|The Frost Report
||[Mar. 25th, 2008|10:26 am]
It's 40 years since The Frost Report won the Golden Rose of Montreux- and the BBC decided to celebrate with two hours of back-slapping. We saw all those bright young men in their grainy black and white glory- Cleese, Barker, Corbett, Frost - and then we saw them as they are now- grey, paunchy, semi-retired. Well, we saw most of them; we couldn't see Barker because he's dead.|
I say "bright young men" because this was a very boysy show. They had Julie Felix singing twee, little folk songs (why?) and the very funny, puckish Sheila Steafel playing stooge to the men- but otherwise it was a show written by boys, starring boys, addressed to boys. They even had the gall to devote one of their weekly reports to the subject of Women- the patronising gits!
Individual sketches held up well- the one where Cleese, Barker and Corbett stand in line- tall, medium, small- to talk about class is iconic- but the show that won the Rose- when they showed it complete- turned out to be a scattergun affair- a mix of mild satire, pre-Python silliness and corny, old jokes- held together by Frost sitting behind a desk and speaking to camera. Sir David is now a mild-mannered, fluffy-haired television grandee, but back then he had this really sneery, cocky persona. We thought of him as the voice of youth speaking truth to age, but in retrospect he just seems smug and annoying. He was never really a comedian, his timing is hit and miss, his delivery over-emphatic, grating, without nuance. They should have hired someone like Frankie Howerd instead.
The Frost Report is important because it was the launch pad for a number of acts that went on to to define British sketch comedy in the 70s and 80s- the Two Ronnies, the Goodies, the Pythons- all of whom either appeared in or wrote for it. Steafel- as fine a comedian as any of them- featured in none of their famous shows- all of which were even boysier than the Frost Report. You know what? That makes me really quite cross.
I was in my late teens when the Frost Report first aired and I'm having difficulty remembering what I thought of it at the time. Frost didn't annoy me, but he clearly didn't enthuse me either.
I think that's something annoys me about Python humor, which goes over like a lead balloon for me (is that an idiom you use, in Britain?): The idea that having bosoms and speaking in a high voice is somehow inherently funny. Cross-dressing and women's bottoms are two of the Three Pillars of British Humor; the third is the Yorkshire accent. [g]
"Lead balloon"? Yes, that's an authentic Britishism.
Thankfully, There's more room on Brit TV these days for female comics. Some of them- Victoria Wood, Catherine Tate, French and Saunders, Julia Davis- even get to front their own shows.
Well, things have improved quite a lot. Before the wimmin's movement I think women being funny was a concept that most men (educated in single sex schools and therefore under-exposed to the concept of women as human)could not tolerate.
However we now have French and Saunders, Jo Brand and Catherine Tate and funny women slightly less famous like Miranda Hart, Natalie Haynes, Helen Lederer, Sandi Toksvig, some of it undoubtedly hit and miss but always improving. Plus in the US, Joan Rivers, followed by Ellen DeGeneres and Sarah Silverman.
Some of the funniest shows are still pretty much all male, with a token woman to do the girl voices. I love the Now Show on Radio 4 but although there are some women guests, the token girl doesn't get a solo spot.
Historically, men didn't like women who are clever, and being funny is also being clever. Has that changed?
You've hit it on the head. Single-sex education has a lot to answer for.
Things have changed, but- as you say- we still get these all-male comedy troupes. The Mighty Boosh is/are another example.