Posts Tagged ‘comedy’
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
[Image above from here]
* Saul Bellow
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.
“If you want to use television to teach somebody, you must first teach them how to use television”*…
Graph TV is a visualization tool which graphs tv show ratings by episode. Each season is assigned a different color and linear regressions are calculated for each season as well as for the entire series. Each point on the graph displays the episode title, rating, and other data. The data points are clickable and will open its IMDb entry. The graphs are also exportable for offline use…
* Umberto Eco
Before we begin to binge, we might spare a thought for comic genius Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr.; he died on this date in 1971. While your correspondent marginally prefers the extraordinary Buster Keaton, Lloyd has some real claim to being the finest physical comedian of the silent film era (even as his career extended to talkies and radio). Like Keaton, Lloyd did his own stunts– many of them, breathtakingly dangerous. Indeed, after 1919, he appears wearing a prosthetic glove, masking the loss of a thumb and index finger in a bomb explosion at Roach Studios.
John Cleese playing an arrogant newsreader being beastly about a French trade union leader on screen. Unrelated Victorian erotica in the background and a booming voice-over self-importantly announcing the name of the show. It’s pure Monty Python — except it isn’t. This surreal scenario, in which the “French” Marty Feldman comes out of the screen to interact with a now surreally masked Cleese, is from the final episode of At Last the 1948 Show. Brits loved this satirical half-hour of sketches that preceded Monty Python’s Flying Circus by a year, and were largely written by the legendary duo — Cleese and his college mate Graham Chapman — who would go on to be one of the principal writing partnerships behind the Pythons.
What’s special about this last-ever episode is that, like the very first, it’s been lost for nearly 40 years…
Read the whole of this happy tale– and see both of the newly-recovered episodes– at “The Early Days of Monty Python.”
* Eric Idle, in the third Monty Python’s Flying Circus episode, “How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away”
As we agree that “it’s funny, isn’t it? How your best friend can just blow up like that?”, we might send birthday greetings to two Tommys– Tommy Kirk and Tommy Rettig– whose young lives were spent with dogs; both were born on this date in 1941.
Having appeared as one of the Hardy Boys in a serial that ran on the (original) Mickey Mouse Club, Tommy Kirk got his big break when he was cast in the juvenile lead in Old Yellar. He went on to star in a number of successful Disney pictures (e,g,, The Shaggy Dog and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones), and then in a number of “beach party” flicks. By the mid-70s, Kirk had developed, then beaten a drug problem, and dropped out of acting. While he occasionally appears on screen (Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold. 2006), he has primarily been engaged in building and running a carpet-cleaning business in the San Fernando Valley.
Though he had previously appeared in 18 films (including your correspondent’s beloved The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, written by Dr. Seuss), Tommy Rettig is surely best remembered as “Jeff Miller”– Lassie‘s boy. Rettig too had a brush with drugs, but pulled out of it to become a very successful software engineer/database programmer (he was an early employee of Ashton-Tate).
The Ptolemies who ruled Egypt for nearly three centuries, from about 320 to 31 BCE, had a difficult dual part to play: that of Hellenistic monarchs, in the mold of Alexander the Great, and, simultaneously, Egyptian pharaohs. The founding father of their line, Ptolemy I Soter (“Savior”), a Macedonian general in Alexander’s army of conquest, secured rule over Egypt amid the confusion following his king’s death, crowned himself monarch in 306 BCE. But he bequeathed to his heirs—the fourteen other Ptolemies who would succeed him, not to mention several Cleopatras—a difficult demographic and geopolitical position. The Ptolemies’ palace complex, staffed by a European elite, stood in Alexandria, one of the world’s original Green Zones, a Greek-style city founded on a strongly fortified isthmus facing the Mediterranean. To the south, nearly cut off by the vast marshes of Lake Mareotis, lived most of their Egyptian subjects. Some scholars have reckoned the country’s ratio of Egyptians to Greco-Macedonians at ten to one…
Find out how the Greeks did it at “When the Greeks Ruled Egypt.” (Spoiler alert: it involved respect for and tolerance of Egyptian religious and social beliefs. Genghis Khan operated in a similar fashion; more modern empires, not so much…)
* Jorge Luis Borges
As we go native, we might spare a thought for Aristophanes; he died on this date in 386 BCE (or so many scholars deduce; the exact date has not been documented). A poet and dramatist, Aristophanes– whose works are the sole surviving examples of what is known as “Old Comedy”– is widely known as as “the Father of Comedy.” His eleven surviving plays essentially laid the foundation for satire as we know it, and have a significance that goes beyond this artistic value: Aristophanes acute observations of classical Athens are perhaps as important as historical documents as the writings of Thucydides. They had impact in their own time, as well. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato singled out Aristophanes’ play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates (although other satirical playwrights had also caricatured the philosopher). His second play, The Babylonians (now lost), was sufficiently scathing to be denounced by the demagogue Cleon as a slander against the Athenian polis. Aristophanes survived The Peloponnesian War, two oligarchic revolutions, and two democratic restorations– evidence that he was not himself actively involved in politics; rather, an objective “commentator.” In this, he agreed with Socrates (as “reported” by Plato in The Apology): “he who will fight for the right, if he would live even for a brief space, must have a private station and not a public one.”