Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Together with these three, as well as Gilliam and Chapman, he created the Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1969. This comedy sketch show ran for 45 episodes over four series, featuring scenes that have become very popular, such as The Ministry of Silly Walks, The Funniest Joke in the World and The Dead Parrot. Two extra episodes were made for German television, Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus.
The show ended in 1974, because John Cleese had decided to leave the show after the third series, feeling that the scripts had declined in quality. However, he remained part of the Pythons as he co-wrote and co-starred in their three films: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983).
Here is a famous scene from Holy Grail, "French Taunting":
He also took part in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982), a recorded performance of many of the Pythons' successful sketches.
Meanwhile, he played the role he is most known for: Basil Fawlty, the sharp-tongued, grumpy owner of a seaside hotel in the series called Fawlty Towers. He co-starred with Prunella Scales (as Basil’s wife, Sybil), Connie Booth (as the maid Polly) and Andrew Sachs (as the clumsy waiter Manuel). The series aired in 1975 and 1979, with only twelve episodes made in order not to compromise the quality of the show, but the episodes were so hilarious that they have had a lasting success up to now.
After that, John Cleese made a guest appearance in an episode of The Muppet Show and acted in some plays, for instance as Petruchio in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In 1988 he wrote and played the lead part in A Fish Called Wanda. A year later, when Graham Chapman died of throat cancer, he was 'the first person ever at a British memorial service to say "fuck"', he claims.
His film career went on, most notably playing Nearly Headless Nick in the first two Harry Potter movies, ‘Q’ in two Bond movies (The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day), and Princess Fiona’s father in Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third . More recently he appeared in some commercials, lent his voice to several computer games and even has a podcast. John Cleese is to be remembered for his use of slapstick comedy, but also of ironical and cynical humour.
Martin Cugnon & Simon Labate
He also performed two of his plays on stage, namely Popcorn and Blast from the Past. He confirmed his success with the creation of two musicals: The beautiful game and We will rock you. Elton has won several awards. His novel Popcorn received the Great Britain Gold Dagger Award from the Crime Writers' Association, and its theatre adaptation won the TMA Barclays Theatre Award for best new play and the Olivier Award for best comedy. Ben Elton was also made a Companion of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in 2007.
Fry and Laurie... Each of these names is synonymous with talents in writing, acting and above all triggering hearty laughs. They are now famous for their individual artistic achievements, but it is together that they first managed to reach celebrity and become a reference in British humour.
Stephen Fry was born on the 24th of August 1957. Two years later, on the 11th of June, the one who he would later affectionately call “M’colleague”, namely Hugh Laurie, came to the world. They didn’t know it yet, but these two men were going to become one of Britain’s best-known and loved comedy double acts.
They actually met at Cambridge University in 1980 where they joined the Footlights (an amateur theatrical club in Cambridge in which many British comedians started their career). They were introduced to one another by Emma Thompson and immediately got on well thanks to their shared sense of humour. They soon began writing together for Footlights revue. The outcome of their work, “The cellar tapes”, won the first Perrier Award in 1981. This marks the starting point of a successful series of collaborations, mainly in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Their talent was soon revealed to the whole country thanks to their TV shows. The most famous being the “Blackadder” series, “A bit of Fry and Laurie” and “Jeeves and Wooster”. In these projects, and in others as well, Fry and Laurie have had some recurrent collaborators such as Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton, Robbie Coltrane, Tony Slattery and Emma Thompson.
More than professional contacts, Fry and Laurie have developed a true and long-lasting friendship which is obvious on screen. They bring their personal touch to their sketches and end up with a unique mix of all kinds of subtle wordplays and insinuations, political comments, funny musical interludes and comedic talent.
Their respective schedules being very busy, a new collaboration presently seems unlikely. But the two “colleagues” keep in touch and we hope to see them together again very soon!
An unfortunate event is at the origin of the creation of the duo. Indeed, following a sentimental deception, Bob Mortimer was convinced to go and see a show in a tavern performed by a comedian known as Vic Reeves. Afterwards, they were introduced and they began to write together for Reeves’ next show. Their partnership revealed to be successful and in 1989 they made their first television pilot together named Vic Reeves Big Night Out. The show consisted of two series. Each episode lasted 25 minutes and presented a parody of the different variety shows which dominated television’s early years.
Their collaboration has also led to Shooting Stars in 1995, a comedy panel gameshow which ended in 2003. This was originally a show in which teams of celebrities played against each other but in the instance of Shooting Stars it resembles a parody. From January 2008 onwards, the show is being broadcast again on the UK digital channel Challenge.
They also wrote a TV sketch called The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and regarded it as the highest point of their TV work. The first series appeared in 1993. Each programme was dintroduced by Patrick Allen before the well-known duo appeared. They mainly sang songs, told silly jokes, parodied programmes famous at that time such as Food & Drink and advertised their own products. The second series only came out in 1995 with a few changes to the first one. Namely, the duo did not advertise their products themselves anymore and the atmosphere of the show was less bizarre than earlier.
In 2003, Mortimer and Reeves were considered by The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.
Last month, they announced that they were working on a new series.
In his final year at the University College of London, he formed a duet called Seona Dancing. Two of their singles were released but unfortunately without any success.
He started working as an event manager for the UCL before joining XMF, a then small, unlicensed radio station. While working at XMF he met Stephen Merchant with whom he later on co-wrote and co-directed « The Office » and « Extras ».
Ricky started his tv career in 1998 with the « 11 O'clock Show ». Two years later he already hosted his own comedy chat show, « Meet Ricky Gervais ». But again it was poorly received and rightly so, because it has been mocked by Gervais himself on several occasions.
Ricky Gervais’ real breakthrough came in 2001 when one of his most successful sitcoms, i.e “The Office”, was first aired in the UK. The response was enormous and the show received award after award. “The Office” is said to have changed the face of British television comedy. Gervais plays the role of David Brent, a middle-manager followed by cameras during his daily routine. In fact it is a mock-documentary. One of the highlights of the show is the legendary « David Brent dance ».
His second very popular sitcom is « Extras », which is a kind of play within a play.
Indeed, « Extras » consists in having a visit backstage, where one can see the set and the actors talking with each other. But what one doesn’t know is that those backstage scenes are still being played, which is of course the entire point of the sitcom!
One of the reasons why « Extras » has become such a hit is because each episode features a guest star who plays a “twisted”, exaggerated version of himself! For example, the first « Extras », which aired on 21st July 2005, starred Ben Stiller, who played a self-centred director. Other famous stars who appeared on it are Kate Winslet, Daniel Radcliffe, Orlando Bloom, David Bowie, Robert de Niro, Jonathan Ross, and Clive Owen.
And last but not least, Ricky is the first British person to have written and starred in an episode of the Simpsons.
He also gave his voice to « Bugsy » in the animation film “Valiant” and even appeared in the film « Night at the Museum » as the museum director.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Bill Hicks was born on 16 December 1961 in Georgia. His family moved a lot around America and when he was seven they settled down in Houston, Texas. His comedian talents began to emerge in the midst of a strong protestant education, which was in vain as he was against the “valuable morals” of the Church and preferred to use his school years to develop his sense of humour. He was already qualified by a pupil as “the funniest thing he had ever seen”. The Church reverend also commented to his parents: “He is very funny but you should look at how you raise him”. His philosophy was mainly based on making fun of the contradictions of morality.
In 1978 he started his comedian career with some friends (Dwight Slade, Kevin Booth) in the Comedy Workshop in Houston, attending Stratford High School at the same time. Thanks to his success, he began to develop his improvisational skills.
After his graduation in 1980, he went to Los Angeles and performed at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. The same year, he also acted in a sitcom called Bulba.
Back to Houston in 1982, he founded with his friend Kevin Booth the Absolute Creative Entertainment (ACE) Production Company, which then became the Sacred Cow Productions and made small documentaries about current social issues.
In 1983, he fell into alcoholism and hard drugs. In his comedy, he continued to ridicule the American Dream and the opinion of his contemporaries. His still increasing success allowed him to appear many times on the Late Night talk show presented by David Letterman. In 1986, despite being broke and physically and mentally destroyed by his hard consummation of drugs and alcohol, he nevertheless managed to continue performing in many shows. Soon after, he claimed to have stopped drinking and using drugs.
Throughout his career as a comedian, he also tried to break into the musical world. It was only in 1990 that his first album, Dangerous, was released. He was very successful and his second album, Relentless, came out in 1991. One year later he met Colleen McGarr who became his fiancée. During a tour in the UK, he recorded a show for Channel 4 in which he appeared to be less hostile towards the audience, thus contrasting with his attitude in America. The Rolling Stone Magazine even claimed that he was the “Hot Standup Comic” of 1992.
Back to the USA, he got in touch with the band Tool and opened some of their concerts. This experience led Tool to include some aspects of his philosophy in their 1996 album Ænima.
In 1993, he discovered he had pancreatic cancer. However, he went on recording his album Arizona Bay with his friend Kevin Booth. Later in the year, he was supposed to appear again on David Letterman’s Late Show but his performance was censored. This explains his refusal to appear on this show ever again.
He played his last show in the beginning of 1994 and then returned to his parents’ house. There, he stopped speaking and died twelve days later, on February 26. His two albums, Arizona Bay and Rant in E-minor, were released posthumously in 1997. In 2005, he was ranked 13th on the “Top 20 Greatest Comedy Acts Ever”.
Coralie, Mathilde & François-Xavier
Anthony John Hancock was born in 1924, in Hall Green, Birmingham, England. At the age of 3, he moved to Bournemouth where his father ran a hotel and worked as a comedian and entertainer.
Tony Hancock left school when he was 15. In 1942, he joined the RAF Regiment and began to work for The Ralph Reader Gang Show.
After the war, he worked for some variety programmes on the radio, namely Workers’ Playtime and Variety Bandbox. He achieved wider recognition in 1951 while acting in Kaleidoscope and in Educating Archie, a very successful comedy show featuring the ventriloquist Peter Brough and his dummy Archie Andrews. In 1954, he was given his own radio show, Hancock’s Half Hour.
Rejecting the dominant variety of British radio, Hancock’s Half Hour pioneered the situation comedy. It uses character and situation-based humour, the situations being close to everyday life. This series was very successful and even broadcast on television in 1956. While radio and television versions alternated, Hancock created an independent series, The Tony Hancock Show, for which only Sid James was retained from the original cast.
This actor is responsible for the transfer of the show to television. He played the role of the realist man in his duo with Hancock, the loser with an exasperated voice and an expressive face. The credulity of Hancock is often exploited by James but there is an authentic friendship between the two characters in the television version.
After a car accident, Hancock was unable to learn his lines for the next episode of The Blood Donor. As a result, everything had to be recorded in advance, Hancock reading the text from Teleprompters. Hancock’s programmes were the first pre-recorded British programmes, which frightened the executives of the BBC but has now become common practice. Thus, Hancock’s shows changed the way comedy was made. Moreover he was the first artist to be paid more than 1000£ for a half-hour programme.
Despite the fact that he was a great comedic actor, Hancock had always been highly self-critical, and it is said that his self-doubt led him to self destructiveness. During his life, he never stopped searching for the meaning of life, reading many classic novels, as well as philosophical and political books. Describing life as ‘pointless’, he sank into alcoholic depression.
His turbulent relationships with women never helped him to compose his thoughts. He married his first wife in 1950 but they divorced in 1965, after many years of conjugal violence and alcoholism. The same year, Hancock married his mistress (with whom he also was violent) but their marriage was short-lived and Hancock took a new mistress. His second wife tried to commit suicide in 1966. For Hancock, it was as if she had tried to destroy his career and they finally divorced in 1968. A few days later, whilst Hancock was in Australia working on a television comedy series, he committed suicide. He was 44.
The following sketch, Scene in a flat, is part of The Final Series, Australia 1968:
He went to Hollywood to study acting and decided to change his name to Bruce.
He soon appeared on The Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts Show, where he drew national attention with his daring style of satire.
This American stand-up comedian and brilliant satirist of inimitable frankness aroused much controversy, but at the same time he won an admiring audience. The black humour of his improvised shows often overstepped the boundaries of what was considered in those years respectable.
(in The Carnegie Hall Concert 1961)
He spoke overtly about themes like racism, sexual fantasies, politics, drugs, Jewish- Christian tensions (he was himself a Jew), moral philosophy, patriotism and abortion.
The fifties was the breakthrough decade for Bruce. It was also the time of his wedding with a striptease dancer (Hot Honey Harlowe, pseudonym of Harriett Jolliff), of the birth of their child Kitty and of their divorce a few years later.
Bruce worked in Hollywood at night-clubs and on a local television show. He appeared once on The Steve Allen Show.
During the sixties, he was arrested and imprisoned several times on grounds of obscenity. Due to this, some nightclub owners refused to let him perform on their premises.
He wrote an autobiography with the help of Hugh Hefner called How to talk dirty and influence people in 1963, which was first published in Playboy and then as a book.
In his later years, Bruce became addicted to heroin and was found guilty of illegal possession of drugs. Bruce fell on his own morphine needle in 1966 and died in his home on Hollywood Boulevard. He was 40 years old.
His life inspired not only a playwright (Julian Barry), but also singers (Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Keith Richards, etc) and a film director (Bob Fosse).
Céline & Louise
Bill Bailey was born on 24th February 1964 in Somerset. He’s a comedian, musician and actor well known for his stand up comedy.
He first began collaborating with other comedians such as Mark Lamarr, Toby Longworth and Martin Stubles. Afterwards, Bailey developed his own style, mixing in musical parodies with deconstructions of or variations on traditional jokes.
As an actor, he appeared in 1991 in stand up shows such as “The Happening”, “Packing them in”, but also on two panel games, an ITV quiz pilot called “Pop Dogs” and the poorly received Channel 4 science-fiction quiz show called “Space cadets”. In 1998, the BBC gave him his own television show “Is it Bill Bailey?”: a mixture of musical parodies, surreal sketches and extended monologues on subjects such as the fine line between genius and madness. He has recently appeared in the second series of the E4 teenage dramedy, “Skins”. Let’s have a look at his talent:
What’s more, he’s also a talented pianist and guitarist. In his stand up routines, he features music from genres such as jazz, rock and classical, usually for its comic value. He was also part of punk band Beergut 100, which he founded in 1995 with comedy writer Jim Miller, which also featured Martin Trenaman and Phil Welans, with Kevin Eldon as lead singer. Since the beginning of the year, Bailey has appeared in a new series of Never Mind the “Buzzcocks”, starred in “Pinter’s People”: a special concert for Comic Relief.
To sum up, Bill Bailey is an eclectic artist known for his eccentric style and who’s definitely an emblematic figure in British humour.
Ludivine & Nolan
Sunday, April 13, 2008
His career began in the sixties. From 1965 onwards he focused on being a folk singer and in the mid sixties the Humblebums, his folk pop duo with Tam Harvey was created. After their first album First Collection of Merry Melodies, Tam Harvey decided to leave the group and was replaced by Gerry Rafferty. In 1970 the band split up and Billy Connolly began a solo career.
Initially a folk singer, his songs were characterized by a humoristic introduction explaining why Net Joseph, the head of Transatlantic Records, told him that he should give up folk singing to become a comedian. He gave his first solo concert in 1971 and his first solo album Billy Connolly Live, produced by Joseph, came out in 1972 mixing comic songs and short monologues.
In the seventies his parody of Tammy Winette’s D.I.V.O.R.C.E. was a great success.
In the eighties he completed several tours in
As a conclusion we can say that Billy Connolly is a very popular folk singer, stand-up comedian and film actor in
Thursday, April 10, 2008
When the two Ronnies met for the first time at the Buckstone Club in The Haymarket, they were certainly unaware of their prospective success as a comic pair. Their first breakthrough as humorists came by chance when they were performing sketches during a technical hitch at an awards ceremony. People were impressed by their talent which gave rise to their own show on the BBC.
Their show is a series of comic sketches in which Barker and Corbett appeared either separately or together. Often they added on other programmes such as sketches from other comics and the well-known monologue of Ronnie Corbett. Moreover, the sketches were written by Barker, sometimes under the pseudonym of Gerard Wiley, which always revolved around wordplay, parodies of official figures along with eccentric ones and sometimes sexual jokes.
The success of The Two Ronnies is due to several features, which soon became a tradition. First, there is the established serial story progressing through six main stories in which the two Ronnies sometimes played the comic detective characters « Piggy Malone » (Barker) and « Charley Farley » (Corbett). Among the best-known tales, we have The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town, and The Worm That Turned which is a dystopia featuring women ruling England and men being housekeepers as well as The Two Ronnies Present.
Second, the traditional elaborate musical fragment in which the Two Ronnies sang songs in a special style like a barbershop or the music hall while the original words of the songs were modified to give a comic situation.
Finally, the show always opened and closed at a news desk where the Two Ronnies played newsreaders introducing their own sketches. The end of the show was characterized by the famous catchphrase:
Corbett: So it's "Goodnight" from me.
Barker: And it's "Goodnight" from him.
The most popular sketches of The Two Ronnies include « Four Candles », based on the confusion between four candles and fork handles, « Mastermind », where Barker answered the question before it was asked by Corbett and last but not least, the optician sketch where both the optician and his customer have glasses which are not suited to them.
Benjamin Briot & Ana-Alicia Lamontagne
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Morecambe and Wise were very popular British humorists in the 1950s up to the 1980s.
Ernest Wiseman - his stage name being Ernie Wise - was born in Yorkshire, England, in November 1925. Since he was a child, he sang with his father, a semi-professional singer. As a teenager, Ernie was already an actor and a singer in music halls. In 1939, he took part in an audition with Jack Hylton and had the opportunity to meet Eric Morecambe.
John Eric Bartholomew was born in Lancashire, England, in 1926. He is best-known under the name of Eric Morecambe, Morecambe being the name of his home town. He won a lot of talent contests. One of them enabled him to take part in the same audition as Wiseman. It was the first time they met. Only two years later, they decided to create a comedy duo. However, they had to split up because of World War II. Afterwards, Morecambe and Wise came in contact again to appear regularly first in music halls, then on the radio. In 1954, they made their first television series which was a real failure. After several years of hard work, the public and the different television channels recognised their talent. They became one of the most famous British comic double acts. Over the years, Morecambe had several heart attacks, due to stress, pressure, cigarettes and finally died in 1984. Eric outlived him, but died in 1999.
They first wrote their scenes on their own, but towards the end of their career, Eddie Braben, a script writer, joined them. They were called “The Golden Triangle”. In their sketches, Morecambe played the funny guy, making blunders and being child-like, whereas Wise was the straight man, selfish and naïve. What made people laugh was the fact that they made fun of themselves and also humiliated celebrities (such as Elton John, The Beatles,…) who took part in their shows. The comedy duo revisited the famous Singin’ in the rain as well. Their most popular sketches are The Stripper and Grieg’s piano concerto. During the Chirstmas period (usually, on Christmas day), they performed a special Christmas Show which was as popular as the Queen’s traditional speech. The duo is also known for its films, for instance The Intelligence Men (1965), That Riviera Touch (1966) or Night Train To Murder (1983).
In spite of their death, Morecambe and Wise’s success hasn’t disappeared. Indeed, the UK’s general public has elected them 2nd TV Greatest Stars in 2006.