Wednesday, November 16, 2005



I consider humour and comedy to be a large part of my life - definitely one of my defining characteristics (along with intelligence, fashion sense, and a humble and self-effacing charm). My sense of humour is well-developed and defined, and I love performing improv, as this gives me a chance to exercise my comedic skills in a controlled environment.
Naturally, I didn't develop in a vacuum; there have been a number of influences that have had their jocular way with me, and have helped me develop my sense of humour. I'm listing these influences here, in order of importance.
Monty Python: No one else has influenced me more than Monty Python. Above all, my sense of humour, and indeed life philosophy, has been modified and nurtured by this fantastically talented crew. It was Python who taught me that there is humour in insanity. Who else would show you a forest glade, filled with peaceful forest creatures, and over the course of a show, blow them up, one by one, for no adequately explained reason?

They also showed me how humour could be blindingly witty and intelligent. I learned most of what I know about philosophy merely to be able to understand some of their jokes. I realized from an early age that I would have to learn a lot about the world around me, because you can't make fun of something you don't understand (well, ok, you can, but you're usually the one who ends up looking stupid).
From the ridiculous to the sublime, from the heights of intelligence to the bottoms of ridiculous body noise humour, Monty Python established not only the boundaries of my sense of humour, but also the zones, provinces, and territories.
John Cleese: My choice of John Cleese might seem redundant ... after all, I just talked about Monty Python, right? Well, not only was Cleese (in my not-so-humble opinion) the driving creative force behind the troupe, he also did brilliant work on his own. Fawlty Towers was a brilliant show, with intelligently crafted characters. One of my favourite bits was the hotel sign itself, which reads "Fawlty Towers". After a few episodes, the sign starts to change, and the letters rearrange themselves. They never reference this fact, and they never explain who is mysteriously altering the sign. Alternate signs read as follows:

1. Farty Tower
2. Warty Towels
3. Flay Otters
4. Fatty Owls
5. Flowery Twats
(this last one is fucking brilliant)

Mr. Cleese is also responsible for the brilliant "A Fish Called Wanda", which is second only to "The Princess Bride" as one of my favourite movies of all time.
Dave Allen: Dave Allen was an Irish comedian (geez, a lot of UK comedians here, eh?) who had a show called "Dave Allen at Large". I watched this show religously as a kid. It was a mixture of sketches, interspersed with Mr. Allen telling jokes, as he smoked a cigarette and drank his martini. Dave Allen had a wickedly dry sense of humour; he would tell the most amazingly hilarious joke, and rarely laughed or cracked a smile. If a joke was utterly hilarious, he might allow himself a rare half-grin.

Dave taught me the value of dry humour - if you crack a joke and laugh along with everyone else, that's one thing. But if you can crack a joke, and keep a straight face while everyone else is laughing their bags off, then the joke itself is somehow even funnier. I don't pretend to understand it, but that's the way it is.
Douglas Adams: Douglas Adams (hey, another Brit) is the author of the incredible Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (A Trilogy in Five Parts), a series of books that I adore. Not only are they hilarious, but they also contain cleverly concealed bits of philosophy and an intelligent world view. These books have not only helped form my sense of humour, but also my life philosophy. He is, naturally, one of the single greatest influences on my writing style.

The books were amazing. The British produced TV series and radio program were fantastic. The American-produced movie blows Arcturan Megadonkey.

Alan Alda: Yay, finally an American made the list! Alda, in his role as Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H had a huge effect on me as a kid. I learned a great deal about delivery and timing, as well as the strengths of silly humour and intellectual humour. Also, it was Hawkeye that first introduced me to the next individual on my list.

Groucho Marx: Good God, what can I say about this man? His wit was sharper than any other individual I have ever encountered. His wit was truly frighteningly sharp, and he could come up with some of the most incredible material you have ever seen. Even though those old Marx Brothers movies don't really stand up to today's society (which is sad), they are brilliant and incredible, and are definitely worth revisiting.

Batman: That's right, you heard me, Batman. Not the movies, but rather the incredibly funny 1960's TV show. This show taught me about camp humour. I found myself watching this show, and laughing, even though it appeared to be an action program. I realized right away that the humour was deliberate; they were gently making fun of this genre by indentifying and emphasizing its elements to catapult them into the realms of humour.

Camp is generally seen as a very sophisticated form of humour, which is probably why the majority of North Americans didn't even realize that Batman was a comedy program. Another good example of camp humour can be found in the Brady Bunch movies.
Peter Cook: Peter Cook could pour more derision and contempt into a single world than most people could put into an entire book. His sense of humour was so dry and brittle that it seemed like it could snap at any moment. And yet, he had an incredibly appealing sense of the ridiculous, and could be playful and light as well.

And now, finally, a list of incredibly funny people/troupes that I love. I can't say they were an influence on my sense of humour, as they came along too late, but still, they have created some of the funniest shite I have ever encountered.

Family Guy: Brilliant. Like Python, they run the gammut from low-brow fart jokes to eriudite social commentary. Watch this show.

Kids in the Hall: The Canadian Heirs to the Python legacy.

Soap: Utterly hilarious. They not only lampooned the soap opera standards, but also introduced much in the way of social commentary and intelligent discourse. This show, like WKRP in Cincinatti, was cancelled while in the Top 10, because of pressures brought to bear by the fucking Moral Majority. Fuck you, Moral Majority. I hope someone fucks you up the ass, and you go to hell as a sodomite.

WKRP in Cincinatti: Incredibly real and compelling characters, placed in situations that were simultaneously real and fantastic. Amazing writing.

Red Dwarf: The Brits are Back! Red Dwarf is a television show and a series of books. Similar to Hitchhiker's Guide in that it takes place in space, the show offers some brilliant writing and very memorable characters.

The Simpsons: You've seen it. 'Nuff said.


Rach said...

Hi Ash-

Very interesting!

I too was raised on the brit humour, nothing beats a good ole dick or fart joke.

Ever see The Black Adder?

One form of humour that has completely escaped me is laughing at someone getting hurt a la America's Funniest Home Videos, I just don't get it.

Bernie said...

I'm sorry, but this post just wasn't funny. I'm sure you meant it to be funny, but I don't find it funny!


Anonymous said...

What about South Park? Some of the most brilliant social commentary done disguised as a kids show. The movie is one of the best musicals ever.

Anonymous said...

"Go ahead pal, pork away"