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Posts Tagged ‘comedy

“Well, nobody’s perfect”*…

 

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From the Marx Brothers to The Simpsons, from Richard Pryor to Amy Schumer: “The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy“… critique it, argue with it– that’s what lists like this are for– but most of all, enjoy it.

* Osgood (Joe E. Brown) to Daphne/Jerry (Jack Lemon), Some Like It Hot (one of the 100)

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As we fiddle with our funny bones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a film that might well have made the list– Modern Times— was released.  Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, who stars in his iconic Little Tramp persona, the film comically dramatizes a factory worker’s struggles to survive in the modern, industrialized world.  Chaplin’s first overtly politically-themed film, it was also the first in which his voice is heard.  It is widely regarded as a classic by film historians… and inspired French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merlau-Ponty to name their journal, Les Temps modernes, after it.

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Written by LW

February 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I like physics, but I love cartoons”*…

 

From “Shitty New Yorker Cartoon Captions“…

“An imbecile desperately tries to win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest”– many more at “Shitty New Yorker Cartoon Captions.”

* Stephen Hawking

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As we chortle, we might send scathingly funny birthday greetings to William Claude Dukenfield; he was born on this date in 1880.  Better known by his stage name, W.C. Fields, he was first a successful vaudeville juggler, then a film and radio comedy star famous for his misanthropic wit.  Instantly recognizable both visually (his face was one-of-a-kind) and audibly (his drawl and grandiloquent vocabulary were trademarks), he became everyone’s favorite scoundrel.

Check out a trio of his short films here; then the last feature film that he wrote and headlined, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”

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Written by LW

January 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquility that no religion can bestow”*…

 

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Longtime readers will know of your correspondent’s deep affection for Rube Goldberg (see here and here) and those he inspires (see here).  To wit, the above film– the first of a new series– from Joseph Herscher.

* Ralph Waldo Emerson

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As we do it the amusing way, we might spare a thought for Blessed John (Johannes, Ioannes) Duns Scotus, O.F.M.; he died on this date in 1308.  One of the most important philosophers of the High Middle Ages (with his arch-rival, William of Ockham), he was a champion of a form of Scholasticism that came to be known as Scotism.

But he may be better remembered as a result of the slurs of 16th Century philosophers, who considered him a sophist– and coined the insult “dunce” (someone incapable of scholarship) from the name “Dunse” given to his followers in the 1500s.

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Written by LW

November 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar”*…

 

POLICE CHIEF
Strunk! White! Get your asses in here!

STRUNK and WHITE enter, shooting sidelong glances at each other. Before they can sit, the COMMISSIONER flings a newspaper at them; WHITE clumsily catches it.

POLICE CHIEF
Look at this disaster!

WHITE (reading the headlines)
“Police Not Effective as Campus Stalked by Crossword Killer, Student Body in Terror.” Oh, Christ, what a mess.

STRUNK
Indeed.

POLICE CHIEF
You’re damn right it is! I just got off the phone with the mayor, and let me tell you, she is not happy!

STRUNK
I can see why. An evasive denial rather than a definite assertion, the passive voice — haven’t the copy writers even taken basic composition? And that gruesome phrase, “student body”! My god! “Studentry” is a much more elegant term! Or simply “students.”

More at “Scenes From Our Unproduced Screenplay: ‘Strunk & White: Grammar Police’.”

* Michel de Montaigne

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As we ponder our parsing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that the BBC premiered a new comedy sketch show– then improbably, now legendarily– entitled Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

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Written by LW

October 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are”*…

 

Riverside Shakespeare Company production of The Mandrake Root, at the Casa Italia, New York, 1979, with a young Tom Hanks (center). Photograph by W. Stuart McDowell – Source

Most familiar today as the godfather of Realpolitik and as the eponym for all things cunning and devious, the Renaissance thinker Niccolò Machiavelli also had a lighter side, writing as he did a number of comedies. Christopher S. Celenza looks at perhaps the best known of these plays, Mandragola [The Mandrake Root], and explores what it can teach us about the man and his world…

More at “Machiavelli, Comedian.”

* Niccolò Machiavelli

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As we ponder power, we might recall that it was on this date in 1515 that Thomas Wolsey was invested as a Cardinal.  Henry VIII became King of England in 1509; Wolsey became the King’s almoner.  Wolsey’s affairs prospered, and by 1514 he had becomeLord Chancellor, the King’s chief adviser– the controlling figure in virtually all matters of state, and extremely powerful within the Church. (His elevation to Cardinal gave him precedence even over the Archbishop of Canterbury.)

He fell from the King’s graces after failing to negotiate an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and was stripped of his government titles.  He retreated to York to fulfill his ecclesiastical duties as Archbishop of York, a position he had nominally held but had neglected during his years in government.  He was recalled to London to answer to charges of treason—a common charge used by Henry against ministers who fell out of favor—but died en route of natural causes.

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Written by LW

September 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Puns are the highest form of literature”*…

 

From tough guys to tramps…

… it’s all about the ink… and a sense of humor…

Many more at “A Plethora Of Punny Tattoos.”

* Alfred Hitchcock

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As we noodle on the needle, we might send smiley birthday greetings to Joe E. Brown; he was born on this date in 1891.  One of the most popular American stage and screen actors and comedians of the 1930s and 40s, he is perhaps best remembered for his role as Osgood Fielding III in Billy Wilder’s exquisite Some Like It Hot, in which Brown uttered the film’s immortal closing line, “well, nobody’s perfect.”

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Written by LW

July 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep”*…

 

The Donald used them to populate his Presidential announcement; so did Eric Weiner when he opened his bid for Mayor of New York.  Tim Draper’s failed “Six Californias” ballot initiative campaign hired them for rallies; anti-gay forces recruited them to protest alongside this year’s Pride Parade in New York…  Rent-a-crowds are all the rage.

Go behind the scenes of this peculiar– but increasingly prevalent– form of “human astroturfing” at “1-800-Hire-A-Crowd.”

[Image above from here]

* Saul Bellow

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As we wonder about the wisdom of crowds, we might spare a thought (and a smile) for Peter Sellers; he died on this date in 1980 at age 54.  An actor and comedian of extraordinary accomplishment, Sellers, the son of two variety entertainers, first appeared on stage at two weeks old.  He performed consistently thereafter, breaking through with the BBC radio series The Goon Show (believed by many to be the funniest, and certainly the most influential, comedy show ever).  Sellars went on to establish himself on television (e.g., A Show Called Fred) and especially in film (e.g., the Pink Panther films) as one of the most versatile– and funniest– comedians in the world.  And in films like Lolita and Being There, he demonstrated his skill as an actor.

In 1964, Sellers had suffered 13 heart attacks over the period of just a few days; he resisted traditional treatment for his cardiac problems, opting instead for New Age therapies.  He and his Goon Show co-stars Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe had planned to have a reunion dinner during this week in 1980; instead, Seller’s two collaborators attended his funeral.

The Goons: Peter Sellers, with Spike Milligan (lower left) and Harry Secombe (lower right)

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Written by LW

July 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

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