Peter Cook

The late great English actor, satirist, writer and comedian Peter Cook was born 17 November 1937. He is regarded as An extremely influential figure in modern British comedy & a leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s & has been described by Stephen Fry as “the funniest man who ever drew breath”. Cook was closely associated with anti-establishment comedy which emerged in Britain and the United States in the late 1950s. Educated at Radley College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, Cook joined the Cambridge University Liberal Club & It was at Pembroke thatCook performed and wrote comedy sketches as a member of the Cambridge Footlights Club, of which he became president in 19which was60′s, & wrote for Kenneth Williams, before joining a four-man group satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe, with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore, which included Cook impersonating the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan.In 1961 Cook opened the Establishment club in central London. Cook said it was a satirical venue modelled on “those wonderful Berlin cabarets… which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War”. Cook befriended and supported Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who began his British solo career at the club. Cook’s chiselled looks and languid manner led Humphries to observe that whereas most people take after their father or mother, Cook seemed more like an aunt. Dudley Moore’s jazz trio also played in the basement of the club during the early 1960s.

In 1962, the BBC commissioned a pilot for a television series of satirical sketches based on the Establishment club, cacook That Was The Week That Was ‘.Around this time, Cook provided financial backing for the satirical magazine Private Eye. For a time, the magazine was produced from the premises of the Establishment club. Cook ‘s first regular television spot was on Granada Television’s Braden Beat with Bernard Braden, where he featured his most enduring character: the static, dour and monotonal E.L. Wisty.Cook’s comedy partnership with Dudley Moore led to Not Only… But Also. Using few props, they created dry and absurd television. Cook played characters such as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling and the two men created their Pete and Dud alter egos. Other sketches included “Superthunderstingcar”, a parody of the Gerry Anderson marionette TV shows, and Cook’s pastiche of 1960s trendy arts documentaries – satirised in a TV segment on Greta Garbo. A compilation of six half-hour programmes, The Best of What’s Left of Not Only…But Also. Cook and Moore began to act in films together such as With The Wrong Box (1966) and Bedazzled (1967) , the underlying story of Bedazzled is a comic parody of Faust, which stars Cook as George Spigott (The Devil) who tempts Stanley Moon (Moore), a frustrated, short-order chef, with the promise of gaining his heart’s desire – the unattainable beauty and waitress at his cafe, Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron) – in exchange for his soul, but repeatedly tricks him. The film features cameo appearances by Barry Humphries as Envy and Raquel Welch as Lust. Moore composed the soundtrack music and co-wrote (with Cook) the songs performed in the film. In 1968, Cook and Moore did four one-hour programmes entitled Goodbye Again with John Cleese ,which were based on the Pete and Dud characters.

ln 1970, Cook took over a a satirical film called The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer . As a reult Cook became a favourite of the chat show circuit sadly his own effort at hosting one for the BBC in 1971, Where Do I Sit? didn’t work and He was replaced by Michael Parkinson, which started Parkinson’s career as a chat show host. Cook and Moore used sketches from Not Only….But Also and Goodbye Again with new material for a stage revue called Behind the Fridge. Which proved very popular and won Tony and Grammy Awards. When it finished, Moore stayed in the U.S. to pursue a film career in Hollywood. Cook returned to Britain and recorded the more risqué humour of Pete and Dud like “Derek and Clive”. One of these audio recordings was also filmed Two further Derek and Clive albums were released, the last accompanied by a film.In 1978 Cook appeared on British music series Revolver where emerging punk and new wave acts played . Cook also played multiple roles on the 1977 concept album Consequences, which was A mixture of spoken comedy and progressive rock with an environmental subtext. Cook appeared at the first three fund-raising galas staged by humourists John Cleese and Martin Lewis on behalf of Amnesty International. The benefits were dubbed The Secret Policeman’s Balls, where he performed on all three nights of the first show in April 1976, A Poke in the Eye (with a Sharp Stick), as an individual performer and as a member of the cast of Beyond The Fringe, which reunited for the first time since the 1960s. He also appeared in a Monty Python sketch, taking the place of Eric Idle. Cook was on the cast album of the show and in the film, Pleasure At Her Majesty’s. He was in the second Amnesty gala in May 1977, An Evening Without Sir Bernard Miles. It was retitled The Mermaid Frolics. Cook performed monologues and skits with Terry Jones.

In 1979, Cook performed all four nights of The Secret Policeman’s Ball – teaming with John Cleese. Cook also performed a couple of solo pieces and a sketch with Eleanor Bron, PLUS the “End Of The World” sketch from Beyond The Fringe., he also wrote and voiced radio commercials to advertise the film in the UK. He also hosted a spoof film awards ceremony that was part of the world première of the film in London in March 1982. Following Cook’s 1987 stage reunion with Moore for the annual U.S. benefit for the homeless, Comic Relief (not related to the UK Comic Relief benefits), Cook repeated the reunion for a British audience by performing with Moore at the 1989 Amnesty benefit The Secret Policeman’s Biggest Ball. In 1980, Cook moved to Hollywood and appeared as an uptight English butler to a wealthy American woman in a short-lived U.S. television sitcom The Two of Us, In 1980, Cook starred in l Peter Cook & Co. which included memorable, comedy sketches, such as a Tales of the Unexpected parody “Tales Of The Much As We Expected”. The cast included John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Beryl Reid, Paula Wilcox and Terry Jones. ln 1983 Cook played the role of Richard III in the first episode of Blackadder, “The Foretelling”, which parodies Laurence Olivier’s portrayal. He narrated the short film “Diplomatix” by Norwegian comedy trio Kirkvaag, Lystad and Mjøen, which won the “Special Prize of the City of Montreux” at the Montreux Comedy Festival in 1985. In 1986 he partnered Joan Rivers on her UK talk show. He appeared as Mr Jolly in 1987 in The Comic Strip Presents’ Mr Jolly Lives Next Door.In 1988, Cook appeared as a contestant on the improvisation comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? Cook was declared the winner, his prize being to read the credits in the style of a New York cab driver. Cook returned to the BBC as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling for an appearance with Ludovic Kennedy in A Life in Pieces. The 12 interviews saw Sir Arthur recount his life based on the Twelve Days of Christmas. Unscripted interviews with Cook as Streeb-Greebling and satirist Chris Morris were recorded in late 1993 and broadcast as Why Bother? on BBC Radio 3. On 17 December 1993, Cook appeared on Clive Anderson Talks Back as four characters – biscuit tester and alien abductee Norman House, football manager and motivational speaker Alan Latchley, judge Sir James Beauchamp and rock legend Eric Daley. he also read links for Arena’s “Radio Night”. He also appeared, in the 1993 Christmas special of One Foot in the Grave (“One Foot in the Algarve”), playing a muckraking tabloid journalist.

Cook made his last TV appearance in November 1994. Cook died on 9 January 1995, aged 57, having suffered a gastrointestinal haemorrhage in the intensive-care unit of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, North London. Days earlier he had been taken in and announced, “I feel a bit poorly”. Dudley Moore attended Cook’s memorial service in London in May 1995 and he and Martin Lewis presented a two-night memorial for Cook in Los Angeles the following November, to mark what would have been Cook’s 58th birthday.Cook is acknowledged as the one of the main influence on British comedians from amateur dramatic clubs of British universities to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and then to the radio and television.ln 1999 the minor planet 20468 Petercook, in the main asteroid belt, was named after him.Ten years after his death, Cook was ranked at number one in the Comedians’ Comedian, a poll of 300 comics, comedy writers, producers and directors. Channel 4 broadcast Not Only But Always, a TV film dramatising the relationship between Cook and Moore, with Rhys Ifans portraying Cook. At the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe a play, , examined the relationship from Moore’s view, Pete and Dud: Come Again. Tom Goodman-Hill played Cook.At the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Goodbye – the (after)life of Cook & Moore was presented at the Gilded Balloon. The play imagined the newly dead Moore meeting Cook in Limbo, also inhabited by other comic actors with whom they had worked, including Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams. In May 2009 the play was seen again in London’s West End at the Leicester Square Theatre ) with Jonathan Hansler as Cook, Adam Bampton Smith as Moore and Clive Greenwood as everyone else. A green plaque was unveiled by the Heritage Foundation at the site of the Establishment club on 15 February 2009.

Eric by Terry Pratchett🧙‍♂️

I have recently listened to the hilarious BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Eric by Terry Pratchett. It follows immediately after the events of Sourcery in which Discworld’s most pathetic Wizard Rincewind Manages to get himself trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions (The Discworld version of Hell or Pandemonium). Amazingly Rincewind then finds himself summoned by a13-year-old demonologist, named Eric Thursley, who thinks he is a powerful demon and makes a Faustian pact With him, asking for three wishes In return. At first Rincewind protests but then discovers to his horror that he really can grant wishes.

Firstly Eric asks to be ruler of the world. He and Rincewind Then find themselves in the rainforests of Klatch in the Tezumen empire, (a parody of the Aztec Empire). The local people pay tribute to Eric and declare him Ruler of the World. However Rincewind discovers a prisoner, Ponce da Quirm (a parody of Juan Ponce de León), and learns what happens to the Ruler of the World and they soon find themselves in great peril.

Secondly Eric asks to meet the most beautiful woman in history. However this does not go to plan either, as they find themselves in the midst of a battle between the Tsorteans and the Ephesians. (A parody of the Greeks and Trojans) They are Also disappointed to discover that artistic license may have been taken in the description of certain events and people.

Finally Eric asks to live forever. However this also goes hilariously wrong When Eric and Rincewind find themselves at the beginning of time, where they meet the Creator, before making a startling discovery. They then find themselves transported back to the Dungeon Dimension which has been steeped in bureaucracy, since the Demon King Astfgl took over and decided that boredom might be the ultimate form of torture. However not everyone is happy about this arrangement, such as Lord Vassenego, a Demon Lord who has been leading a secret revolt against Astfgl. Meanwhile Rincewind and Eric try to escape the dungeon Dimension (again) Along the way they meet old acquaintances and learn the source of Rincewind’s power before discovering that it may have been part of a conspiracy by Certain members of the Dungeon Dimension…

Mort 💀by Terry Pratchett

I am currently listening to the hilarious BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Mort by Terry Pratchett. It concerns a daydreaming teenager, named Mort whose father Lezek takes him to a local hiring fair in the hope that Mort will land an apprenticeship. Just before the last stroke of midnight, Death arrives and takes Mort on as an apprentice and they travel to his domain, where he meets Death’s elderly manservant Albert, and his adopted daughter Ysabell. Mort later accompanies Death as he travels to collect the soul of a king, who is due to be assassinated by the scheming Duke of Sto Helit. However Mort tries to prevent the assassination, so Death warns him that all deaths are predetermined, and that he must not interfere with fate.

Later on, Death assigns Mort to collect the soul of Princess Keli, daughter of the murdered king, but Mort intervenes. However instead of being beneficial, Mort discovers that his actions have had dire consequences and So the wizard Igneous Cutwell Is asked to undo his actions. Then Mort and Ysabell make a startling discovery concerning Albert.

Meanwhile DEATH Has decided to find out what it is like to be human, so he travels to Ankh-Morpork where he indulges in new experiences, such as getting drunk, dancing, gambling and finding a job. However Death’s absence forces Mort and Ysabell to collect the next two souls at the wedding of Princess Keli and Igneous Cutwell. However this does not go as planned and soon this causes all kinds of chaos…

Sir Ken Dodd OBE

English Comedian and entertainer Ken Dodd was born on 8 November 1927 in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, Lancashire, in an old farmhouse. He went to the Knotty Ash School, and sang in the local church choir of St John’s Church, Knotty Ash. He was to live in Knotty Ash all his life, and often referred to it in his act.

He attended Holt High School in Childwall, but left at the age of 14 to work for his father, a coal merchant. Around this time he became interested in show business after seeing an advert in a comic: “Fool your teachers, amaze your friends—send 6d in stamps and become a ventriloquist! and sending off for the book. Not long after, his father bought him a ventriloquist’s dummy and Ken called it Charlie Brown. He started entertaining at the local orphanage, then at various other local community functions. His distinctive bucked teeth were the result of a cycling accident after a group of schoolfriends dared him to ride a bicycle with his eyes closed.

Ken Dodd got his big break in 1954 at age 26 When he made his professional show-business debut as Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty, Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter at the Nottingham Empire. Then in 1955 he appeared at Blackpool, in “Let’s Have Fun”. His performance at the Central Pier was part of a comedy revue with Jimmy James and Company. Also on the same bill were Jimmy Clitheroe and Roy Castle. Dodd gained top billing at Blackpool in 1958. He has guested on a number of television and radio shows and made several appearances on BBC TV’s music hall revival show, The Good Old Days.

Dodd had been described as “the last great music hall entertainer”. His stand-up comedy style was fast and relied on the rapid delivery of one-liner jokes. He said that his comic influences included other Liverpool comedians like Arthur Askey, Robb Wilton, Tommy Handley and the “cheeky chappy” from Brighton, Max Miller. He interspersed the comedy with occasional songs, both serious and humorous, and, ventriloquism. Part of his stage act featured the Diddy Men (“diddy” being local slang for “small”).

Dodd worked mainly as a solo comedian, although he occasionally appeared in dramatic roles, including Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on stage in Liverpool in 1971; on television in the cameo role of ‘The Tollmaster’ in the 1987 Doctor Who story Delta and the Bannermen; and as Yorick (in silent flashback) in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 1996. Dodd was renowned for the length of his performances, and during the 1960s he earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest ever joke-telling session: 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours (7.14 jokes per minute). Ken Dodd also appeared on many Royal Variety Performances. The last was in 2006, in front of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, at the London Coliseum. In 1987, Dodd officially opened the Arndale shopping centre in Accrington.

Dodd continually toured throughout his professional career, performing lengthy shows that frequently did not finish until after midnight. In 2012 at the age of 84, he played the Princes Theatre in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex on 7 July. Starting at 7.15 pm he continued until just before 9.00 pm when Sybie Jones took to the stage. Returning at 9.30 pm he continued until 10.00 pm. The second support act performed until Dodd’s return just before 11.00 pm when he continued until 00.25 am. During 2017 Dodd continued to tour the UK extensively, with his comedy, music and variety show.

Dodd also released eighteen hit records, Including “Love Is Like a Violin,”Happiness”, “Tears”,”The River (Le Colline Sono In Fioro)”, and “Promises”, plus numreous comedy novelty records, including the 1965 EP Doddy and the Diddy Men, featuring the song “Where’s Me Shirt?” which Dodd co-wrote.

In 1989 Dodd was charged with tax evasion. The subsequent trial, with the prosecution case led by Brian Leveson QC, produced several revelations. The Diddy Men, who had appeared in his stage act, were often played by local children from stage schools, and were revealed never to have been paid. Dodd was also revealed to have very little money in his bank account, having £336,000 in cash stashed in suitcases in his attic. When asked by the judge, “What does a hundred thousand pounds in a suitcase feel like?”, Dodd made his now famous reply, “The notes are very light, M’Lord. Dodd was represented by George Carman QC, who in court famously quipped, “Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants”. Dodd was eventually acquitted. Despite the strain of the trial, Dodd immediately capitalised on his new-found notoriety with a successful season running from Easter to Christmas 1990 at the London Palladium. It was there he had previously broken the house record for the longest comedy season at the theatre, in 1965, with a residency lasting 42 weeks. Some of his subsequent material mocked the trial and tax in general. For a while he introduced his act with the words, “Good evening, my name is Kenneth Arthur Dodd; singer, photographic playboy and failed accountant!

Ken Dodd was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1982 New Year Honours for services to show business and charity and was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to entertainment and charity. The award was formally conferred by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 2 March 2017. In 2002, Dodd appeared in the TV special An Audience with Ken Dodd. Dodd was voted 36 amongst the ‘Top 50 Comedy Acts Ever’ In a 2005 poll of comedians and comedy insiders to find the ‘Comedians’ Comedian’ and was made an honorary fellow of Liverpool John Moores University in 1997. A statue depicting Dodd with his trademark “Tickling Stick” was unveiled in Liverpool Lime Street railway station in June 2009. Dodd was inducted into the exclusive show business fraternity, the Grand Order of Water Rats. Dodd was made an honorary fellow of the University of Chester in 2009, having been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at a graduation ceremony in Chester Cathedral. He was awarded a Doctorate of Letters at Liverpool Hope University in 2010 during the university’s Foundation Day celebrations. In 2016, Dodd was awarded the Aardman Slapstick Comedy Legend Award, in honour of his lifetime’s contribution to the world of comedy. He received the award as part of the Slapstick Festival in Bristol.

Dodd sadly died at his home in Knotty Ash on 11 March 2018 aged 95 after spending six weeks In Hospital with a chest infection. He had been touring with his stand-up stage show until 2017. Two days before his death he had married his partner of 40 years, Anne Jones. Numerous stars paid tribute, including fellow Liverpudlian Paul McCartney.

and now for something completely different

Best known for being a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the British actor comedian, writer and film producer John Cleese, was Born 27th October 1939. He first achieved success at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival And as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s he became a member of Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films: And Now for Something Completely Different, The Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a surreal comedy show which was conceived, written and performed by members Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin And ran for four seasons from 5 October 1969 to December 1974 on BBC Television, aided by Gilliam’s animation, it pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in style and content. Cleese’s two primary characterisations were as a sophisticate and a stressed-out loony. He portrayed the former as a series of announcers, TV show hosts, and government officials (for example, “The Ministry of Silly Walks”). The latter is perhaps best represented in the “Cheese Shop” and by Cleese’s Mr Praline character, the man with a dead Norwegian Blue parrot and a menagerie of other animals all named “Eric”. He was also known for his working class “Sergeant Major” character, who worked as a Police Sergeant, Roman Centurion, and is also seen as the opening announcer with the now famous line “And now for something completely different”, although in its premiere in the sketch “Man with Three Buttocks”, the phrase was spoken by Eric Idle.

Forty-five episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus were made over four series. The Python phenomenon developed into something larger in scope and impact, spawning touring stage shows, films, numerous albums, several books and a stage musical as well as launching the members to individual stardom. Their influence on British comedy has been apparent for years, while in North America it has coloured the work of cult performers from the early editions of Saturday Night Live through to more recent absurdist trends in television comedy. “Pythonesque” has entered the English lexicon as a result. In a 2005 UK poll to find The Comedian’s Comedian, three of the six Pythons members were voted by fellow comedians and comedy insiders to be among the top 50 greatest comedians ever: Cleese at #2, Idle at #21, and Palin at #30.

In the mid 1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers which was first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975 and 1979. Twelve episodes were made (two series, each of six episodes) all of which were set in Fawlty Towers, a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay, on the “English Riviera”. The plots centre on tense, rude and put-upon owner Basil Fawlty (Cleese), his bossy wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), comparatively normal chambermaid Polly (Booth), and hapless Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs), showing their attempts to run the hotel amidst farcical situations and an array of demanding and eccentric guests, which gave Cleese the chance to play the “stressed out loony” character he had previously played in Monty Python. In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers was named the best British television series of all time.

Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films as Q, two Harry Potter films, and three Shrek films. He also co-founded the production company “Video Arts” With Yes Minister writer Antony Jay which makes entertaining training films. Cleese is currently Provost’s Visiting Professor at Cornell University, after having been Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large from 1999–2006. He makes occasional, well-received appearances on the Cornell campus. He sold his home in the town of Montecito, California in 2008 and planned on moving to Bath in the UK where he has a home on the Royal Crescent.

And now for something completely different…

The first episode of British sketch comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC One on the 5th October 1969. created by the comedy group Monty Python ( Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Michael Palin and Graham Chapman. Monty Python’s Flying Circus ran for 45 episodes airing over four series from 1969 to 1974, The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines which often targeted the idiosyncrasies of British life, especially that of professionals. It is at times politically charged, and also featured Terry Gilliam’s wonderful and imaginatively bizarre animations, often sequenced or merged with live action. Over the years many of the sketches have attained classic status including The Lumberjack Song, Ministry of Silly Walks, Upper class twit of the Year,Spam song, The Dead Parrot Sketch and Bicycle Repair Man.

The members of Monty Python were all highly educated. Terry Jones and Michael Palin are Oxford University graduates; Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman attended Cambridge University; and American-born member Terry Gilliam is an Occidental College graduate. Their comedy is often pointedly intellectual, with numerous erudite references to philosophers and literary figures. The series followed and elaborated upon the style used by Spike Milligan in his ground breaking series Q5, rather than the traditional sketch show format. The team intended their humour to be impossible to categorise, and succeeded (although, by their perspective, failed) so completely that the adjective “Pythonesque” was invented to define it and, later, similar material. They also did a few movies including Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life

The Pythons play the majority of the series characters themselves, including the majority of the female characters, but occasionally they cast an extra actor. Regular supporting cast members include Carol Cleveland (referred to by the team as the unofficial “Seventh Python”), Connie Booth (Cleese’s first wife), series producer Ian MacNaughton, Ian Davidson, Neil Innes (in the fourth series), and Fred Tomlinson and the Fred Tomlinson Singers (for musical numbers). The theme music is the Band of the Grenadier Guards’ rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell” which was first published in 1893. Under the Berne Convention’s “country of origin” concept, the composition was subject to United States copyright law which states that any works first published prior to 1923 was in the public domain due to copyright expiration. This enabled Gilliam to co-opt the march for the series without having to make any royalty payments.

Monty Python split in 1974 however In 1974, the PBS telvision station KERA in Dallas, United States began broadcastinG episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and is often credited with introducing the programme to American audiences. When several episodes were broadcast by ABC in their Wide World of Entertainment showcase in 1975, the episodes were re-edited, thus losing the continuity and flow intended in the originals. When ABC refused to stop treating the series in this way, the Pythons took them to court. Initially the court ruled that their artistic rights had indeed been violated, but it refused to stop the ABC broadcasts. However, on appeal the team gained control over all subsequent US broadcasts of its programmes. The case also led to their gaining the rights from the BBC, once their original contracts ended at the end of 1980. The show also aired on MTV during the network’s infancy; Monty Python was part of a two-hour comedy block on Sunday nights that also included another BBC series, The Young Ones. Monty Python and Fawlty have also been rerun multiple times on Television and the Internet film service Netflix also has Life of Brian and Holy Grail.

In April 2006, Monty Python’s Flying Circus returned to non-cable American television on PBS. In connection with this, PBS commissioned Monty Python’s Personal Best, a six-episode series featuring each Python’s favourite sketches, plus a tribute to Chapman, who died in 1989. BBC America has aired the series on a sporadic basis since the mid-2000s, in an extended 40-minute time slot in order to include commercials. Independent Film Channel acquired the rights to the show in 2009, though not exclusive, as BBC America still airs occasional episodes of the show. IFC also presented a six-part documentary Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyers Cut), produced by Terry Jones’ son Bill.

The various members Monty Python have also starred in a number movies individually John Cleese and Michael Palin starred inFish Called Wanda, Clockwise, Time Bandits, and the television programs Fawlty Towers, Doctor Who, Pole to Pole, Around the World in Eighty Days, Michael Palin’s Eastern Europe, Doctor Who and Ripping Yarns. Eric Idle appeared in National Lampoons European Vacation and Terry Gilliam has gone on to be a successful director, directing many great Science fiction films such as Brazil and 12 Monkeys.

And now for something completely different

The Late, Great Graham Chapman sadly passed away 4 October 1989 Born 8th January 1939. He started out in the 1960’s writing professionally for the BBC alongside John Cleese, initially for David Frost, but also for Marty Feldman. Chapman also contributed sketches to the BBC radio series I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again and television programmes such as The Illustrated Weekly Hudd (starring Roy Hudd), Cilla Black, This is Petula Clark, and This Is Tom Jones. Chapman, Cleese, and Tim Brooke-Taylor later joined Feldman in the television comedy series At Last the 1948 Show. There, Chapman displayed a gift for deadpan comedy (particularly evident in the sketch “The Minister Who Falls to Pieces”) and for imitating various British  dialects. Chapman and Cleese also wrote for the long-running television comedy series Doctor in the House. Chapman also co-wrote several episodes with Bernard McKenna and David Sherlock.

Chapman joined British sketch comedy series Monty Python alongside Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, which was first aired on BBC One on the 5th October 1969. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines. It also featured Terry Gilliam’s wonderful and imaginatively bizarre animations, often sequenced or merged with live action. Broadcast by the BBC. with 45 episodes airing over four series from 1969 to 1974, The show often targets the idiosyncrasies of British life, especially that of professionals, and is at times politically charged, and over the years many of the sketches have attained classic status including The Lumberjack Song, Ministry of Silly Walks, Upper class twit of the Year,Spam song, The Dead Parrot Sketch and Bicycle Repair Man.

The members of Monty Python were all highly educated. Terry Jones and Michael Palin are Oxford University graduates; Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman attended Cambridge University; and American-born member Terry Gilliam is an Occidental College graduate. Chapman also played the lead roles in two of the Python’s Films – Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and the Life of Brian. After reuniting with the other Pythons in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Chapman began a lengthy series of American college tours where he would tell the audience anecdotes about Monty Python, the Dangerous Sports Club, Keith Moon, and other subjects. In 1988, he appeared in the Iron Maiden video Can I Play with Madness.

Chapman also secured funding for his much cherished pirate project Yellowbeard in 1982. Once again, Chapman collaborated with writer Bernard McKenna and for the first time with Peter Cook. The film, which starred Chapman as the eponymous pirate, also featured appearances from Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Cleese, Idle, Spike Milligan, and Cheech & Chong. It marks the last appearance of Feldman, who suffered a fatal heart attack during shooting. It was released in 1983 to mixed reviews. His final project was to have been a TV series called Jake’s Journey. Although the pilot episode was made, there were difficulties selling the project. Chapman was also to have played a guest role as a television presenter in the Red Dwarf episode “Timeslides”, but died before filming was to have started.

Rembrandt van Rijn


Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn sadly passed away on 4th October 1669. He was born 15 July 1606. His contributions to art came during a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age which was very different to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, he was extremely prolific and innovative. As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leiden, although according to a contemporary he had a greater inclination towards painting and was soon apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years. After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden in 1624 or 1625, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students, among them Gerrit Dou. In 1629, Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens, the father of Dutch mathematician and physicist Christiaan Huygens, who procured commissions from the court of The Hague. As a result of this connection, Prince Frederik Hendrik continued to purchase paintings from Rembrandt until 1646.

In 1631 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, then rapidly expanding as the new business capital of the Netherlands, and began work as a professional portrait artist with great success. Throughout his career the themes of portraiture, landscape and narrative painting were his primary subjects and he produced over 600 paintings, nearly 400 etchings and 2,000 drawings including a number of biblical works, including The Raising of the Cross, Joseph Telling His Dreams and The Stoning of Saint Stephen, he was especially praised by his contemporaries, who extolled him as a masterly interpreter of biblical stories for his skill in representing emotions and attention to detail.During Rembrandt’s Leiden period (1625–1631) his Paintings were rather small, but rich in details (for example, in costumes and jewelry). Religious and allegorical themes were favored. In 1626 Rembrandt produced his first etchings, the wide dissemination of which would largely account for his international fame In 1629 he completed Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver and The Artist in His Studio, works that evidence his interest in the handling of light and variety of paint application, and constitute the first major progress in his development as a painter.

Between 1632 and 1636 Rembrandt painted dramatic biblical and mythological scenes in high contrast and of large format (The Blinding of Samson, 1636, Belshazzar’s Feast, c. 1635 Danaë, 1636), seeking to emulate the baroque style of Rubens. With the occasional help of assistants in his workshop, he painted numerous portrait commissions both small (Jacob de Gheyn III) and large (Portrait of the Shipbuilder Jan Rijcksen and his Wife, 1633, Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, By the late 1630s Rembrandt had produced a few paintings and many etchings of landscapes. Often these landscapes highlighted natural drama, featuring uprooted trees and ominous skies (Cottages before a Stormy Sky, and The Three Trees. From 1640 his work became less exuberant and more sober in tone, possibly reflecting personal tragedy. Biblical scenes were now derived more often from the New Testament than the Old Testament, as had been the case before. In 1642 he painted The Night Watch and in the decade following the Night Watch, Rembrandt’s paintings varied greatly in size, subject, and style. The previous tendency to create dramatic effects primarily by strong contrasts of light and shadow gave way to the use of frontal lighting and larger and more saturated areas of color.

However these graphic works of natural drama eventually made way for quiet Dutch rural scenes and by the 1650s, Rembrandt’s style changed again. Colors became richer and brush strokes more pronounced. With these changes, Rembrandt distanced himself from earlier work and current fashion, which increasingly inclined toward fine, detailed works. In later years biblical themes were still depicted often, but emphasis shifted from dramatic group scenes to intimate portrait-like figures (James the Apostle, 1661). In his last years, Rembrandt painted his most deeply reflective self-portraits, and several moving images of both men and women in love, in life, and before God.Although he achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters.

Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population, his legacy lives on in the form of many wonderful paintings and because of his empathy for the human condition, he is also sometimes referred to as “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

 

Chris Lowe (Pet Shop Boys)


Chris Lowe, English singer and keyboard player with English electronic pop duo Pet Shop Boys was Born 4 October 1959. Lowe attended Arnold School, in Blackpool, Lancashire. He also worked in the Solarium. While there, Lowe played trombone in a seven-piece dance band called One Under the Eight, that played old-time favourites like “Hello Dolly”, “La Bamba” and “Moon River”. Lowe’s grandfather had been a trombonist and was a member of comedy jazz troupe The Nitwits. Lowe also became a skilled pianist. Lowe studied architecture at the University of Liverpool from 1978. During a work placement in 1981 at a London architectural practice, he designed a staircase for an industrial estate in Milton Keynes.

It was at this time that he met Neil Tennant in a hi-fi shop on the Kings Road in London. Recognising a mutual interest in dance music, they began to work on material together, first in Tennant’s flat in Chelsea and from 1982, in a small studio in Camden Town. It was during those early years that several future hit songs were created, including “It’s a Sin”, “West End Girls”, “Rent” and “Jealousy”. Starting out, the two called themselves West End because of their love of London’s West End, but later they came up with the name Pet Shop Boys, derived from friends of theirs who worked in a pet shop in Ealing. Their big break came in August 1983, when Tennant was assigned by Smash Hits to interview The Police in New York. The duo were obsessed with a stream of Hi-NRG records made by New York producer Bobby Orlando, simply known as Bobby ‘O’. According to Tennant: “I thought: well, if I’ve got to go and see The Police play, then I’m also going to have lunch with Bobby ‘O’.” They shared a cheeseburger and carrot cake, at a restaurant called the Apple Jack, on 19 August (two years to the day since Tennant and Lowe had met) and, after hearing a demo tape that Tennant had brought along with him, Orlando suggested making a record with the Pet Shop Boys.

From 1983-1984, Orlando recorded eleven tracks with Tennant and Lowe including; “West End Girls”, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money”), “It’s A Sin”, “I Want A Lover”, “I Get Excited”, “Two Divided By Zero”, “Rent”, “Later Tonite”, “Pet Shop Boys”, “A Man Could Get Arrested” and “One More Chance”. In April 1984, the Orlando-produced “West End Girls” was released, becoming a club hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco. On 2 November, it was voted “Screamer of the Week” by listeners of Long Island, New York radio station WLIR. It was a minor dance hit in Belgium and France, but was only available in the United Kingdom as a 12″ import.

Since then Pet Shop Boys have sold more than 50 million records worldwide, and are listed as the most successful duo in UK music history by The Guinness Book of Records.Three-time Brit Award winners and six-time Grammy nominees, since 1985 they have achieved 42 Top 30 singles and 22 Top 10 hits in the UK Singles Chart, including four UK number ones: “West End Girls” (also number one on the US Billboard Hot 100), “It’s a Sin”, a remake of Wayne Carson’s “Always on My Mind” and “Heart”. Other hit songs include a remake of The Village People’s “Go West”, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” (satire of Thatcherism which exemplified them as ironists) and “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” (with Dusty Springfield). At the 2009 Brit Awards, Pet Shop Boys received an award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. The band’s eleventh studio album, titled Elysium was released in September 2012 andThe twelfth album, entitled Electric, was released in 2013. The album was the biggest-selling record among the UK’s independent record shops during the week of its release, and went straight to the number 1 position on the Official Record Store Chart.The album was produced by Stuart Price and was supported by the ‘Electric World Tour’ which included Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Asia (the duo will perform in the Philippines, Indonesia, China and Thailand for the first time), Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Europe and North America.

On 23 July 2014, the Pet Shop Boys new work A Man from the Future received its world premiere at the 2014 BBC Proms.Performed by the BBC Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra and the Pet Shop Boys, the work was inspired by the life of WW2 code breaker Alan Turing and was orchestrated by Sven Helbig. The concert also included Overture to Performance, an orchestral arrangement of Pet Shop Boys songs used to open their 1991 Performance tour, and four Pet Shop Boys songs arranged by Angelo Badalamenti and sung by Chrissie Hynde – “Vocal”, “Love is a Catastrophe”, “Later Tonight” and “Rent”. their thirteenth studio album

Aside from Pet Shop Boys, Chris Lowe also wrote and produced the track “Do the Right Thing” for the footballer Ian Wright (Lowe is a die-hard Arsenal F.C. fan). The song featured backing vocals by the long-time Pet Shop Boys’ backing singer, Sylvia Mason-James, and the single featured remixes by Rollo and In 1995, he had a cameo in the Australian soap opera Neighbours and In 1997, his flat was the subject of an in-depth feature in Elle Decoration magazine. Pet Shop Boys latest albums include Nightlife:Further listening 1996-2000, Release: further listening 2001-2008. Yes: further listening 2008-2010 and Elysium: further listening 2011-2017 were both released in 2017.

 

Buster Keaton


Best known for his silent slapstick films, the American comic actor, filmmaker, producer and writer Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton was born October 4, 1895 . His trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname “The Great Stone Face”. Buster Keaton was recognized as the seventh-greatest director by Entertainment Weekly. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Keaton the 21st-greatest male star. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton’s “extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, when he worked without interruption on a series of films sadly though His career declined when he was hired by MGM. However, he recovered in the 1940s, remarried and successfully revived his career to a degree as an honored comic performer for the rest of his life, earning plaudits like an Academy Honorary Award in 1958.Orson Welles stated that Keaton’s The General is “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.”A 2002 worldwide poll by Sight & Sound ranked Keaton’s The General as the 15th best film of all time. Three other Keaton films received votes in the magazine’s survey: Our Hospitality,Sherlock, Jr., and The Navigator. At the age of three, Keaton began performing with his parents in The Three Keatons. He first appeared on stage in 1899 in Wilmington, Delaware. The act was mainly a comedy sketch. Myra played the saxophone to one side, while Joe and Buster performed on center stage. The young Keaton would goad his father by disobeying him, and the elder Keaton would respond by throwing him against the scenery, into the orchestra pit, or even into the audience. A suitcase handle was sewn into Keaton’s clothing to aid with the constant tossing. The act evolved as Keaton learned to take trick falls safely; he was rarely injured or bruised on stage.

February 1917, Keaton met Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle at the Talmadge Studios in New York City, where Arbuckle was under contract toJoseph M. Schenck. Joe Keaton disapproved of films, and Buster also had reservations about the medium. During his first meeting with Arbuckle, he asked to borrow one of the cameras to get a feel for how it worked. He took the camera back to his hotel room, dismantled and reassembled it. With this rough understanding of the mechanics of the moving pictures, he returned the next day, camera in hand, asking for work. He was hired as a co-star and gag man, making his first appearance in The Butcher Boy. Keaton later claimed that he was soon Arbuckle’s second director and his entire gag department. Keaton and Arbuckle became close friends, In 1920, The Saphead was released, in which Keaton had his first starring role in a full-length feature. It was based on a successful play,The New Henrietta, which had already been filmed once, under the title The Lamb, with Douglas Fairbanks playing the lead. Fairbanks recommended Keaton to take the role for the remake five years later, since the film was to have a comic slant. A clip from the beginning of CopsAfter Keaton’s successful work with Arbuckle, Schenck gave him his own production unit, Buster Keaton Comedies. He made a series of two-reel comedies, including One Week(1920), The Playhouse (1921), Cops (1922), and The Electric House (1922). Keaton then moved to full-length features.A scene fromSteamboat Bill Jr. required Keaton to run into the shot and stand still on a particular spot. Then, the facade of a two-story building toppled forward on top of Keaton. Keaton’s character emerged unscathed, thanks to a single open window. The stunt required precision, because the prop house weighed two tons, and the window only offered a few inches of clearance around Keaton’s body. The sequence furnished one of the most memorable images of his careerAside from Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), Keaton’s most enduring feature-length films include Our Hospitality (1923), The Navigator (1924),Sherlock Jr. (1924), Seven Chances (1925), The Cameraman (1928), and The General (1927). The General, set during the American Civil War, combined physical comedy with Keaton’s love of trains, including an epic locomotive chase. Employing picturesque locations, the film’s storyline reenacted an actual wartime incident. Though it would come to be regarded as Keaton’s greatest achievement,

Aside from Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), Keaton’s most enduring feature-length films include Our Hospitality (1923), The Navigator (1924),Sherlock Jr. (1924), Seven Chances (1925), The Cameraman (1928), and The General (1927). The General, set during the American Civil War, combined physical comedy with Keaton’s love of trains, including an epic locomotive chase. Employing picturesque locations, the film’s storyline reenacted an actual wartime incident. One of his most biting parodies The Frozen North (1922), is a satirical take on William S. Hart’s Western melodramas, like Hell’s Hinges (1916) and The Narrow Trail (1917). In The Playhouse (1921), he parodied his contemporary Thomas H. Ince, Hart’s producer, who indulged in over-crediting himself in his film productions. The short also featured the impression of a performing monkey which was likely derived from a co-biller’s act (calledPeter the Great).[24] Three Ages (1923), Keaton’s first feature film, is a parody of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), from which it replicates the three inter-cut shorts structure.[24] Three Ages also featured parodies of Bible stories, like those of Samson andDaniel.n 1964, Keaton appeared with Joan Blondell and Joe E. Brown in the final episode of ABC’s circus drama, The Greatest Show on Earth, starring Jack Palance.In 1965, Keaton starred in the short film The Railrodder for the National Film Board of Canada. Wearing his traditional pork pie hat, he travelled from one end of Canada to the other on a motorized handcar, performing gags similar to those in films he made 50 years before. The film is also notable for being Keaton’s last silent screen performance. The Railrodder was made in tandem with a behind-the-scenes documentary about Keaton’s life and times, calledBuster Keaton Rides Again, also made for the National Film Board, which is twice the length of the short film. He played the central role in Samuel Beckett’s Film (1965), directed by Alan Schneider. Also in 1965, he traveled to Italy to play a role in Due Marines e un Generale, co-starring alongside with the famous Italian comedian duo of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia.

Keaton signed with MGM in 1928, a business decision that he would later call the worst of his life. He realized too late that the studio system MGM represented would severely limit his creative input.Keaton was so depleted during the production of 1933’s What! No Beer? that MGM fired him after the filming was complete, despite the film being a resounding hit. In 1934, Keaton accepted an offer to make an independent film in Paris, Le Roi des Champs-Élysées. During this period, he made one other film in Europe, The Invader (released in America as An Old Spanish Custom in 1936). Upon Keaton’s return to Hollywood, he made a screen comeback in a series of 16 two-reel comedies for Educational Pictures. Most of these are simple visual comedies, with many of the gags supplied by Keaton himself, often recycling ideas from his family vaudeville act and his earlier films. The high point in the Educational series is Grand Slam Opera, featuring Buster in his own screenplay as an amateur-hour contestant. When the series lapsed in 1937, Keaton returned to MGM as a gag writer, including the Marx Brothers films, A Night at the Opera, (which included developing the famous crowded stateroom scene. At the Circus (1939) and Go West(1940), and providing material for Red Skelton. He also helped and advised Lucille Ball in her comedic work in films and television

.In 1939, Columbia Pictures hired Keaton to star in ten two-reel comedies, running for the series’ debut entry, Pest from the West, a shorter, tighter remake of Keaton’s little-viewed 1935 feature The Invader; The final entry was She’s Oil Mine, and Keaton swore he would never again “make another crummy two-reelerThroughout the 1940s, Keaton played character roles in both “A” and “B” features. He made his last starring feature Boom in the Moon (1946) in Mexico; the film was a low budget production, and it was not seen in the United States until its release on VHS in the 1980s. Critics rediscovered Keaton in 1949 and producers occasionally hired him for bigger “prestige” pictures. He had cameos in such films as In the Good Old Summertime (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). Keaton also appeared in a comedy routine about two inept stage musicians in Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight (1952), recalling the vaudeville of The Playhouse. He was a non-speaking card player in Sunset Blvd. (1950), providing additional weight to the silent era echoes of the movie.In 1950, Keaton had a successful television series, The Buster Keaton Show, which was broadcast live on a local Los Angeles station. An attempt to recreate the first series on film as Life with Buster Keaton (1951), In 1960, Keaton returned to MGM playing a lion tamer in a 1960 adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In 1961, he starred in The Twilight Zone episode “Once Upon a Time”, which included both silent and sound sequences. Keaton played time-traveler Mulligan, who traveled from 1890 to 1960, then back, by means of a special helmet. Keaton also had a cameo as Jimmy, appearing near the end of the film It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Jimmy assists Spencer Tracy’s character, Captain C. G. Culpepper, by readying Culpepper’s ultimately-unused boat for his abortive escape

Sadly though Keaton died of lung cancer on February 1, 1966, aged 70, in Woodland Hills, California.Despite being diagnosed with cancer in January 1966, he was never told that he was terminally ill or that he had cancer; Keaton thought that he was recovering from bronchitis. Confined to a hospital during his final days, Keaton was restless and paced the room endlessly, desiring to return home. In a British television documentary about his career, his widow Eleanor told producers of Thames Television that Keaton was up out of bed and moving around, and even played cards with friends who came to visit at their house the day before he died. His Speak Easily costar, Hedda Hopper, died the same day. Eleanor Keaton died in 1998, from emphysema and lung cancer, aged 80.years.

 

National Poetry Day


This years National Poetry Day takes place on 4 October. The purpose of National Poetry Day is to promote poetry, including public performances. National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart. Since its inception, it has engaged millions of people across the country with live events, classroom activities and broadcasts. National Poetry Day is coordinated by the charity Forward Arts Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate excellence in poetry and increase its audience. Its other projects include the Forward Prizes for Poetry. The day is run in collaboration with partners including Arts Council England, Literature Wales, Poet in the City, Southbank Centre, The Poetry Book Society, The Poetry Society, The Scottish Poetry Library, Poetry By Heart and The Poetry School. Prince Charles performed in the 2016 National Poetry Day, reading Seamus Heaney’ The Shipping Forecast. On 2015 National Poetry Day poems were included on Blackpool Illuminations. National Poetry Day 2018 is on 4th October. Events, readings and performances will take place across the UK celebrating this year’s theme of Change.

National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart who said, “There are millions of talented poets out there and it’s about time they got some recognition for their work. They shouldn’t be embarrassed about reading their work out aloud. I want people to read poetry on the bus on their way to work, in the street, in school and in the pub.” National Poetry Day is celebrated around the UK. In 1994 the Radio Times wrote “National Poetry Day has been created to prove that poetry has a place in everyone’s life. From children chanting to advertising jingles and pop songs, it is used to entertain and communicate across the nation.”

The Belfast Newsletter reported, “National Poetry Day swept Ulster yesterday, transforming ordinary citizens into part-time bards or budding Heaneys or Wordsworths.” The Daily Telegraph reported that in London at Waterloo station, “The announcement boards were given over to poems about trains by T S Eliot and Auden.” Chris Meade, then director of the Poetry Society stated that, “Readers are finding a place for poetry in their lives again. You can read one between stations on the Northern Line. It fits well into the modern experience.” The East Anglian Daily Times reported, “National Poetry Day was the cue for a stanza bonanza, with railway stations, classrooms, theatres and supermarkets bursting with verse and echoing to epics”.

The Polish Rider by Rembrandt