28th April 2022 What makes you laugh? I’m a big fan of comedy – like the old adage says: “Laughter is the best medicine”. I truly do believe that. Nothing makes me feel better than being able to have a really good laugh, whether it’s with friends, or watching a comedy film, watching stand-up on TV or listening to a good comedian on the radio.
There are some comedians that I don’t find in the least bit funny, and some styles of comedy I turn off immediately. I don’t like inane, stupid comedy; things that make me cringe with embarrassment, or so called ‘funny’ video clips of people hurting themselves in all sorts of situations. But things like Celebrity Juice or Trigger-Happy TV leave me cold. I don’t mind a bit of slapstick humour – Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and their ilk were masters of the art – but there was never any malice in it. And when I was a kid I loved TisWas, with all the gunge associated – that was fun!
But I have to say I prefer clever comedy – a witty raconteur can raise my spirits at any time, and if they’re physical with it, all power to them. People like Billy Connolly, for example. His comedy shows were brilliant, and he did all the actions to demonstrate the story – the fabled Scottish drunk, walking on one leg and wondering why he wasn’t getting anywhere – or (one of my favourites of all time) his version of the young man in the nightclub wearing incontinence pants! I’ve seen it so many times, and it still tickles my funny bone. Billy is a genius with his observational comedy, it’s such a pity he’s retired now due to Parkinson’s. Another favourite is Jasper Carrott. While I could live without ever hearing ‘Funky Moped’ again, his story of The Mole Catcher is priceless, also visiting the posh girlfriend’s parents and their dog. “If he’s bothering you, kick his balls. No! I mean the ones on the lawn!”
I like funny reads too. I have been known to laugh out loud on many a train journey, reading The Meaning of Liff or Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs. Maureen Lipman’s autobiographical tales such as Something to Fall Back On and Thank You For Having Me have me rolling in the aisles. There are so many great comedy writers and actors that this could just turn into a list of my favourite funny people, but that would be boring so I’ll try not to do that.
It must be a wonderful talent, being able to make people laugh. I have my moments, usually describing an event in my dark and distant past that ended with my embarrassment and/or humiliation, which isn’t quite the same thing as having funny bones. Some people don’t have to do anything to make an audience roar with laughter. Think of Eric Morecambe or Tommy Cooper. Just the expression on their faces could raise the roof.
Some people are quite ambivalent about US humour compared to ours. I like some of their sitcoms, can’t bear others, and that’s much the same story for me with sitcoms from this side of the pond. Back in the day, I loved Roseanne, Cheers and The Cosby Show (yes, I know he’s in disgrace now, but his work was funny back then!). I was and still am also a big fan of Robin Williams, whether acting or doing stand up and talk show appearances. In my mind the man was a genius and completely irreplaceable. And very sadly missed. Even back in the days of Mork and Mindy I loved his quick repartee and the silliness of it all. I would have swapped lives with Pam Dawber at the drop of a hat too, not just because of her work with Williams, but also because she’s otherwise known as the very long-time Mrs Mark Harmon!
So I have my US heroes as well – people like Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks, the incomparable Bob Newhart. Speaking of Mel Brooks, many people say Young Frankenstein is his best ever movie but I disagree. I’m not exaggerating if I say I must have seen Blazing Saddles over a hundred times, and it’s as fresh and funny as when it was released way back in 1974. I still find something new to giggle at every time. Highly recommended. Still in America, I love The Big Bang Theory, (can’t bear Young Sheldon though), loved Friends at the time, not so much How I Met Your Mother. I adored The Simpsons to start with, and still think it’s the best of the animated comedies, but I’ve never been able to get into South Park, American Dad or Family Guy.
Mentioning The Big Bang Theory, I’ve always found anything produced by Chuck Lorre to be excellent both in the writing and the humour. Shows like Cybill, Grace Under Fire and Two and a Half Men I can watch over and over. They always seem to be so well cast too. I found it hard, reading Cybill Shepherd’s autobiography ‘Cybill Disobedience’ to believe that the Cybill character and hard-drinking Maryann (played expertly by Christine Baranski) were not actually best friends and that most of the cast didn’t seem to care for each other. I guess that’s what makes great acting!
Of course, we Brits have some amazing sitcoms too – who doesn’t love the magnificent Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Boo-kay!) in Keeping Up Appearances, and wonderfully pompous Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army? There’s a reason these series are repeated so frequently – they are excellence personified and never get old. I much prefer watching these to what’s supposed to pass for comedy by the likes of Keith Lemon and Nick Helm – they just don’t appeal to me at all! Neither am I enamoured of things that others praise to the high heavens; I’m afraid, Little Britain and The Inbetweeners have just never done it for me.
I’ve always like satirical panel shows too. I’m a bit young (gosh, I don’t say THAT phrase very often!) to remember shows like That Was The Week That Was, even though I did borrow the title for a recent blog, although I’ve seen clips of it occasionally on TV programmes but I do like Mock the Week, Would I Lie to You, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, and QI (the Sandi Toksvig hosted ones, Stephen Fry is just too pompous for words!) In fact, if all else fails, the TV channel Dave is my go-to channel for viewing when the other thousand or so have nothing on worth watching.
There are so many really good comedians around nowadays, the women still vastly outnumbered by the men sadly, and it seems that they have become almost rock-star like in their ability to fill theatres and stadiums. I love Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre, comedy duos like (of course) Morecambe and Wise, French and Saunders and Ade Edmondson and the late-lamented Rik Mayal.
I can’t resist it – here’s a list of my top ten favourite funny people/shows: Sarah Millican, Zoe Lyons, Miranda, anything Morecambe & Wise, Outnumbered, Not Going Out, Mock the Week, My Family, Jon Richardson and Leanne Morgan. I could go on, there are so many more that tickle my funny bone. The latter you may not have heard of. I subscribe to a page called Dry Bar Comedy on Facebook, which is a wealth of mostly US stand-up comedy and Leanne Morgan is a very, very funny lady. She’s from the South, and has a wonderful accent and I love her to bits. Well worth a look out if you like US humour.
Come on, do tell! What’s YOUR favourite type of comedy – who are your best people for an injection of humour to your funny bone? What makes you laugh? I’d love to hear from you, maybe you can point me in the direction of people I haven’t heard of yet – or put my right about my opinions? Why not get in touch below and tell me all about it. We can have a laugh together…
Till next week,