Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Sick as a Parrot

John Cleese once gave his three rules of writing successful comedy:

1. No Puns

2. No Puns

and

3. No Puns

Now I would like to take issue with this. What's the problem with the odd pun or two?

I must admit that I've never felt totally comfortable with John Cleese's comedy with the exception of the shining nugget of comedy classic gold that is Fawlty Towers. The Python stuff always seemed a bit laboured and mannered and I never quite took to the posh chartered accountant persona which Cleese adopted for so much of his career. I absolutely hated Clockwise which made me feel stressed out for weeks and a Fish Called Wanda still makes me terribly uncomfortable about Michael Palin having chips stuck up his nose.



I suppose even brilliant comedy exponents have their off days (see "Horne & Corden" and "Sunshine" for details). However, Fawlty Towers was, and still is, brilliant - a terrific ensemble cast and highly original and inventive writing by Cleese and his first wife Connie Booth.



One has to feel a bit sorry for Cleese now that he has been taken to the cleaners in Heather Mills fashion by his third wife Alyce Faye, a psychotherapist. Connie Booth keeps a commendably low profile and if Wikipedia is to be believed is also working as a psychotherapist in London and married to John Larr ( son of Bert Larr who played the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz.

New research may be proving John Cleese's comedy rules are correct. The University of New Dworkin in Southern California has recently completed an experiment in which 10,000 students were measured for laughter responses against a standard set of 10 pun based jokes to see, on average, how many from the list provided a laugh.

No pun in ten did.

8 comments:

KAZ said...

I think I've mentioned heer before that the Italians don't do puns.
Perhaps he's really John Cleesio from Milano.
I agree about Clockwise and Wanda.
Bad news that Corden's new effort is bad. I missed it of course.
'New Dworkin' - the name speaks for itself!

Geoff said...

I don't even get Fawlty Towers let alone Python.

Maybe John just isn't very good at punning.

Did you hear about the bloke who went to a Cambridge Footlights performance in anticipation of a punning stunt?

Rog said...

Kaz: Sme people thought my Italian Car was amusing. It was a Punto.

Geoff: They probably ended up watching the ducks. On a Cam web.

Liz said...

To me, 'Fawlty Towers' and "Clockwise" fit into the category of farce that is only just funny the first time you see it and then hugely annoying thereafter. I love the Python films though, 'Life of Brian' being my favourite.

As far as puns go, Sir Bruin is a great fan of them and I'm begining to wonder if he and Rog might be related.

Rog said...

Liz: I see you like "The Life of Bruin". I could bearly watch it!

zIggI said...

oooooo I'm right with you re the chips - I hated that!

Betty said...

Not really a fan of Cleese but I saw a Richard & Judy interview with him a few months back in which he came across as quite funny in real life. He recently dated a woman who claimed to be twenty seven, but she was really forty five. I think I will try to pull that trick if Geoff leaves me for an office junior.

Richard said...

I'll laugh at anything as long as it doesn't feature Jim Davidson or Stan Boardman. Jim Davidson and Stan Boardman being thrown off a high cliff might just be funny though.

Can anyone with a very long memory remember John Cleese appearing on Jokers' Wild and being chosen for the minute stand-up routine before the adverts? It was like Brian Eno doing a Eurovision song although I seem to remember he got quite a few laughs.