And now for something completely different…The Larch.
Those of you are not Monty Python fans will not get that, but I’m in a reminiscent mood, so you’ll have to bear with me.
I’m sitting here on a Friday night thinking about previous Friday nights of my youth. This all came about because I watched the first episode of Jeeves and Wooster this afternoon. You see, I’m a Britcom fan. Yes, it’s true. I admit it. I misspent a good deal of my Friday-night-youth watching Monty and Bertie and all sorts of imponderable characters. They were an escape for an outcast kid in a rural mill town.
Our local Public Broadcasting Station aired shows that made me laugh when little else did. As a kid, I didn’t know a single soul who shared my love for these shows. For most of the kids in town, Fridays were given up to football. Pep rallies and games were taken very seriously. Since I couldn’t play, and I sure as hell couldn’t lead a cheer, my Friday evenings were spent with the funniest folks the UK could offer. And funny they were!
Today, this trip down memory lane started when Bill and I were talking about P.G. Wodehouse. He was reading a magazine that included a rather pithy quote attributed to one of the best writers I’ve ever read, And he liked it! Now having Bill like something that was written by an early 20th century British writer was a bit of a fluke. He positively loathes anything that even hints of British humor, especially anything set decades ago. Even with the faintest of allusion to British royalty is strictly verboten. So how could it be that Wodehouse amused him? Could it be that some part of British humor might tickle his fancy? I decided to put it to the test.
I offered to show him the very first episode of Jeeves and Wooster. This show was based on P.G. Wodehouse characters and starred Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Upon offering to do so, I was met with a look of skepticism and a barrage of not unexpected questions:
“Is it sci-fi?”
“Does it have British royalty in it?”
Well, it does have British aristocrats but I assure you, they are the butt of all of the jokes.
“Is it present-day or set a long time ago?”
It’s based in the twenties, I think.
“Ok, well that might not be too bad. I suppose it will keep me from wasting my time reading the stories if I don’t like it.”
Great, I’ll put it on… And I’m thinking: “…I’ll put it on even if I am pretty sure you won’t like it. There’s always a chance! Oh please let there be a chance!”
You can all guess how this turned out. The show started and I was thoroughly enjoying the crazy humor that only Fry and Laurie can convey. As things hum along, Bill had this rather scowly look about him. I had to explain a few things and I knew we were on rocky ground when a visitor arrived. At that point, I knew all was lost. 15 minutes of Jeeves and Wooster had been endured and a guest had rescued him from this wifely torture. Sigh…
It was later revealed that:
1. The accent was hard to understand.
2. There were too many British phrases he didn’t understand.
3. They talked too fast.
4. He didn’t know what they were talking about.
Besides, he said, it left him cold. Cold!? Aww c’mon!
I can’t say it was a shock to me. If something doesn’t grab his attention and hold it for more than ten seconds, he glazes over. This is the guy who falls asleep during a Star Wars movie. He literally snored through Pirates of the Carribean. But I’m straying from my original thoughts about Britcoms.
I understand why it is hard for Bill to ‘get’ British comedy. You have to give it a chance. Let things unfold in the fullness of time. Ok, that was a bit much but I truly think that a great deal of British comedy is based on repetition. Getting the repetitious gag means taking the time to hear it more than once. Monty Python’s “And now for something completely different…” is a great example of that. Are You Being Served had Mrs. Slocombe repeatedly shouting “I am unanimous in that!” Of course, her greatest gag was always talking about her pussy. It was always about her cat, but the double entendres were hilarious. These gags were repeated enough that every time you heard them, or knew they were coming, you laughed. It couldn’t be helped.
After the tenth time of: “And now for something completely different…The Larch” popped up on the screen following various unrelated sketches, a geeky kid in Maine laughed…repeatedly. I still laugh, so maybe those Friday nights weren’t so misspent after all.