Jim Eaton-Terry looks at Dying Laughing, a new documentary on the life of the stand-up comic
There’s always something odd about an extended conversation with a really great stand up. Inevitably there’s the tension of waiting for a gag that never comes, which often distracts from the conversation. Comics are clearly aware of this, and the weaker ones will defuse the tension with a crowd-pleasing riff or two, but the best conversations strip away the humour and show how the world looks from the stage.
Laura Morgan and Danni Glover brave a wet weekend in Auld Reekie to bring you their Fringe recommendations, while Alice Sanders shares some home truths about taking a show to Edinburgh for the first time.
There’s been a lot of talk recently of canned laughter. Surely no-one denies that canned laughter exists – the wonderfully spooky phrase “the laughter of the dead” refers specifically to laughter captured so long ago that the audience is no longer even with us – but clearly the idea of laughs on cue is taboo in modern comedy. Mention the phrase on Twitter, for example, and you’re as likely as not to find the size twelves of the local comedy constabulary on your neck, requesting that you re-think the phrase and maybe buy a DVD in penance. We here at MostlyFilm, however, are not subject to the laws of Tweet-land and can more freely question the idea that every laugh at every joke on the soundtrack to every comedy was recorded right at the moment the punchline dropped.
After the jump, Sarah Slade shares her memories of being in an audience for a comedy show that didn’t quite get the laughing part of their job right. It’s certainly enough to pose the reasonable question – if not canned, then what? Ethically sourced and packaged in a protective atmosphere for later use?
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→