Saturday, December 05, 2009

Andre Preview and comedy writing

click photo to enlarge
In an idle moment the other evening - and I haven't had many of those recently - when multi-channel TV offered nothing that appealed to me, I turned to YouTube and found myself watching a few old clips of Morecambe and Wise. I am of the generation that saw this British comedy duo transfer from live variety theatres and end of the pier shows to television, and witnessed their creative peak in the 1970s when one of their Christmas Shows garnered 28 million viewers.

At the time I was both impressed and highly entertained by the style of Eric and Ernie. They were a double act in the vaudevillian sense, with Eric the tall "daft" one, and Ernie the short more "serious" one, though equally daft if he could only see it: the concept owed a lot to Laurel and Hardy. The comic timing, mannerisms, delivery, ongoing jokes, interaction with guest stars, and the slightly anarchic humour that occasionally broke through the "working class lads made good" feel of the show, ensured it had a very wide appeal. What I never thought particularly deeply about at the time was the writing. This was largely the product of one man, Eddie Braben, and today I find that fact quite remarkable. We're used to comedy shows being written by teams of people - Monty Python surely couldn't have existed without the fertile imaginations of each individual being driven to a higher plane by interaction with each other. So to see great line after great line, new idea after new idea, appearing each season, year after year, from the pen of a single writer is, yes, remarkable.

Reviewing this image taken in Canary Wharf, London, a few weeks ago I kept thinking about what the lady in the brown coat might be saying to the lady in the black coat. But a suitably comedic line wouldn't come. The best I could manage are: "Do you think the baby will have his mother's or his father's looks?" and "My money's on the baby's head being an octahedron!" (that one's for the mathematicians out there.) Not ROFLMAO (I think that's right) material is it?

In my small way I have written a few "humorous" pieces for PhotoReflect. My best three are perhaps: Primordial soup and chilli, IMO UN wasted money, and The cows take a bow. Putting those small snippets together didn't come easily, so I can imagine just how hard it would be to come up with several 45 minute episodes or a full hour of Chrismas entertainment in the way Eddie Braben did for Morecambe and Wise. How much easier it would be with someone to bounce ideas off.

Most British people of "a certain age" will be familiar with Morecambe and Wise, and many more will know of their most famous sketch that features the conductor, Andre Previn. But for those who have never seen it, here's a link.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On