Lunedi Lunacy

Well the lads over at Foil Arms and Hog have been on the road lately – including a show in Ottawa (sigh) – but they updated this week. Someone let Granny out of the house again and she’s been up to her old tricks.

The word for May 9th is:
Shoplifting /ˈSHäpˌliftiNG/: [noun]
The criminal action of stealing goods from a store while pretending to be a customer.
1670s, from shop (n.) + agent noun of lift (v.). Also in same sense shop-lift (1670s); shop-thief. Both root words seem to have Norse origins.

Lunedi Lunacy

Al Hirschfeld captures Harold Lloyd in that iconic moment in Safety Last.
A left click on the image will take you to the full sequence.

There were three great comedians of the Silent Cinema – Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin. They were geniuses at the – now largely lost – art of pantomime and the physical slapstick comedy that goes back through commedia dell’arte to the earliest days of human entertainment. I would dare say that around the campfire Og did the odd pratfall to the delighted grunts of his companions.

Chaplin was the ultimate pantomimist of the three: able to provoke laughter and tears with scenes that almost but never quite turned pathos into bathos. I was never a big fan until I saw City Lights on a big screen and the full impact of his art hit me. I am not all that familiar with Lloyd’s work other than the 1923 classic Safety Last (see above) but his physical comedy was perfectly honed. He did most of his own stunts but in the classic climbing sequence several stunt doubles were used in the long shots. However I have long been a fan of Buster Keaton. And I thought these three clips could give us a bit of needed lunacy for a Monday.

Keaton had grown up on the rough and tumble of the vaudeville circuit – literally! At the age of three he joined his parents on stage as one of the Three Keatons. While his mother played saxophone Buster would be the little brat who constantly disobeyed his father. He was rewarded by being thrown around the stage, against the proscenium arch, and occasionally into the audience by his father. He learned trick falls and had the ability to take tumbles with ease and more importantly without injury. He took that skill with him into the world of movie comedy. He was always deadpan – as a child he discovered if he laughed while being thrown around the audience didn’t – and totally sangfroid as each disaster is avoided by a hair’s breath.

Keaton performed all his own stunts up until he joined MGM in 1928 when he was forced to use a double for some of the more dangerous stunts. They were often based on very precise calculations and perfect timing. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous stunts he performed: though it was a built set the building facade weighted approximately 2 tons.

Most of the scenarios, the stunts and how they were worked out were Keaton’s creations. His knowledge of cinematography was encyclopedic and largely self-taught. This scene from Sherlock Jr (1924) is a great example of that expertise.

The word for March 14th is:
Slapstick /ˈslapˌstik/: [noun]
1. Comedy involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy. Slapstick may involve both intentional violence and violence by mishap, often resulting from inept use of props.
2. A device consisting of two flexible pieces of wood joined together at one end used to produce a loud slapping noise.
There is no clear explanation of the etymology of the word and its first usage has been cited as 1896 for the wooden device and 1926 for its application to the type of comedy.

Lunedi Lunacy

I am a big fan of Letters Live as I’ve shown in past postings. However, and you faithful reader knew there would be a however*, sometimes lately I find that the oddest things make their audiences laugh and that the readers often play to those laughs. I am vaguely familiar with Keegan Michael Key from some TV show in North America and am told he his a comedian. In this reading he does try to prove it but I think the letter is funny enough without the “nudge… nudge… wink.. wink .. catch my drift” delivery.

Now whither that letter is apocryphal or not I was assured a long time ago that show and tell days were the bane of every museum curator’s existence.

Another startling trend these days is the change in the definition of “political satire”. It is no longer necessary to exaggerate things on the political scene – just report the facts and that’s satire enough. Certainly that is true here in Canada and in the United Kingdom.

Former Tory Cabinet Minister Rory Stewart reads a letter about a political figure who, I think, has never developed past the School Yard at Eton.

By the by the link above (left click if you will) to Mr Stewart’s profile reveals an interesting career and character.

The word for March 7th is:
Apocryphal /əˈpäkrəfəl/: [adjective]
1.1 (Of a story or statement) of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true.
1.2 Of or belonging to the Apocrypha which is outside the approved canon of Scripture.
Late Middle English: from ecclesiastical Latin apocrypha (scripta) ‘hidden (writings)’, from Greek apokruphos, from apokruptein ‘hide away’.

Lunedi Lunacy

“What is this?” asks my faithful reader astutely noticing that this is two. Lunedi Lunacies in a row. (Faithful reader is a touch anal that way.) But, trust me, there is a simple explanation. Given the political situation the past week or so – past decade to be honest – there was no way I was going to not post the latest goody from Foil Arms and Hog. Talk about your nail on head!!!!

The word of February 7th is:
Politics /ˈpäləˌtiks/: [noun]
The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.
Late Middle English: from Old French politique ‘political’, via Latin from Greek politikos, from politēs ‘citizen’, from polis ‘city’.
Interesting that polis is the same root word for ‘police’ – and in the case of Ottawa this past week perhaps a touch ironic.

Lunedi Lunacy

I thought I’d take a break from Memeville this week and post a bit of video lunacy. One of the problems I’ve had lately is that I enjoy the older British comics. No that’s not the problem – the problem is that much of their shtick is politically incorrect in this day and age. So even things that I may have posted four or five years ago are no longer suitable.

However here’s a number that I first heard in Side By Side by Sondheim back in 1977 in London. Though Julia McKenzie was in the original cast this particular number was done by Millicent Martin in the show. I had a chat over drinks with Mr Sondheim – he told me to call him Steve but I just can’t – and he claimed McKenzie was his favourite champion. Anyone who has heard her deliver Broadway Baby or Losing My Mind will know why. Here’s she sings a parody of the Bossa Nova hits of the 1960s – music by Mary Rogers, lyrics by Esteban Río Nido (Stephen Sondheim).

It was first introduced in The Mad Show in 1966 by Linda Lavin – yes that Linda Lavin. By the way Tacarembo la Tumba del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas la Junta del Sol y Cruz is fictitious but Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch exists!

And in my search for something PC with Harry and Paul I came across this little gem. It almost sounds like the Rosie Barton style on Power and Politics.

The word for January 31st is:
Parody /ˈperədē/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1. An imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.
2. To produce a humorously exaggerated imitation of (a writer, artist, or genre).
Late 16th century: via late Latin from Greek parōidia ‘burlesque poem’, from para- ‘beside’ (expressing alteration) + ōidē ‘ode’.

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