Quotes

Quote: Mel Brooks on seriousness in comedy

Mel Brooks at the White House for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors by US Federal Government
Mel Brooks at the White House / Picture by the U.S. federal government
At the weekend (on Saturday February 17th) the BBC aired a special about Mel Brooks – Imagine…Mel Brooks: Unwrapped. As well as new material it included archive interviews, including this great quote:

“All my films are serious, if you examine any one of them. Because they are passionate and the depict human behaviour at given points in human history. They are not dramatic, and that’s the difference. You’ve got to be careful what you say when you use those words.

You can’t make a successful comedy that doesn’t have any passion. It will not be successful. You’ve got to say something about the system. About the social structure. About prejudice, about people, about behaviour. Comedy is not successful unless it deals with… even Laurel and Hardy, you could say they were cheap comedies, they have to deal with the system. The Marx Brothers always dealt with the system.

Every picture I’ve ever made has dealt with some aspect of the social system and human behaviour within it. I don’t want to get clinical about it but The Producers was about the dream of little Leo Bloom, about success. Zero Mostel in it says ‘Bloom, Bloom I’m sinking. I’m part of a society that demands success when all I can offer is failure.’ Blazing Saddles is about racial prejudice. It’s all about the hypocritical west shitting all over a black sheriff, wanting him dead.”

Comedy

Toby Young’s Eugenics Speech

Toby Young has been mired in controversy this year, with the latest revelation being that he attended the London Conference on Intelligence, where several pseudoscientific arguments on the superiority of white and male genetics have been made over recent years.

I’ve decided to discover a memo written while constructing a speech delivered to the LCI. It might be real for all you know.

Lynne,

I’m sending you a draft copy of the speech I’m going to give to the secret eugenics conference, just to check on the scientific accuracy of my speech. [I’ll see what I can do. Though I’m not keen on the phrase ‘secret eugenics conference’.]

Welcome ladies and gentleman. And welcome also to the not so gentle men, such as the the guy in the third row with the swastika tattoo on his forehead. (Wait a moment for people to turn around.) I’m joking of course, there are no members of the working class here.

I’m here to talk to you today about eugenics, an area of science that has a negative reputation as the result of some misapplications in the 1930s and 40s. Because of these…unfortunate uses of eugenics – the whole genocide thing – many people reject the idea entirely out of hand. I personally have been no-platformed by Teach First, who deleted my blog on eugenics. [That’s not what no-platforming means. I’ve been rejected by many journals, you don’t have a right to be paid for your words in whatever publication you want.]

This conference has a long legacy of brave speakers, willing to challenge taboos. One of my predecessors at this podium, Emil Kirkegaard, argued that paedophiles should be allowed to rape sleeping children provided that they’re unaware of what’s done to them. Many of the ideas expressed at this conference and those like it will be considered controversial to mainstream ivory tower elites. But the development of new ideas requires debate. Without an in-depth discussion, can we really say for certain that it’s wrong for a paedophile to rape a sleeping child?

Continue reading “Toby Young’s Eugenics Speech”

Film & Television Opinion

The Arrogant Stupidity of Rick Fanboys

Rick and Morty has a setup that’s an obvious play of the one in Back to the Future, with an elderly genius inventor supported by his teenage assistant. The style of humour is probably best explained by comparing it to Monty Python – mixing smart and dumb humour, the profound and the silly – with an added streak of nihilism.

Rick Sanchez is referred to several times as the smartest man in the universe, and he’s not shy about his brilliance. There’s a long-running pop culture association between intelligence and arrogance. Tony Stark, Gregory House, Gaius Baltar, Sherlock‘s Sherlock, Sheldon Cooper. There are public figures who play up to this idea by acting dismissively to ideas that clash with their own – Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, almost any of the main hosts on Fox News. I think it’s only in recent decades that this idea of arrogance and intelligence being intertwined has become so dominant, but celebrations of this personality type goes back as far as Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde, possibly further. It’s been argued that the fact people associate arrogance and intelligence could be one of the reasons behind Donald Trump’s presidential victory, which makes sense. How else can you explain a candidate saying “I have the best words“, “my primary consultant is myself“, “I’m much more humble than you would understand” and still be taken seriously? Continue reading “The Arrogant Stupidity of Rick Fanboys”

Comedy

Sturgeon v May – Who’s Sexier?

The Daily Mail has set social media buzzing today with a front page that compares the legs of the UK’s Prime Minister and Scotland’s First Minister. But there’s been less coverage of the superficial, transparently biased, and oddly sexualised article that accompanied the headline.

I decided to exclusively uncover an early draft of the article.

One was relaxed, every inch a stateswoman while her opposite number was tense and uncomfortable: we don’t know how headlines work

By Mrs Michael Gove

Legend – or rather Hollywood – has it that the Scottish knight William Wallace daubed himself head-to-toe in blue woad paint to defeat the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. Centuries later, Nicola Sturgeon has gone one step further. Yes, further! Whereas Wallace took the time to paint his entire body, Sturgeon wore a blue dress, the silly mare.

While Sturgeon has worn a dress that is dark blue with white trim, May worse a blue jacket. The difference is obvious.

Intentional or otherwise, the First Minister’s nutty blue suit with white piping and matching light-coloured stilettos were unmistakably reminiscent of the Scottish flag, a subliminal if not entirely subtle indication of her feelings towards Westminster.

The Prime Minister’s gorgeous blue jacket was more reminiscent of the blue parts of the Union Jack. Her union-jacket, if you will.

Continue reading “Sturgeon v May – Who’s Sexier?”

Comedy

The Leaky Wiki: Developing World Objects to The Label ‘Developing World’, Finds it Patronising

Continuing my effort to repost all my material from The Leaky Wiki, the latest post is from January 2012. It’s not particularly topical, and if I’m honest, it’s not one of my best, but as it’s not topical at all, it’s aged well. I think that’s lowered expectations sufficently.

You can see this in it’s original context here, or carry on reading.

Developing World Objects to The Label ‘Developing World’, Finds it Patronising

UN_General_Assembly_hall by Patrick Gruban       Taken from Wikimedia CommonsIn a staggeringly short five hour speech at the UN yesterday, the ambassador from the recently re-named Developmentistan criticised the terminology used in defining the wealth of nations.
“It is about time you know how we feel about you in the west,” he announced from the podium, speaking in that unusual manner where individual syllables were pronounced slowly and slightly oddly, as people of his nation do. “You are so full of yourselves! Oh, we have reached a good point, you aren’t as good as us, and must be arbitrarily judged by our standards at any given moment. I mean, give me a break!” He paused dramatically, and wiped the sweat away from his brow. “You still have children dying in poverty, despite having the medication right there in your own country. How about you get down off your high horses, and realise that we are people too, just like you? Wouldn’t that be a nice thing to do?”

The country was renamed Developmentistan last month, in what has been widely construed as some sort of sarcastic jibe taken too far. Many media commentators have pointed out that roadsigns, hospitals and airports will have to be renamed and relabelled, at massive expense.

Sarcasm analysts believe this is the most expensive sarcasm related incident since a producer on the set of Waterworld angrily joked ‘why don’t we put Costner in charge? After all he’s a BRILLIANT director! He did SUCH a good job on The Postman!’

“At least when you called us the ‘Third World’ you were honest about how you saw us,” continued the ambassador, as he drew towards the end of his five hour speech, remarkably short by UN standards. “At least that was good, honest condesencion. We knew where we stood with that kind of attitude! We knew that you saw our society as inferior not only to your own, but to the communists who sent millions of their citizens to death camps! But now… Now….” He paused, looking very slowly around the hall, as if he was perhaps trying to make eye contact with each of his fellow ambassadors, perhaps to induce feelings of guilt in them. “Exactly what makes a country developed? Hmm?’ He paused, once more. “I bet you don’t even know where my country is, do you?”

Comedy

The Leaky Wiki: Rick Perry speaks out against women, friendship in the military

America can be a scary place. In America, corporations are considered to be people, people who speak via the medium of money, and are allowed to refuse to pay for their employees’ healthcare for religious reasons.

It’s also a country where, in 2012, a major Republican politician, while running for President, could say that gays are weird, on camera, on purpose, and expect it to help rather than hinder his challenge for president.

Scarier still, he was probably right.

Continue reading “The Leaky Wiki: Rick Perry speaks out against women, friendship in the military”

Comedy

The Leaky Wiki: Keith Olbermann’s Wife Forces Him to Help out Around the House, Named as ‘Worst Person in the World’

Reading satire written years before, it turns out, can mean that what was once topical is no longer memorable.

Do you remember what Current TV was? Probably not. There’s a decent chance you don’t recognise Keith Olbermann, who, to a British audience is probably best described as a real world equivalent of The Newsroom’s Will McAvoy. You can view a sample of his work on youtube – he later left MSNBC to start a new news channel, which is where I (fictionally) came in.

Continue reading “The Leaky Wiki: Keith Olbermann’s Wife Forces Him to Help out Around the House, Named as ‘Worst Person in the World’”