Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

He Used To Be Funny

I watched a tribute to a formerly much-loved comedian last night. He's been off our screens for about thirty years and I've always thought it sad and unjust, but then I got to look at his material through twenty first century eyes and realized why he had to go. He was dire. Feeble jokes needlessly elaborated, no pace, impersonations of celebs whom no-one under fifty is likely to recognize, much gurning. This guy- no I'm not naming him because he pleased me once- was famous for playing every speaking role in his shows. The effect is airless, claustrophobic, oppressive. How can you have chemistry with yourself and it not be creepy?

Maybe it's just a matter of taste. Plenty of people were standing up last night and saying how funny the man was, But- no- really you couldn't re-run his big- and very expensive- shows now and expect anyone to want to watch. Other shows of similar vintage survive. I think Morecambe and Wise are over-prized- some of their stuff is really ropey- but you can still repeat them at Christmas and people will tune in; There's something there that survives. A few days back they showed a similar tribute to Frankie Howerd- who is older and deader than our man and still glorious. Then there's Dad's Army. Same vintage, still funny in parts. Clive Dunn- who died at Christmas- is a national treasure and all that. Our man- much bigger in the day than Dunn- is not a national treasure. The kids won't have heard of him. Nothing of his stuff that they showed last night made me want to do anything but curl up like a salted snail.

Comedy is one of the great mysteries; what lives, what dies. How can something be funny for a season and then not? And why do some things go on being funny forever? 
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