Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A word from the Ministry...


Good Morning. There now follows a Broadcast on behalf of The Ministry of Sid. For several years now, (Or days. But mainly days.) we at the Ministry have been working tirelessly to promote the philosophy of the late, great Sir.Sidney James. Yes, phwoarrr CRIKEEE indeed madam. Through the cinematic medium, Sir.Sidney espoused, indeed pioneered the view that life was a 'Bit of a laugh' and 'Well worth it for the giggles'. We now interrupt your normal Blogging pleasure with the following;

Humour; temperament or disposition of mind: a mental quality which apprehends and delights in the ludicrous and mirthful: playful fancy:-vt to go in with the humour of: to gratify by compliance.
So sayeth our trusty and revered copy of the Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary (1959).

'You don't say.' - Sid James.

We shall begin. Although most, if not all of the cinematic offerings listed here have, indeed been offered as a televisual experience, i.e. 'On the box' to descend to the common British parlance, they all started out 'On the Big Screen', as opposed to the television shows with with their relatively humbler ouvre'. (Our colleagues at the Ministry of Hitting you over the Head with Blunt Instruments are standing by should any of you be shouting or whining like toddlers deprived of their lollipops that both the Monty Python and Naked Gun concepts ascended from television to the Nickleodeon.)


FILM/SERIES/AUSTIN POWERS: Three films, to wit: (Ta WOOO) A TRILOGY;

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)  Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).
Mike Myers, he of Waynes World fame sends up the sixties spy genre with a series of romps that leave no gag unturned plenty of laughs all round, notably in the second outing, with a series of celebrity cameos and jokes developed from the first. All three offerings worth seeing even 007 would laugh. (It may seem obvious, but you really need to see the films and shows featured here, to have more than a passing idea of the actual humour involved... Humour isn't funny when you examine it, which might seem a touch odd but, we can but try...)
NOTABLE CHARACTER: Dr.Evil, the nehru-jacketed super-fiend. Blofeld played for laughs. 
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: Take your pick. We favour the tent-silhouette sight-gags and presume  Mr.Myers has a copy of Carry on Camping...

FILM/ BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (2006)
Sacha Baron Cohen, creator of characters such as Ali G, and BrΓΌno wrote and produced this fake-documentary about a fictional Kazakh journalist, Borat Sagdiyev and his attempt to produce a documentary film about US life and customs. In love with Pamela Anderson, Borat naively woos her with a 'traditional' Kazakhstani kidnap-marriage proposal. The people featured in the film vary from real-life Americans to stooges and was widely banned in the Arab world. Borat himself hates Jews and Homosexuals, is prejudiced and stupid with little idea of the World outside his native country.
While we at the Ministry (O.K. Me at my keyboard go with it; It didn't cost you anything and there's crap-all on telly) understand that themes including Homosexuality and Religion might be taboo in certain areas of the World/US States with Highways named for Country & Western Singers nonetheless this is a remarkably funny film. As an aside, in an outraged attempt to defend their fine Nation as progressive and 'With-it', Kazakhstan invited several members of the press to visit. The first man interviewed?; a local with a donkey cart, who, smiling with all three of his teeth cheerfully admitted he valued his donkey above his wife.
NOTABLE CHARACTER: Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) Borat's friend and Producer once seen naked, never forgotten.
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: Borat's, um ablutions in New York.


TELEVISION/SERIES/BOTTOM (1991 - 1995)
A British 'Sitcom' (Situation Comedy a Comedy set in a fixed set of circumstances or location; here, two unemployed 'losers' on Unemployment Benefit living in a dilapidated flat in Hammersmith, London with recurring themes and supporting characters.)
Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall play Richie and Eddie (Richard 'Richie' Richard and Edward 'Eddie' Elizabeth Hitler. Both stalwarts of ground-breaking TV series The Young Ones Edmondson and Mayall went on to the British Saturday Night Live show as 'The Dangerous Brothers', with anarchistic violence and insanity on stage. Bottom features such delights as flaming farts, forks stuck into eyeballs and a home-made cattle-prod that induces instant bowel-failure when used. The humour revolves around the pair's endless attempt to lose their virginity, get drunk and generally cause havoc.   
(The series spawned Five Stage Shows, plus a film Guest House Paradiso the latter, although entertaining, didn't fully live up to it's promise, getting just two 'Sids') .
NOTABLE CHARACTER/S: Steve O'Donnell as Spudgun, Christopher Ryan (The Young Ones) as Dave Hedgehog, Richie and Eddies' only friends.
RANDOM FUNNY BITS: 'Frankinstein, Gold and Grrr' Richie becomes convinced he is the Virgin Mary. Also, the gag on the Ferris Wheel where Eddie pulls out an 'Emergency Pint' of beer in a pub glass - from his coat. (How???.)

FILM/HOT FUZZ (2007)
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star, Pegg and Edgar Wright co-wrote this action comedy mystery. The three were responsible for the TV series Spaced and the massively successful Shaun of the Dead.
Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is a Metropolitan Police Officer, a super-cop who is starting to make his colleagues look bad, hence his transfer to Sandford, Gloucestershire one of those Olde-Worlde villages that Britain has so many of; polar opposites to London. On arriving, one of his first busts turns out to be his new partner PC Danny Butterman (Frost) the son of the local Inspector (Jim Broadbent). Basically, people are dying mysterious deaths that Angel soon realises are murders. British comedy legend Bill Bailey turns up as the Sergeant Turner twins, Timothy Dalton is the sinister local shopkeeper and Edward Woodward is an obsessive member of the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance without giving it all away the film basically spoofs those 'Lethal Weapon' buddy-cop movies, amusingly set in a twee village with a high-octane finale... and funny as funny gets.
NOTABLE CHARACTER: DS Andy Wainwright (Paddy Considine). A sarcastically cynical CID Officer.
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: Hard to choose, but let's go for the scene with Angel's ex-girlfriend the forensics officer.

TELEVISION/SERIES/FAWLTY TOWERS (1975/1979)
John Cleese, of Monty Python fame and then-wife Connie Booth wrote and starred in what, for many must be the funniest TV show ever made. Typically British, the series ran for just 12 episodes, Cleese and Booth deciding against making more to keep the quality high (Pity the producers of The Simpsons didn't follow suit after, say five years hilarious though the show was).
Basil Fawlty and his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) run a Torquay guest house, with Polly (Booth) the chambermaid and the hopeless Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs). Fawlty is an insufferable man who clearly feels the hotel would run smoother without guests getting in the way his customer service seems based on that of Hitler's SS and he is the most ghastly snob to boot. Sybil is bossy, seemingly oblivious to her husband's idiosyncracies, while Polly often saves his bacon, such as when he tries to conceal his gambling from Sybil. Manuel is simply unable to speak English, leading to farcical misunderstandings and, often a clout from his irascible employer. Each episode is a gem carefully crafted with, obviously, a breathtaking amount of preparation.
NOTABLE CHARACTER: Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley), a slightly senile old boy, in permanent residence at Fawlty Towers. Appears frequently, to good comic effect.
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: Impossible! - but; the 'Fawlty Towers' sign is mischievously re-arranged at the start of every episode, sometimes subtly, but favourites include; WATERY FOWLS, FARTY TOWELS and FLOWERY TWATS.

FILM/SERIES/NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989)
Written by John Hughes, the film is the third in the Vacation series (After National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) and National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)). Once more, Chevy Chase is Clark Griswold.Jr, a family man trying to do his best it's Christmas, the Griswold's are hosting a family re-union and everything rests on Clark. With long-suffering wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and the kids (Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki) in support, it all goes predictably wrong. There's a sub-plot revolving around Clark's Christmas Bonus, with Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie turning up to add to the chaos. The Christmas lights all 25,000 of them don't work (When they do it's like the Sun at night, the electric company has to turn on their spare generator), there's a hunt for the perfect tree and a sewage-gas explosion that somehow encompasses the perfect Griswold Family Christmas. Laughs all the way; a Seasonal Gem.
NOTABLE CHARACTER: Cousin Eddie - Randy Quaid reprises his role from Vacation, a welcome return, providing some real belly-laughs.
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: The scene where Clark coats a barbeque (?) lid with a super-Teflon type coating to make a sled, instantly shooting off downhill like a bullet from a gun...

FILM/SERIES/THE NAKED GUN (1988 1994)
Following his success in Airplane! The late Leslie Nielsen starred in a TV show featuring the same brand of comic mayhem unbelievably, Police Squad! Was cancelled by morons unknown after just 6 episodes. They are now, of course, classics, hence the spin-offs of the Naked Gun trilogy. From the files of Police Squad! Was followed in1991 by The Smell of Fear and, ultimately The Final Insult.
Nielsen is Detective Frank Drebin, a consummate bungler a la Clouseau, who stumbles his way through the plots of all three movies Ricardo Montalban's plan to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, Robert Goulet's energy-lobby scientist kidnap plot and Fred Ward/Kathleen Freeman's scheme to blow up the Academy Awards. It's sight-gags all the way, with support from Priscilla Presley (No less), George Kennedy and, ironically, OJ Simpson. Often hysterically funny, all three films and the series are essential viewing.
NOTABLE CHARACTER: Ted Olson (Ed Williams) Scientist at the Police Squad lab, his scenes were always fun, in the series very un-pc (Much in the vein of  Peter Graves's 'Captain Oveur' in Airplane!) - inappropriate, but funny.
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: The 'Everybody freeze!' bit at the end of Police Squad! Episodes; the action froze as the credits rolled, but instead of a freeze-frame, the cast would stand still (If a bit wobbly).

FILM/PAUL (2011)

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost again, this time writing and starring in an Alien Road-Trip comedy As British sci-fi comic book fanatics Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings who are best mates (If it works...) who rent an RV and head for San Diego Comic-Con a sort of meeting place for geeks, freaks and people seriously into comics. Stopping by a car wreck, they discover an alien, Paul (Seth Rogen providing the voice for the CGI creation). On the run from Area 51, Paul is desperate to go back home 'they' plan to remove his brain for research, so the hapless Brits agree to help, although Clive seems to resent someone (Or something) else coming between best friends. Paul himself is witty, urbane and likes a spliff and swears casually although the film references plenty of Sci-Fi (Especially Speilberg), this is the Anti-ET. At an RV park they meet Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig), a one-eyed girl and, like her Father a Fundamentalist Christian. Meeting Paul naturally throws her belief's into doubt, especially when he heals her blind eye and shares the knowledge of the Universe with her via a mind-link. She gets horny and learns to swear.
No surprise 'they' want 'him' back, so Secret Service Agent  Lorenzo Zoll (Jason Bateman) is on the case, aided by a couple of rookies. Zoll answers to the mysterious 'Big Guy', whose identity is apparently a secret...
As well as the mind-sharing thing and the healing powers, Paul can remain invisible for as long as he can hold his breath which leads to a few of the gags here. (As I said before, it really pays to see these for yourself I can only give you a hint as to what I personally think you might find funny and I've never met you, you wonderful creature you...) There's a plot, a twist in the ending and we finish at Comic-Con two years hence with Best Buddies promoting their smash hit graphic novel Paul...
I laughed for ages. I can't say I'd choose this over, say Hot Fuzz or Father Ted, (I didn't actually get into Shaun of the Dead although I thought it was close to brilliance) in fact if you haven't seen a Pegg & Frost start with Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead, then sit down with this one...
NOTABLE CHARACTER: Paul CGI characters have come a long way since Jar-Jar Binks... now they can be likeable and plausible and not something you'd like to fire out of a cannon through a chain-link fence.
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: The 'F*&k, yeah!' gag when Paul instructs Ruth on the etiquette of swearing.

TELEVISION/SERIES/ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES (1981 2003)
Lovely Jubbly! - Created by the late John Sullivan, writer of  British TV sitcom Citizen Smith, the show takes it's name from the old phrase 'Why do only fools and horses work?' - the spirit of the show is of avoiding tax, blurring the line between legitimate and shady dealings summed up in the Cockney phrase 'Ducking and Diving'. The title song neatly encapsulates this, sung by Sullivan himself, with references to bundles of notes, 'hooky' (Stolen or 'Dodgy') merchandise and the like. Comedy actor David Jason made his name with his portrayal of 'Del Boy' Derek Trotter. (Detective Crime fans shouldn't miss his later 'Frost' series)Del Boy lives in a high-rise flat in Peckham, Sarf Lahn-dan and lives, initially with Grandad (Lennard Pearce) and younger Brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst). An illicit market trader, Del Boy and Rodney sell 'hooky' goods from a suitcase, Rodney being the look-out for the Police (Much like the sequence with Jason Statham in Lock, Stock & Two smoking Barrels). British market patrons will instantly recognise the types two likeable 'Jack the Lads' who are shown as just trying to get by...

The humour comes from the situations the characters get into Selling a load of 'knocked off' Inflatable Sex Dolls, which turn out to be factory rejects mistakenly filled with highly flammable gas, Marketing 'Peckham Spring' bottled water actually tap water or buying what Del calls a 'Statellite-Dish' actually a stolen airport homing beacon that they only just switch off in time to prevent a Jumbo Jet landing on the flats...
The supporting cast varies (Pearce died and was replaced by 'Uncle Albert' Buster Merryfield, a WWII Navy veteran and 'Jonah' who sank every ship he served on), but regulars include;
John Challis as local second-hand car dealer Boycie an annoying snob whose dopey wife Marlene (Sue Holderness) may or may not have had an affair with Del (We never find out, but she falls pregnant and Boycie is a 'jaffa' i.e. seedless)
The likeable, but stupid Roadsweeper 'Trigger' (Roger Lloyd Pack) is often seen at the local, 'The Nag's Head' the butt of many of the jokes, he persists in calling Rodney 'Dave'.
Later on, Del meets and falls for a failed singer/actress Raquel (Tessa Peake-Jones) while Rodney meets and later marries Cassandra (Gwyneth Strong) an actress that seems to be, as with Sondra Locke in certain Clint Eastwood movies, there solely to annoy. Even her annoying presence doesn't dent the comedy though. (As an aside, when will TV producers learn the 'Scrappy Doo' lesson? - when a top show seems to flag, adding obviously tacked-on characters just makes the whole thing groan under the added weight. For 'Scrappy' feel free to substitute 'A-Team'.)

The show ran for seven series with several continuation Christmas Specials.
NOTABLE CHARACTER: Trigger priceless!.
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: Everyone always goes for Del falling through the serving hatch in 'Yuppie Love', but I'm with 'Good 'Evenin' Del uses a Blow-Up Dolly as a Ventriloquist's Dummy to trick a myopic old bloke...

FILM/MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979)
The Python's made the leap to the silver screen more than once, but I have to be ruthless here so Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life has to be reluctantly set aside. Directed by Terry Jones, it stars him as well as the Python stalwarts John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman with Eric Idle and, of course Michael Palin. Controversy surrounded this one and its not hard to see why; Chapman is Brian Cohen, born in the Holy Land and everyone thinks he is the Messiah (HAA-ley-LOO-YAH) (HA-LEE-LOO-YAH) (HAA-LEYY-LUU-YAH). Falling in with the radical People's Front of Judea, Brian accidentally finds himself having to spout out some old rubbish about religion to deceive the Roman guards who are after him. People fall for it and start following him to his dismay everything he says is seized on as THE WORD even when he says he isn't the Messiah (HAA-ley-LOO-YAH) (HA-LEE-LOO-YAH) (HAA-LEYY-LUU-YAH) some eejit proclaims 'Only the TRUE Messiah denies his divinity!'. As is often the case with religion, when people get it bad there's no telling the buggers.
Sentenced by Pilate to be crucified, things look bleak. Even the Judean People's Front (A rival group) fail to save Brian, their 'Crack Suicide Squad' springing into action... and committing suicide, hari-kiri style (I've never heard of Seppu-ku, so don't bother...). Philosophically, Brian breaks into song; 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'...

Banned in Norway (I'm amazed anyone noticed) the film caused outrage for its blasphemy and depiction of certain types of religious folks as credulous fools. Luckily, we know that A; God can take a joke. He is, after all, the bloke that created Penguins, and Kenny Rogers has NEVER been hit by lightning. Not once. And , of course; 2; Religions do tend to attract credulous fools amongst the faithful...

NOTABLE CHARACTERS: The cast in general for their multiple personalities; Eric Idle, for instance appears as no less than eight characters... this lends to the Python feel and the humour of the whole thing...
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: Brian; 'Are you the People's Front of Judea?'
(John Cleese as) Reg; 'F**K OFF! - we're the Judean People's Front!.'

FILM/SAY IT ISN'T SO (2001)
Chris Klein is Gilbert Noble, who falls for 'Jo' Wingfield (Heather Graham). They make love before it is revealed they are brother and sister the whole town is scandalised, Gilbert is an outcast. He flees, bumping (literally) into Orlando Jones, who plays Dig McCaffrey, a disabled pilot with more than a passing resemblance to Jimi Hendrix. They get into various scrapes the 'pervert' tag proves impossible to shake due to various hapless incidents that just seem to confirm it before it's proved that SURPRISE! - Chris and Jo are not really siblings after all...  There's a lot going on, but it all works out luckily Chris' REAL Mom is Seventies Sex-Symbol Suzanne Somers. Whom he used to fantasize about while mass-debating. Ummm.... yep.
Apparently everyone hated this film well raspberries to the lot of 'em; me like 'em, me choose 'em.
NOTABUBBLE CHARACTER: Sally Field plays Valdine, Jo's Mother. (Smokey & The Bandit being a favourite of mine, this won't surprise too many of you.)
RANDOM FUNNY BIT: Dig's business card ''I'll fly up your ass if the money's right - just had me folded up...

TELEVISION/SERIES/FATHER TED (1995-1998)
Set on the fictional Craggy Island, off the irish mainland, three priests have been effectively exiled, sent to live in a Parochial House by the vengeful Bishop Brennan (Jim Norton) with insane Mrs.Doyle the Housekeeper. Pauline McLynn plays her to a Tea. (One of the running jokes is her first name we never hear it).
Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan) was banished to the island for an unclear incident involving misappropriation of money. A worldly figure, he doesn't care much for religion, being comparatively normal as opposed to his two charges;
Father Dougal McGuire, played by Ardal O'Hanlon, Dougal is an eejit of the first water. He has no idea about Catholicism or anything, for that matter. In one show (The Mainland) He sticks his head out of the car window, tongue hanging out like a family dog, likes roller-blading and is generally stuck in a child-like existence.
Father Jack Hackett Frank Kelly is a decrepit, broken-down alcoholic priest who seems only dimly aware of his surroundings. His main vocabulary consists of 'Arse!' 'Feck!' and 'DRRRink!', though Ted, in one episode teaches him the word 'Yes!' and the phrase 'That would be an ecumenical matter!' to get round a group of visiting Bishops.

The humour comes from farce Ted gets into some trouble involving, say, accusations of Racism. In one episode, Craggy Island turns out to (suddenly) have a Chinese Community. Despite his efforts, events seem to confirm Ted is nothing less than a Nazi He is 'having a go' about something through the window, which has a strangely square-shaped black dirt mark on the glass. Watching in horror, two of the Chinese people see him as Hitler. Later on, he invites the whole Chinese Community back to the parochial house for a drink unaware of a mix-up involving a fugitive Nazi's will that sees the living room plastered in Nazi regalia...
The show ran for three series, ending with the tragic death of Dermot Morgan aged just 45. In the top two of my all-time top comedy shows.

NOTABLY A CHARACTER: John and Mary, who run the local shop a married couple, they hate each other, only to break off from a violent fight to appear as if happily married whenever any priests approach...
RADNOM FUNNY TIB: 'The Mainland' myopic Father Jack wanders into a pub, about to down a Whiskey when a man from an Alcoholic Support Group he wandered into knocks the glass away with the line 'One day, Father you'll th...' Cut to an Ambulance racing along at high speed with blues and sirens wailing...

TELEVISION/SERIES/BLACKADDER (1983 1989)
Hey Nonny-Nonny My Lord, I have a Cunning Plan... Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson (Pre- Mr.Bean and Johnny English) conspired to write a medieval comedy series entitled The Black Adder don't bother, apart from some good bits, it was more hit than miss. Luckily Curtis teamed up with Ben Elton to write the follow-ups. Elton (a mildly annoying lefty-comic that just inspired me to punch sociology students) was notable for co-writing anarchic alternative comedy series The Young Ones.
Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth were the result.
Using the same characters descendants of the originals, Atkinson and regular Tony Robinson were joined by such comedy heavyweights as Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.
Atkinson is Edmund Blackadder, basically a manipulative schemer with a clever mind and many a dubious scheme the character is essentially the same though the times change; II is set at the heart of Elizabethan London, Third in the Regency equivalent and Forth in the trenches of World War I.
Whether a Courtesan, a Royal Butler or an Army Officer, the man remains true to the principles of deviousness and low cunning. Aiding him through his incarnations is S. Baldrick (Robinson); a private in Forth , but a servant in the two previous series. Stupid and gullible, Baldrick is a man of low-expectation, often butt of the jokes, yet an irrepressible optimist.

The situations are essentially either get-rich quick schemes gone awry, or schemes to save Blackadder from harm in II for example, Queen Elizabeth is always threatening to have his head cut off, in Forth there's always another suicide mission such as 'Operation Certain Death' being thought up by the insane General Melchett (Fry). I laughed at II, didn't stop laughing at Third (The final episode with Fry as Wellington forcing the gormless fop The Prince Regent into a duel with little mortars is hysterical) and Forth caused a stir of controversy with its depiction of the madness of the slaughter-contest that was the First World War. The very best of the series, Forth alone is a testament to the very finest comedy writing and acting. 
NOT ABLE CHAR TRACE: Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart basically an insufferable showoff, the girls love him and 'Slack-Bladder' hates him...
MORDAN BIN FUNTY: Honestly we could be here all day with this; so I'll go for the scene where General Melchett inspects the model representing total British gains in the battle thus far a tabletop model of a small section of mud On enquiring the scale of the model, he is told it's life-size...


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