I am currently reading Barry Cryer’s rather wonderful memoir ‘Pigs Can Fly’, a book recounting many tales of his adventures as a comedy writer and much-loved British personality. I love the man and his work. I think he’s little short of brilliant, and the book is making me want to immerse myself in even more comedy that I presently do. Make no mistake, I love comedy that is well written, well presented and funny. Unfortunately there are few modern examples of the comedic art that have filled my life with anything approaching the joy of the classics.
There are some exceptions, namely Black Books, The IT Crowd, but then I’m sent back further for Father Ted, Spaced, Men Behaving Badly and Bottom as examples. Before that we’re talking about the 80s, which, while it was nightmarish in many respects, was a great time for new comedy to come out. Prior to that, there’s the joys of the 70s and so on, with the obvious classics such as Fawlty Towers topping my internal list.
The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise are heroes that I share with my significant other, who is also a writer (and she is much, much funnier than myself) and lover of good comedy. At the risk of destroying some of the mystique around the art of comedy, I do think that all of these things are brilliantly written and brilliantly executed, but part of their charm is perhaps that they do also provide a snapshot of a world that doesn’t exist any more.
This is why I love the fact that we have such access to recordings of the greats that are no longer with us, to enjoy over and again. It is perhaps that longing for simpler times and simpler concerns that has helped these comedies achieve their longevity, with many people longing for the days before the internet, before a million TV channels and so on.
In these atrociously stressful times, shouldn’t we make more comedy, more light-hearted entertainment? I’m not calling for a return to the Music Halls of long ago, but variety would be a boon to the current climate. Stuff reality TV, give us something that we can laugh at and enjoy for years to come. Remember shows such as Opportunity Knocks, or New Faces? How about some more things like those? New ACTS, not new AUDITIONS.
It’s not like there isn’t already enough material out there to inspire new writers and creators- it is just a shame that there aren’t as many avenues for them to get new work made. Look at those classics, those great comics and actors, they must have been doing something right, or we wouldn’t still be appreciating their work. Learn, create, and make someone laugh. Now THAT is a route to a better world.