Tag Archives: comedy

The Less Famous Comic Called Russell…

Last night I went to see the British comic, Russell Kane. I have only seen a handful of comedians perform on stage because I can be quite particular about who I find funny, but I’m glad I went. The guy is pretty good.

He took to the stage at 7.30 (at the newly refurbished Music Hall here in Aberdeen) and maybe a hundred thousand words later, he was out of there by 10. No support; no elaborate stage. Just him and a microphone.

You see, Russell Kane likes to talk. And talk. And talk. Now that would just come off as annoying if he didn’t have anything interesting to say, but thankfully Kane has a lot of stories to tell, most of which had me laughing and nodding in agreement – whether it was the misuse of social media, the (un)importance of greeting cards, or his wife’s drunken antics.

Recommended if he comes to your town, and you’re short of a smile.

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An Unexpected Laugh…

Last night The Girlfriend© and I went to see English comedian, Bill Bailey. Full disclosure, we didn’t pay for the tickets – I have friends in high places – so it was not a show I had been looking forward to for any length of time. In fact, I only found out I was going a few days ago.

Bill Bailey has never been on my comedy radar. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy his performance when I was there, because as it turned out he was a lot funnier than I had previously thought. He’s a very clever man who utilises his wealth of historical knowledge to crack jokes and educate at the same time. He’s also a talented multi-instrumentalist, and there were moments when I thought he could just as easily rock out for a while, if he ever got tired of being funny.

He was on stage for ages too. Without a warm-up or support act, he introduced himself at 8pm and didn’t finish cracking jokes until very close to three hours later. There are a lot of comedians who would have been out of the arena and on the way back to their hotel when Bailey was just breaking for his intermission, so credit to him there.

So, Bill Bailey has a new fan, and the next time he makes his way up here… there’s a fair chance I’ll pay face value to go and see him.

Potted Film Review: Tag (2018)

Starring: Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Burgess, Jeremy Renner.

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What’s it all about?
If you weren’t told at the beginning of this ludicrous comedy that Tag was based on a true story, you’d never guess… because it’s too damn silly to be real. Even when the credits roll, and we see snippets of the real-life friendship that inspired this lunacy, it’s still pretty hard to believe.

The story follows a group of five men who have played tag for the entire month of March since they were young enough for that not to be considered childish. The hook, is that Jerry (Jeremy Renner) is a tag legend, and has never been caught in over thirty years of playing, and with the threat of Jerry’s retirement from their annual event hanging over their heads, the other four decide to give it one final push to make him it. Hijinks and hilarity ensues.

Everybody here is very comfortable in their roles, and that’s because nobody is too far outside their wheelhouse. Ed Helms is basically a more restrained version of his character from The Hangover franchise, and Jake Johnson is a cut and paste job from his role as Nick in quirky sitcom, New Girl, but although familiarity is sometimes criticised as laziness or paint-by-numbers, it’s quickly evident that this is simply good casting.

Watching it with the kids…
Oddly, for this sub-genre of comedy, Tag doesn’t try to be overly offensive or shocking, which is a welcome change. Sure, it’s peppered with strong language, but there is no violence beyond the slapstick, and no sex or nudity at all, so no curling up behind the sofa cushions is required.

Verdict…
Tag is a fun movie that knows it is based on a daft premise. It’s not the cleverest movie you’ll ever see, but it does boast some inventive scenes as the guys try to outsmart Jerry and back him into a corner. Everyone on screen seems to be enjoying themselves, even when the script threatens to become a little too sentimental towards the end, but I had a good time all the way through.

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This is What’s Under the Bed…

I’ve written hundreds of stories in my life, over a million words (you’ll have to trust me on that one). I’ve written comedies and thrillers. I’ve written romance and drama. I’ve written sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve written westerns and stuff for kids. I’ve even penned some erotica (much to my mother’s embarrassment), but what I’m writing now is possibly the first real monster story I’ve tried… well, ever.

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I mention this only because for the longest time – in my head – I was a horror writer. I think somewhere in there I still am. I read horror and that’s what I wrote, or so I thought. But looking back over those hundreds of titles and those million words, it turns out that very little of it would actually fit in the boundaries of the genre. Maybe ten percent; fifteen at a push.

I’ve always wanted to write a pure, no-nonsense monster tale – one that doesn’t necessarily live in the real world, and doesn’t feel the need to apologise or explain itself either. Sometimes horror just is and creatures just are.

This may just be my first time.

Friday Fiction Fixes #15…

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Guards-Guards-coverI was introduced to the world of Terry Pratchett by a friend many years ago, who was a big fan of his. He is primarily known for his loosely connected Discworld series of novels, which reached over forty entries before his death in 2015. Guards! Guards! is the eighth ‘chapter’, but it works as a standalone novel as well.

For whatever reason comedy novels don’t appeal to me very much, and the handful of Pratchett books that I read in the nineties – of which Guards! Guards! is the best – is my only foray into the genre. I’ve also never greatly enjoyed fantasy stuff, and the Discworld series is often considered a parody of The Lord of the Rings… a novel I didn’t enjoy either. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I bothered!

The biggest gripe I have with the novel – and by extension all the other Pratchett stories I read – is just how similar they feel. Sure, they made me laugh like all comedy should, and in the case of Guards! Guards! there were moments that were very funny indeed, but the style of humour is ultimately very limited. It sticks to a tried and tested template and that’s fine, but when a lot of jokes follow a similar format, and one character often feels much like the next, it becomes difficult to differentiate. I wouldn’t go so far as to say once you’ve read one Discworld novel you’ve read them all, but that’s certainly a criticism I can understand.

Having said that, Pratchett’s Discworld trope of using footnotes throughout each of the novels in the series surprisingly never wears out its welcome.

Monday Movie Mentions #6…

Way Out West (1937)

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The classic title card.

I have been a great fan of Laurel & Hardy for many years, and this feature is widely regarded as their finest effort. I have a few other suggestions for that spot, but it’s certainly a solid choice.

A long time ago I introduced one of my ex-girlfriends to Way Out West (and the comedy duo in general) and she memorably shrugged indifferently and said to me, “I’ve seen Steve Martin do that”, as if somehow Laurel & Hardy had travelled forward in time, watched a bunch of Martin’s movies and then gone back to film their interpretation in black and white. To this day I still don’t know if she was pulling my leg!

Eighty years after Way Out West, and there is still no double act that has the same chemistry or comic timing as the original masters of the art, and that perhaps says as much about Laurel & Hardy as performers as it does about the progress of cinema since they stopped making movies.

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“Eat the hat.”

From the running gag of Stan using his thumb as a lighter, to the scene where he eats Ollie’s hat after losing a wager, to Ollie’s continual breaking of the fourth wall by looking into the camera in frustration at his partner, Way Out West is a classic of the genre that deserves its place in history.

I know it’s difficult for the current generation to go back and check out these old movies, but I rewatched this one last week, and if you approach it with an open mind, I think you’ll find that it holds up surprisingly well.

But do yourself a favour and watch it in the original black and white form – those colourised versions are (for the most part) cheap and tacky.

Monday Movie Mentions #2…

House (1986)

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“Say your prayers.” Roger’s ex-wife gets a makeover.

Horror and comedy are polar opposites, and although a lot of movies have tried to marry the two genres, only a select few have managed to create something worthwhile.

House was released in 1986 and was the first in a disjointed quadrilogy of films. The series was somewhat unique in that there was no uniformity or overarching tone. But don’t bother with the others, and don’t let the generic title fool you – do yourself a favour and just watch this one.

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A great scene featuring former Miss World, Mary Stavin, in a bathing suit.

The special effects may be cheap and rubbery, but that’s because the movie never takes itself too seriously, and that’s okay. Horror doesn’t have to be realistic evicerations and computer-assisted effects that are indistinguishable from real life. Sometimes it’s all right for horror to just be a little bit of mindless fun.

The premise is simple. After his aunt commits suicide, divorced horror author Roger Cobb moves in to the house where his young son disappeared. Struggling to come to terms with that as he writes his next book about his experience in the Vietnam War, things start to go bump in the night.

Harold: Hey, it’s great to have a new neighbor. Woman lived here before you was nuts. Biggest bitch under the sun. Just a senile old hag really. Wouldn’t be surprised if someone just got fed up and offed her. Know what I mean?
Roger: She was my aunt.
Harold: Heart of gold though. Just uh, a saint really. And uh such a beautiful woman, for her age.

House is an underappreciated movie that has never been given the love it deserves, and you’ll probably have to speak to a lot of people before you find someone else who has seen it, but give this low budget gem a chance – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.