May 11, 2003
Comedy thoughts

Yesterday evening I finally got to have a listen on DVD to the World War I episodes of Blackadder, known, I believe, as "Blackadder Goes Forth", the first four of the six anyway.

They were funny, but not quite as funny as I remember them, and at first they were not nearly as funny as I remembered them, and for a curious reason. The laughter track on the DVDs is far, far too loud, compared to the loudness of the dialogue. As a result these particular laughter tracks affected me in the way I've often heard people complain that laughter tracks of any kind affect them. I felt as if I was being forced to find lines hilariously amusing which were only rather funny. Thus my comedy resistance was aroused and I found myself analysing various lines and saying to myself: that wasn't at all funny, I've heard better in a school play, and such like. However, in due course I adjusted, and found myself being as amused as ever.

The phrase "alternative comedy" is very common these days, and I have even heard this expression applied to Blackadder. But Blackadder is utterly and completely conventional, and Blackadder Goes Forth expresses the utterly and completely orthodox view that World War I was a gigantic waste of human blood and achieved nothing. I have a friend, who once gave one of my friday evening talks to this effect, who believes that actually World War I was well worth fighting, and that if it had not been fought Europe in general and Britain in particular would now be in a far worse state, and he further believes that there was not really any other way to fight it. Add some jokes to all that, and that really would be alternative comedy.

If I ever become a stand-up comic, I will describe myself as reverent and conventional, and giving voice to the establishment point of view. I shall treat captains of industry, front rank politicians, major military commanders, and such grand personages, with deep respect at all times. Only alternative comedians will be sneered at.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:58 PM
Category: TV