Posts Tagged ‘comedy’
“The column itself was an extraordinary affair. . . . You would quote something from the morning paper and then you’d make some little comment on it.” (Wodehouse, quoted in David Jasen’s A Portrait of a Master, 1974.)
The column was “By The Way,” a front-page lineup of pert and pithy paragraphs and verse revolving around Edwardian politics and quirky news items from the police courts, London, the British Isles, America, and the world over. It had been a feature (with a distinguished pedigree) of the Globe and Traveller evening newspaper since 1881. British humorist E. V. Lucas wrote that the column “consisted of a dozen or so paragraphs, each with a joke or sting in it, bearing on the morning news.” Richard Usborne wrote it was “a column—a dozen or so short snippets and a set of verses.” The column was pieced together by a couple of fellows every morning in “The By The Way Room” according to a balanced formula of politics, funny news commentary, and verse.
Wodehouse contributed to “By The Way” intermittently from August 16, 1901 up to August 1903, when he joined the paper as full-time assistant, working six days a week; a year later he was put in charge of the column, a position he held until he left the paper, as best can be determined around 1910. His meticulously-kept cash journal Money Received for Literary Work records his payments for columns from 1901 up to the last entry in February 1908. By his own accounting, he worked on over 1,300 “By The Way” columns…
The P. G. Wodehouse Globe Reclamation Project is a not-for-profit volunteer group, formed earlier this year, devoted to unearthing these thousands of humorous paragraphs…
We promised the Wodehouse Estate, which quickly approved the Project, that we would compile and preserve all of the recovered columns for the future benefit of researchers, biographers, and fans. We were hopeful and expectant that that we would find, out of those 1,300 days Wodehouse either verifiably contributed to or worked on the column, a treasure trove of noteworthy, funny, pure Wodehousean material and verse.
As we careful to forgo liquids as we read, we might recall that it was on this date in 1712 that the 555th and final issue of The Spectator was published. The work of Richard Steele, a politician and writer, and Joseph Addison, a poet and playwright, friends from their schooldays at Charterhouse, The Spectator followed their earlier periodical, The Tatler. With a central character “Mr. Spectator” embodying its point of view, The Spectator ran to about 2,500 words daily (except Sunday), offering a mix of news and essays intended “to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality.” Steele and Addison contributed heavily to their periodical, but also ran essays from the likes of Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift.
The Spectator was ostensibly politically neutral; but it was a subtle force for Whig values. Its second most valent continuing character, Sir Roger de Coverley, an English squire of Queen Anne’s reign and the (supposed) descendant of the inventor of the English country dance, was a lovable– but laughable– exponent of Tory maxims. No less august an authority than Jürgen Habermas has called The Spectator instrumental in the “structural transformation of the public sphere” which England saw in the 18th century– a transformation that came about because of, and in the interests of, the emergent middle class.
(The contemporary versions of both The Spectator and The Tatler are unrelated to the originals.)
There’s a near-embarrassment of good television these days; we are, it seems, in a golden age. But it’s worth remembering that there has been extraordinary writing and production available right along. Indeed, the series that’s arguably the consistently best-written show on TV has been running since 1989.
We can be grateful to Adrien Noterdaem for witty reminders to this effect– for his series of drawings depicting the chief characters in today’s best productions in the style of the long-running champ:
See many more at Simpsonized.
As we program our DVRs, we might send calculatedly campy birthday greetings to Paul Reubens; he was born on this date in 1952. An actor, writer, film producer, game show host, and comedian, he is of course best known for his character Pee-Wee Herman.
The mind plays tricks on you. You play tricks back! It’s like you’re unraveling a big cable-knit sweater that someone keeps knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting…
- Pee-Wee Herman
There are just over 11,100 Starbucks locations in the U.S; Dunkin’ Donuts has 7,200… and Boston.com has mapped them all for us, nationally (green dots for Starbucks, red for Dunkin):
… and in major cities (as here, New York):
Find out what it all portends in “Split country: Dunkin’ vs. Starbucks.”
As we choose sides, we might spare a well-caffeinated thought for the wise and witty George Carlin; he died on this date in 2008. The Grammy-winning comedian is probably best remembered for his routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” (originated on his third album). When it was first broadcast on New York radio, a complaint led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ban the broadcast as “indecent,” an order that was upheld by the Supreme Court and remains in effect today. Not coincidentally, Carlin was selected to host the first Saturday Night Live.
James Thurber once suggested that “the most dangerous food is wedding cake.” Maybe not…
Denny’s has just opened a new flagship location in Las Vegas– replete with wedding chapel. And to make one’s special day even more special, “America’s Diner” is offering a special wedding menu, topped by “The King Stack” (“King” as in Elvis): bacon, peanut butter and bananas between two slices of French toast finished off with a bacon vodka chaser.
As Denny’s spokesperson Frances Allen observed, “a normal Denny’s is not going to cut it in Vegas.” Indeed, this newest outlet is located in the quickly-redeveloping Old Downtown district, where it’s neighbors include a zip line that carries visitors above street-level traffic, a restaurant that holds a Guinness Record for the highest-calorie burger, and what is being billed as the world’s largest gay nightclub.
Viva Las Vegas!
As we decide that it’s not so important to wear white after all, we might send lethargic birthday greetings to Steven Alexander Wright; he was born on this date in 1955. An Academy Award winning comedian, actor, and writer, Wright is the king of the deadpan paraprosdokian.
It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it…
Laughing Squid reports:
For ECAL’s “Low-Tech Factory” exhibition, design students Laurent Beirnaert, Pierre Bouvier and Paul Tubiana created Oncle Sam, a popcorn machine that pops just one kernel at a time. At the final stages of the process, this contraption even butters and salts the single piece of popcorn that was produced. Watch this video to see the machine in action.
As we turn up the heat, we might pause to send amusing birthday greetings to Al Christie; he was born on this date in 1881. An early motion picture director, producer, screenwriter and studio head, Christie ran the first ever movie studio to be built in Hollywood
(Nestor Studios, opened in 1911) and is credited with having produced the first film comedies there. In all, he produced more than 700 films before retiring in 1942.