This is not a comedy podcast (nor a Magritte painting), but an exploration of why we love and need comedy. If we're talking about it on this podcast you can be sure it *is* funny!
Episode 14 -- Muriel Spark
Staggering up to the finish line just before 2021 ends is another episode of the languishing series Is It Funny? This time we turn to the Scots style icon Muriel Spark, whose books never fail to cheer me. She is both vicious and economical, as well as laugh out loud funny when she turns to the truly surreal and sublime. She also has great advice for writers, which may involve letters and cats. If all you know is Miss Jean Brodie, let me introduce you to the flashing scalpel of her mind.
Episode 13 -- Fran Lebowitz and Cool
I manage to get all the way through this episode referring only to 'the Scorsese show' which of course is Pretend It's A City, which is on Netflix and has the director following around his pal Fran Lebowitz and chatting with her in various places, as a follow up to his HBO documentary Public Speaking. I cogitate on what cool is and why and how Lebowitz defined a certain NYC/art world/film world cool for me as a kid in the sticks reading Interview Magazine along side my various music mags. I may or may not have invented an entirely spurious term, the 'weirdo ceiling' (cf glass) and am definitely uncool.
Episode 12 - The Taill of Rauf Coilyear
It's Yuletide so I'm getting medieval on you! Yes, it's the medieval Scots tale of the coal-maker who meets King Charlemagne and despite making some questionable choices due to his testy temper, things turn out pretty well. Bonus of me reading the opening lines in genuine medieval Scots (no comment on the veracity of my pronunciation though). I'm glad to share this charming Yuletide tale with you and I think you'll agree it's delightful. The Taill of Rauf Coilyear may surprise you with its appeal for modern audiences. Hmmm, maybe I should work on that screenplay...
Episode 11 - Anita Loos & Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
You have probably heard of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, though odds are you know the film and not its pioneering author. Anita Loos was the first contracted female writer in Hollywood and her scripts made Douglas Fairbanks the first swashbuckling star, as well as making the Talmadge sisters the toast of the town in witty comedies. She wrote one of the first handbooks for screenwriting, too!
She hung out with the luminaries of Hollywood, but also the heavyweight intellectuals of New York during the wildest times of the Prohibition era. In addition to Blondes, she of course wrote the script for The Women (1939), turned Colette's Gigi into a play that of course led to the musical film, but it was the play that made Colette's discovery -- a young Audrey Hepburn -- into a superstar.
Episode 10 - The Women (1939)
Today's episode focuses on the 1939 filmed based on Clare Boothe Luce's smash Broadway success, THE WOMEN. The script by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin features an all-women cast and some of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time: Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Norma Sheerer, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard and an amazing array of character actors in one of the wittiest scripts ever, directed with impeccable timing by George Cukor. I try to resist quoting all my favourite lines (because there are so many!!) and instead enthuse about why everybody needs to revel in this movie. Watch it tonight with friends!
Episode 9 -- Eddie Braben
This is the podcast what I wrote about the man who gave Ernie Wise the plays what he wrote and even wrote a book that he called The Book What I Wrote about his life as a writer of comedy for everyone from Eric Morecambe and Ern to Kenn Dodd, The Two Ronnies, Spike Milligan and more. Eddie Braben was born October 31st, 1930, so he would have been 90 this Saturday if he had held on that long. A genius behind the scenes, his praises are never sung loudly enough but I give it a go (NB: I do not literally sing this episode.
Here's the Graham McCann article I mention. Here's (possibly) the funniest one liner ever. Here's poor André Preview (neé Previn) and here is Glenda Jackson as famed historical beauty Cleopatra.
Here's the man himself Eddie Braben talking to Miranda Hart.