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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Where have all the good laughs gone?

Nothing on TV seems to make me laugh. Titter ye not, said the late and great Frankie Howerd, and I don't.  Miranda occasionally provokes a titter -- "such fun!" and "bear with," but it's also a little overdone. It tries too hard.


The cast of Miranda
The last times I spluttered with mirth were watching Father Ted, The Office, One Foot in the Grave, Phoenix Nights and the early episodes of The Royle Family.

Monty Python was before my time but I inherited my brother's albums and videos and can recite many of the sketches word for word. Many of the phrases are used endlessly in my family: "Be fair, Pascal;"  "the comfy chair" and "no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition."

I don't want to sound like Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, but what passes for humour these days courtesy of Judd Apatow and the Coen Brothers, and even Sarah Millican, seems to revolve around bodily functions and bottoms. Funny to male adolescents. Do we really still laugh at it when we're grown ups?

How I long for the wordplay, the bathos, pathos and character development that symbolised some of the truly great comedies: Porridge, Steptoe & Son, Dad's Army, Citizen Smith, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and Open All Hours. Some of the characters exhibited greed, sloth, meanness, frailty, foolishness, thwarted ambition, lust. But sometimes we felt sympathy for them. Sometimes they made us cry.

Some of the longer running sitcoms today -  I am thinking of the inexorable My Family and My Hero - have that self conscious, shouty "am I on stage?" thing going on, a bit like a farce but supposed to be masquerading as real life.

Most of the "comedians" seen on TV occasionally leave me cold: Lee Child, Jimmy Carr, James Corden, Stephen Fry. And they say women aren't funny! Michael McIntyre, John Bishop and Milton Jones have gentle humour without resorting to bodily functions but they don't make me titter much. Peter Kay used to be wonderful but he's run short of new material over the last few years.

The only ray of light in recent times has been the wonderful Getting On, with Jo Brand. Set in an NHS hospital, it has a gentle humour and doesn't resort to cruelty to get a cheap laugh.

What do you think?  Have I turned into Victor Meldrew?  Or are we currently in a desert when it comes to clever comedy?

1 comment:

That's Not My Age said...

I completely agree - don't find Miranda funny at all, no matter how hard I try. I love all the stuff you've named, and more recently Peep Show & 30 Rock. But currently, if I want a laugh I dig out my Curb Your Enthusiasm box set.

Gadget

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