars Autobiography

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman  is based on Graham Chapman’s fictionalised autobiography which was first published in 1981. Chapman recorded an audio version of his book and this voice recording is used as the soundtrack to the film along with new voice recordings from John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam. Eric Idle is the only no-show from the Monty Python team.

Fourteen different animation studios worked on the project, animating separate chunks of the film. “Creatively, the different styles reflect the stages in Graham’s life.” said one of the directors, Jeff Simpson, in an interview “Also, it saves us a lot of time.”

Chapman died at the age of 48 from throat cancer. The other members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus have forged successful careers as directors, Hollywood A-list actors and the like while Chapman never had much chance to establish a career post-Python. What with being dead and all.

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Partners in Crime

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by Susan Patterson

Partners in Crime (Associés Contre le Crime... ) (2012) is Pascal Thomas’ third adaptation featuring Agatha Christie’s detective duo Tommy, renamed Bélisaire for a French audience, and Tuppence, going by her full name of Prudence.  Christie’s introduced the couple in 1922 in the Secret Adversary.  They were a frothy, cheerful couple, who reappeared in Partners in Crime in 1929, a collection of  short stories, and a further three novels, the couple ageing with the time passed between the books.

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Trouble in Paradise

By Viv Wilby

Some years ago, the National Film Theatre (as it was then) asked members to nominate a little-seen film for a Christmas-showing. The winner was Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 romantic comedy, Trouble in Paradise. Co-written with Lubitsch’s regular collaborator, Samson ‘The Jazz Singer’ Raphaelson, Trouble in Paradise takes full advantage of the permissiveness that abounded before the enforcement of censor Will Hays’ Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. The script, which is heavy with sexual innuendo and irony, was considered too racy during the code era and re-issues were refused. The film wasn’t discovered again until the late 1960s.

Like a lot of early Hollywood comedies, the setting is old Europe: chic, cultured, decadent, gloriously wealthy. But Lubitsch doesn’t waste any time in making a central point (and a good visual gag). The garbageman we see in the very first shot is also an aria-singing gondolier, punting a heap of festering rubbish down the Grand Canal. Glamour, romance and escapism goes hand-in-hand with rottenness and filth. Continue reading Trouble in Paradise

Rearranging the Furniture

by Jen Corcoran

Lena Dunham in Tiny Furniture

Lena Dunham: if you don’t know her name already, you soon will. The 25 year-old Manhattan based film-maker is currently the focus of intense media attention from blogosphere to broadsheet as her Judd Apatow-sponsored TV series Girls debuts on HBO over in the US. Meanwhile, Dunham’s wildly acclaimed breakthrough feature Tiny Furniture (2010) finally gets a release in the UK this week, exporting her brand of naturalistic, female-led comedy across the Atlantic.

Lena Dunham’s accelerated rise through the Hollywood food chain has met with adulation and condemnation in equal measure. With a dozen YouTube shorts and one micro-budget feature, Creative Nonfiction, under her belt, Dunham was barely out of college when Tiny Furniture won the Best Narrative Feature prize at South by Southwest Festival. Starring the writer herself as Aura, a disillusioned graduate who returns to New York and moves back in with her mother and sister, the film is an unashamedly personal, self-parodying exploration of what it means to be young in the post-Millennial era.

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Going Loco at the BFI Southbank

by Phil Concannon

January is a dismal month. Grey skies, biting winds and post-Christmas debts tend to darken the mood for the majority of us, but this weekend LoCo – a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting comedy filmmaking – did its best to raise spirits with the inaugural LoCo Comedy Film Festival at the BFI Southbank. Over the course of four days, the festival’s eclectic programme served up a variety of shorts and features, Q&A’s, educational events and even a special presentation of a film that doesn’t exist. The combination of old and new, of dark comedies with breezy slapstick, ensured that the festival genuinely offered something for everyone. In fact, if you’ve long harboured a desire to see a tiny man crawl out of a cat’s anus…well, the LoCo Film Festival was the only gig in town. Continue reading Going Loco at the BFI Southbank