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Marianne

British Comedy

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I know the TCM/Canvas course has long since ended, but I'm still paying attention to some comedy.

 

Dirk Gently is a British series that I think works well because of the use of exaggeration. The main character is exaggerated in very specific ways. He and his sidekick detective provide almost all the humor. It reminded me a bit of the Pink Panther movie A Shot in the Dark because the local police chief (or captain?) is exasperated by Dirk Gently's unorthodox methods.

 

And it's just plain laugh-out-loud funny!

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I'm sensing a trend in recent British comedy and in my preferences: Exaggeration. The British 2011-2012 sitcom Spy, starring Darren Boyd (who also starred in Dirk Gently), is based on the preposterously hilarious idea that a man can quit his retail job and accidentally be hired by MI5 when he interviews for a data entry job. The series makes good use of this exaggeration throughout.

 

Lots of verbal slapstick and physical comedy, too. I laughed a lot. Even the costars were funny, and they were given plenty of screen time to flesh out their characters and their comedy.

 

I was sorry that Spy lasted only two seasons.

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Moone Boy -- another funny British comedy. I didn't find it as hilarious as Dirk Gently and Spy, but it has exaggeration galore. The protagonist is a barely adolescent boy with an imaginary friend and drawings that occasionally come to animated life. But that creativity and exaggeration didn't always translate into laughter for me. I found Martin Moone's complicated family relationships to be the real source of humor.

 

Chris O'Dowd, of Bridesmaids fame, is the creator and one of the writers of the show, and he stars as the imaginary friend. There's no doubt in my mind that he's got creativity to spare!

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Gavin & Stacey (British television series)

 

Created and written by James Corden and Ruth Jones

Starring Mathew Horne, Joanna Pate, James Corden, Ruth Jones, Larry Lamb, Rob Brydon, and Melanie Walters

 

Here’s what the DVD cover says about the series: “. . . Gavin is an ordinary boy from England. Stacey is an ordinary girl from Wales. Although they’ve spoken on the phone at work for months, they’ve never actually met . . . until now. But when Gavin and Stacey finally meet, the peculiar personalities of their families and friends guarantee that there will be no such thing as ‘ordinary’ ever again.”

 

You can find more information about the series from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_%26_Stacey

 

I went back to Richard Edwards’s class “TCM Presents Ouch! A Salute to Slapstick" for the following about comedy and slapstick specifically:

  • Slapstick involves exaggeration.
  • Slapstick is physical.
  • Slapstick is ritualistic.
  • Slapstick is make-believe.
  • Slapstick is violent.

All of these characteristics certainly apply to the show Gavin & Stacey, but more so to Smithy and Nessa. They meet when the main characters Gavin and Stacey do, and right away they (Smithy and Nessa) are drawn to each other physically, but they profess hatred for each other (emotional violence, one could say). Their first one-night stand is off-screen, but it is exaggerated fun (at the expense of Gavin and Stacey). Viewers (and Gavin and Stacey) can hear them, but everything is left to the imagination (make-believe, off-screen physical humor). Over the course of six episodes, their “mating ritual” is tempered by their mutual animosity, with verbal sparring (verbal slapstick, which isn’t on the list above but we did learn about it in the course), and their irresistible attraction to each other, which is played out again and again (ritualistic humor).

 

I have seen the first season (six episodes) and I can see why James Corden became a star. He is undoubtedly funny, and he really shines in this series. But he and Ruth Jones play supporting characters (Corden plays Smithy and Ruth Jones plays Nessa), and I thought their story line was much more interesting. I want to see a spinoff: Smithy & Nessa.

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