Yesterday, the second annual very well-organised British Comedy Guide’s Big Comedy Conference in London was mostly about sitcom-writing and actor Neil Pearson posed an interesting question to writers Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, which was Why comedy writers often write in pairs but drama writers almost never do?
No-one had an answer to this question beyond the tentative suggestion that you have to try-out comedy on another objective person to see if it is actually funny and it helps to have someone else to bounce ideas off. This is true enough but surely much the same applies to drama plots and (in that awful US phrase) emotional arcs?
I had to miss the very end of the 9½ hour Big Comedy Conference in Clerkenwell to get down to Rotherhithe in time for the start of Martin Soan and Adam Taffler’s Soirée Subterranea where the secret location, only revealed to ticket-buyers on the day, was the disused access shaft to the Thames Tunnel – the first public tunnel under the River Thames (Rotherhithe to Wapping) constructed 1825-1843 by Brunel.
The Thames Tunnel Shaft aka The Grand Entrance Hall aka The Great Bore (it was a tunnelling wonder of its time) is under the Brunel Museum. It is apparently half the size of Shakespeare’s Globe and used to host shows by acrobats, tightrope walkers and ‘serenaders’.
Last night, amid grey plastic robed and hooded ‘monks’ hiding various alternative comedians, there were chanted comedy routines, a medieval singing trio, classical(ish) dancing, lutes, accordions, three stand-up Isambard Kingdom Brunels and much more. Oh – and it got quite cold, something I had not reckoned with, despite knowing it was in a large underground concrete-and-stone chamber.
The highlight for me – indeed, the highlight of almost any evening for me – was Michael Brunström as The Human Loire (France’s longest river) reciting a section of The Knight’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with correct Middle-English pronunciation while eating Rice Krispies and milk from his medieval trousers.
I returned home to yet another e-mail from this blog’s Canadian correspondent: Anna Smith. For unexplained reasons, she was in the not-totally-vibrant Vancouver suburb of Delta and told me:
“Delta is known for its mud, ditches, boat ramps and pumping stations. Front page news here is BARN FULL OF POTATOES ENGULFED IN FLAMES. The report says: More than twenty firefighters battled the blaze for three hours. No injuries were reported.”
Meanwhile, back in the less parochial UK, this morning’s Mail On Sunday front-paged the story: MINISTER STAGED OBSCENE COMMONS DEBATE FOR A BET.
This is a story about the British government’s Communities Minister, Penny Mordaunt, making a speech on poultry during a debate on Parliament’s Easter Adjournment.
As reported by the Mail On Sunday, she “said ‘c**k’ six times, ‘lay’ or ‘laid’ five times and mentioned the names of at least six Marines officers during a debate on poultry welfare.”
Last week, the Mail On Sunday reports, she “confessed to the stunt” while receiving a prize at The Spectator magazine’s Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. Her award was for a speech earlier this year during which she uttered the words ‘penis’ and ‘testicles’.