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Tony Grist

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The Religion Of The English [Mar. 8th, 2005|09:56 am]
Tony Grist
Judy and I were talking about the Marx Brothers and how a friend of hers had probably never heard of them. I was incredulous. Yeah, she continued, the Marxes are largely forgotten in America.

Hey, people, tell me it ain't so!

In Britain you're never more than five minutes away from the nearest Marx Brothers movie. We run them all the time. In 1940 we were kept going by Churchill's speechifying and Churchill was kept going by watching Marx Brothers movies in his bunker. Why, the Marxes more or less won the war for us.

And the Marxes begat Spike Milligan and Spike Milligan begat John Cleese and John Cleese begat Eddie Izzard.

Some Frenchman toured England in the 1920s and took stock of all the war memorials and concluded that the religion of the English was the worship of dead soldiers. He was wrong. The religion of the English is the worship of dead comedians.

Living ones too.

We don't know the ten commandments or the words to the national anthem, but every English person with an ounce of pride can recite The Dead Parrot Sketch.

When Norman Wisdom (slightly funny film comedian of the 1950s) announced his retirement at the age of 92 the news media reacted like the Queen Mother had died again.

We take our sense of humour terribly seriously. Secretly (in fact, not so secretly) we believe it's what makes us top nation. We are constantly having polls to discover our favourite comedian/sitcom/funny movie. And once a year we have this huge televised charity thing called Comic Relief where everybody puts on red plastic noses and does embarrassing things to raise money for starving Africans.

Another thing Judy said is that she'd never seen Sergeant Bilko. You what! Over here every sink comes fitted with three taps. One for hot and one for cold and one for the Phil Silvers Show.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2005-03-08 03:14 am (UTC)
I wouldn't say largely forgotten, but yes, they've slipped into obscurity with all the morons like Jim Carrey and some of those other comedians, who are so unmemorable I don't even remember their names. But I remember the Marx Brothers, although despite what SOME cruel people might say, I wasn't born during their prime.

I love the British humour though (see, I even put in the U). I'm an enormous fan of Hinge and Brackett (are they still even around?) and the two Ronnies were superb, and going all the way back to David Frost and company in That Was The Week That Was.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 04:01 am (UTC)
I think Hinge and Brackett are still around, but I'm not sure they're still working as a double act. I'm pretty sure I heard one or other of them on the radio the other day.

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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2005-03-08 04:38 am (UTC)
I'm 31 and quite familiar with the Marx Brothers. But, to be fair, I'm not exactly a perfect example of the Typical American, either, so...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 06:06 am (UTC)
But you're keeping the flame alight. Bravo!
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[User Picture]From: cdpoint
2005-03-08 05:01 am (UTC)
One reason Americans have forgotten the great movie comedians is that local independent television stations have all but disappeared. Every big town used to have its CBS, ABC, and NBC station; the rest were independents, and a programming staple of independents were cheap old movies. So, when I was growing up, whether it was Mississippi, Kansas, Virginia, or Washington, I could always tune in on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to see Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Dagwood and Blondie, and other comedies from the 30s and 40s. Or the other alternative, Westerns. And Saturday nights, it was science fiction movies and vampire movies.

Turn on an average American television set and try to find any of that today. Vanished.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 06:05 am (UTC)
Ah, this goes a long way towards explaining it.

Brit TV still shows a lot of old movies.

And long may it continue to do so!
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-03-08 05:29 am (UTC)
Yes, the Marx Brothers aren't much mentioned anymore.

Did you happen to see the I Love Lucy episode in which Harpo, after playing his harp, did a mirror imitation gag with Lucy? It's probably the only time I ever noticed Harpo.

I wish I knew more about British comedy. We love Monte Python...and Mr. Bean (I love his rubber face.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 06:11 am (UTC)
I saw Lucy when I was a kid, but she hasn't been aired much recently. That mirror gag features in one of the Marx Bros movies, I think, with either Chico or Harpo wearing Groucho's make-up and serving as his "reflection".

The best(or at least the most original)Brit comedy of recent years is The Office. And the current smash hit is a sketch show called Little Britain.

Might they be available to you on DVD?
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[User Picture]From: beentothemoon
2005-03-08 05:59 am (UTC)
Well I live in Austin and we're extremely serious about our comedy here, especially classic films. For example, tomorrow night I'm going to see Duck Soup, on the big screen. Still, I'll wager that most people my age (25)who aren't fortunate enough to live in Austin couldn't tell the difference between the three stooges and the marx brothers.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 06:13 am (UTC)
Duck Soup on the big screen? Now that's really talking!

The Stooges never made much of an impact over here (I guess we had our own slapstick comedians) but the Marx Brothers were huge.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-03-08 06:11 am (UTC)
Hey, people, tell me it ain't so!

In Britain you're never more than five minutes away from the nearest Marx Brothers movie. We run them all the time. In 1940 we were kept going by Churchill's speechifying and Churchill was kept going by watching Marx Brothers movies in his bunker. Why, the Marxes more or less won the war for us.

And the Marxes begat Spike Milligan and Spike Milligan begat John Cleese and John Cleese begat Eddie Izzard.


Well, we don't NEED to remember the Marx Brothers, we have the Bush brothers.

But seriously...we're lucky here - our PBS station shows Britcoms. (and East Enders but I don't watch that anymore). Blackadder, May/December, Good Neighbors (shown in your country as The Good Life), To the Manor Born, Keeping Up Appearances....The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, Yes Minister, The Two Ronnies

For such an outwardly staid people, your humour is very broad.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 06:17 am (UTC)
That's great- you're getting a whole lot of classic shows. I particularly like Blackadder and Reggie Perrin (Leonard Rossiter- what a talent!) and Yes, Minister was one of the cleverest things ever.
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From: morrison_maiden
2005-03-08 09:37 am (UTC)
Well, I've been aware (and a fan) of the Marx Brothers for years, so... ^_^

I love British comedy programs. Much more than the ones in the States. And my dad's a fan of the show "The Office" :)
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-03-08 10:39 am (UTC)
I've seen some terrible *Britcoms* (Mother and Son is one that comes to mind) but then...The Vicar of Dibley is one of my very favorites!

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 01:04 pm (UTC)
Well I never. What a strange lineup- Tim Curry, the guy off Frazier, the voice of Apu- and Mike Nichols directing. Should be interesting.....

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[User Picture]From: violaviolet
2005-03-08 02:31 pm (UTC)
do i need more proof that i was not only born in the wrong era, but also the wrong country ??? the marx brothers are my idols!!! :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-08 03:02 pm (UTC)
I think they had more influence on British than on American comedians. We have a deep, deep love of the surreal.

Love your icon! :)
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