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Posts Tagged ‘comedian’

Did I ever mention that John Cleese (“Monty Python,” “Fawlty Towers”) was the speaker at Suzanne’s college graduation? A very good choice if you like a bit of laughter with your deep thoughts.

Now an old video of the early Cleese has been unearthed.

The BBC has the story: “Two episodes of 1960s TV comedy ‘At Last The 1948 Show,’ which starred pre-Monty Python John Cleese and Graham Chapman, have been found after almost 50 years. The ITV programme, which was first screened in 1967, also featured Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman and Aimi Macdonald. …

” ‘It represents a key moment in the history of British television comedy featuring the combined talents of some of its greatest exponents,’ BFI television consultant Dick Fiddy said. …

“The two episodes were found when Mr Fiddy was invited to explore the collection of Sir David Frost, who died last August, and who was executive producer on the show.

“They were contained on two reels of 16mm film and had been filmed directly from a television screen. …

“Cleese will present the two episodes, on loan from the Frost family, as part of ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ – the BFI’s annual celebration of recovered TV programmes — on 7 December in London.” More here.

Recently rediscovered in the effects of the late David Frost, a comedy featuring a young John Cleese. 

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John found a sweet little video clip of the 1955 Danny Kaye film The Court Jester featuring my favorite lullaby.

I often sing “I’ll Take You Dreaming” to my grandchildren, and I sang it to John when he was a baby and to Suzanne. (A pre-verbal Suzanne used to make a squeaking noise when I came to the word “dreaming,” and I finally figured out she thought the word was “screaming.”)

The YouTube video refused to embed, try as I might, and as I poked around the web for another video, I came on some information about Danny Kaye, who was hilarious in that movie. I never saw my mother laugh so hard. The lullaby was one of the few quiet places.

“Danny Kaye left school at the age of 13 to work in the so-called Borscht Belt of Jewish resorts in the Catskill Mountains. It was there he learned the basics of show biz. From there he went through a series of jobs in and out of the business. In 1939, he made his Broadway debut in Straw Hat Revue, but it was the stage production of the musical Lady in the Dark in 1940 that brought him acclaim and notice from agents.”

Oh, boy, I saw a production of Lady in the Dark in the 1980s at the Boston Conservatory. What a show!

“Samuel Goldwyn had been trying to sign Kaye to a movie contract for two years before he eventually agreed. Goldwyn put him in a series of Technicolor musicals, starting with Up in Arms (1944). His debut was successful, and he continued to make hit movies such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and The Inspector General (1949). In 1954, he appeared with Bing Crosby in White Christmas (1954), which was based on the Irving Berlin song of the same name. In 1955, he made what many consider his best comedy, The Court Jester (1955). …

“He also worked tirelessly for UNICEF.” More at IMDb.

You can find the lullaby scene on YouTube. I thought the sound quality was best here.

Studio publicity photo of actor and comedian Danny Kaye. 

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The NY Times had an article today about the subtleties of standup comedy in different languages.

Not only can jokes get lost in translation, but an immigrant from one country may be completely hilarious to an immigrant from another country while falling flat with temporary visitors from his own country.

Sarah Maslin Nir writes, “In a city where a priest, an imam and a rabbi really could walk into a bar on any given day — along with just about anyone from around the globe — what different cultures laugh at is as diverse as the city itself. …

“Cultural stumbles are a theme in immigrant comedy in New York, said Oleg Boksner, a Brooklyn comedian who is preparing a one-man show called ‘From Russia With Laughs.’ In it he has fun with his heritage through caricatures like the transplant from Communist Russia who tries to join in with the American custom of Halloween, but  scares away trick-or-treaters with his Soviet-style treats: a raw potato and an onion. ‘I’ve had people from Mexico relate to it as well,’ Mr. Boksner said of his act, ‘because they relate to the difficulties of being an immigrant in one form or another.’

“But when he played before a crowd of Russian visitors at B. B. King Blues Club and Grill in Midtown a few years ago, those jokes bombed. …

“And every foreign comedian must tackle the thorny task of figuring out which jokes just will not translate. Take the Mexican one about the chicken who was the height of foolishness. Why? Because he was looking for a pencil when he was surrounded by pens! ‘Plumas’ in Spanish, means ‘pens’ but also, critical to the joke, ‘feathers.’ ”

More.

Photograph: Yana Paskova/NY Times
Ali Sultan, a Yemeni-American comedian who lives in Minnesota and performed at the Comic Strip in Manhattan last month, claims to have studied at the University of I’ll Just Google It.

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