Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blue Jam

Blue Jam was an “ambient radio comedy” which was broadcast between November 1997 and February 1999 in a late-night slot (notably because of the adult nature of its content) on BBC Radio 1. This hour-long continuous mix of comedy and music was produced by Chris Morris, a well-known British comic whose warped sense of humour had already been put forward and had led to controversy in a former programme called Brass Eye. Chris Morris, allegedly “one of the most inventively funny people walking the planet”, is known for pushing the limits of what is acceptable in the media.

The programme rapidly gained cult status. There has been three series, each consisting of six episodes. These episodes were made up of a mix of surreal monologues, varied musical tracks, darkly comic sketches and recurring characters (a sort of hook to keep people listening). The music was particularly well chosen and very much in tune with the sketches: it gave the programme a nightmarish dimension, as was confirmed by the BBC website, quoting Blue Jam as being “the funniest nightmare you've never had”. One of the most important recurring characters is the (graduated?!) doctor, who treats his patients in quite disturbing ways (he prescribes heroin to a patient with a cold). Another example of these characters is a couple who always tries bizarre things while making love.

Blue Jam displays an innovative sense of humour which is at the same time anarchic and savage, aiming to find out how far you can go before something stops being funny. It won Sony awards for Best Radio Comedy. It was later made into a TV programme (called Jam) and then a heavily edited remix thereof was produced (Jaaaaaam), but it basically remained Morrisish in flavour.

All in all, Blue Jam can be seen as a deconstruction of the media and public life and is well-known for walking a thin line between hilarious and disturbing, a task in which the great imaginative powers of Morris play a determining part. The cast consists mainly of Amelia Bullmore, Julia Davis, Kevin Eldon and of course Chris Morris who happen to be the main writers of the show at the same time.

Henrotte Xavier and Leroy Léonard

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge is a fictional television and radio presenter played by Steve Coogan, an English comedian. Alan was invented for the BBC Radio 4 programme On The Hour, as a parody of sports commentators and chat show presenters. He is an arrogant and unsympathetic person, disdaining other people and showing little interest in anything that lies outside his own aspirations.

Alan was born on 2 April 1955 and grew up in Norwich. He had an unhappy childhood, since he was bullied at school, especially by Steve McCombe, who called him ‘Smelly Alan Fartridge’. This unpleasant memory was revealed by Alan himself, when he was hypnotised and brought back to his childhood in the second episode of his radio programme Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge.

In 1991, Alan made his first appearances on national radio as a sports presenter on the BBC Radio 4 news programme On The Hour. As this programme parodied current affairs broadcasting, it was not surprising that Alan soon turned out to lack any sporting knowledge. One year later, he became the host of Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge. This chat show parody was named after the song Knowing Me, Knowing You by the Swedish band ABBA, which exerted strong influence on Alan. The fact that he named his son ‘Fernando’ (the title of another ABBA song) shows Alan’s admiration for the group as well.

After his success in radio broadcasting, Alan began his television career in 1994 in The Day Today, a parody of news programmes in which Alan is in charge of the sport reports.

This show boosted his television career and a television version of Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge was soon broadcast. In 1997, I am Alan Partridge showed Alan after his return to Radio Norwich, where he worked before his national radio career started and now presents Up with the Partridge between 4:30 am and 7 am. Meanwhile, he has broken up with his wife Carol and lives in the Linton Travel Tavern, a cheap motel where his only social contacts are the motel’s staff and his personal assistant Lynn.

In 2002, the second series of I am Alan Partridge was aired. One year later, Alan made his last television appearance in Anglian Lives, a flattering analysis of his past and present career.

In 2005, Steve Coogan announced that he intended to make a film featuring Alan Partridge, who once again tries to make a comeback. However, his attempt is foiled by Al Qaeda terrorists besieging the BBC building. Because of the London bombings in 2005, the idea of making a film was dropped. At the moment, the film is under development in an American studio and is to come out in 2011.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story is a 2005 British comedy film directed by Michael Winterbottom. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making in a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne's 18th century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. Since the book is about a man attempting but failing to write his autobiography, the film takes the form of being about failing to make the film.

This 18th century novel tells the story of Tristram Shandy from the moment of his conception onwards. In adapting the work for the screen, director Michael Winterbottom chose to stay true to its anarchic spirit: the film begins as a straightforward adaptation of events in Sterne's writings, and then changes over to a tale about the making of the film itself. Steve Coogan plays Tristram Shandy, who narrates his own life story, beginning with his birth, overseen by an addled doctor and his reticent father, Walter. Constantly quarreling with his battle-scarred brother Toby, Walter Shandy has an epiphany when he holds his newborn son; however, before that moment can occur, the film switches into the present day, where Coogan and Brydon, playing themselves, bicker over costuming and the size of their roles in the film. The rest of the film's crew has their own concerns. Director Mark is trying to figure out how to secure a big Hollywood star for a supporting role. The film's production assistant Jennie worries about the fact that their adaptation is leaving out the best parts of the book, as she nurses a crush on one of the cast members. Meanwhile, Coogan tries to prevent a tabloid reporter from enquiring into his strip-club escapades, and attempts to pacify the concerns of his wife, Jenny.

“A Cock and a Bull Story” was nominated several times and got 4 wins.
It got the awards “Best British Film” by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and “Best British Producer” by the London Film Critics Association in 2005. In 2006, it won the “Golden Tulip” in the category “Best Foreign Film” during the Istanbul International Film Festival. And in 2007, it got the ”Chlotrudis Award” in the category Best Adapted Screenplay.

Désirée Andres and Jennifer Dartevelle

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Day Today

‘The Day Today’ is a British parody of television news programmes. This sitcom is made up of six episodes which were broadcast between 19th January and 23rd February 1994 on BBC2. It is an adaptation of the radio programme ‘On the Hour’. Both display a similar concept: mocking the media and politicians among others. ‘The Day Today’ received many awards and its producer, Chris Morris, also received the 1994 British Comedy Award for Best Newcomer. Each episode is a combination of fictitious news items that the actors report in a pseudo-professional way. The humoristic effect is provided by different techniques: a lengthy jingle, the overuse of computer editing, the broadcasting of fake advertisements.

The newsreader Chris Morris often devotes too much time to one or two major stories. He is then forced to rush through the rest of the programme that he occasionally interrupts with other news that are deemed more important. His confrontational nature creates conflicts that he then tries to resolve only to make the situation worse. Peter O’Hanarah-Hanrahan (Patrick Marber) is the economic correspondent and by far the most incompetent reporter. Chris constantly ridicules him for his mistakes. Peter is a parody of former BBC newsreader Richard Whitmore. The sports correspondent Allan Partridge is played by Steve Coogan. Unlike Peter he usually succeeds in not making a fool of himself by means of highly complex metaphors, although he is far from being an expert. Barbara Wintergreen (Rebecca Front) reports from and about the United States of America and more specifically about the repeated executions of Chapman Baxter, a famous serial killer. Two of her features are dark humour and an exaggerated American accent. Collaterlie Sisters (Doon Mackichan) is ’The Day Today’’s business correspondent. She uses economic jargon, alluding to most of her colleagues, that is hardly understood by anyone. The other characters are the weatherman Sylvester Stuart (David Schneider), the environmental correspondent Rosie May (Rebecca Front), the travel correspondent Valerie Sinatra (Rebecca Front), a resident French commentator Jacques-Jacques Liverot (Patrick Marber), the physical cartoonist from the Daily Telegraph Brand (David Schneider).

Here are some of the most memorable passages: a fight between Queen Elizabeth and then Prime Minister John Major, Chris ridiculing his own reporter, who pretends he made an interview with a German Minister, whereas he actually does not speak German at all, or the IRA’s use of bombdogs.

Cécile Leclercq and Vinciane Pirard