Blog : Posts tagged with 'unfunny'

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A break with tradition

In which we review something *after* watching it, for a change


After posting this and that recently, I thought it might be time for a break with tradition, and actually watch something before getting opinionated about it. So, we sat down last night and watched an episode of the BBC3 series Horne & Corden. Which, admittedly, I’ve already been opinionated about. But it’s a start.

Possibly we were already slightly biased, by our reaction to the Lesbian Vampire Killers publicity, and to the show’s trailers. But, I can honestly say, we didn’t laugh. Not at all. Not once. None of the sketches in the show seemed at all funny. Mathew Horne is a good actor, granted, but good acting isn’t enough.

Many writers have said, over the years, that good short writing is harder than good long writing. Most famously, there is Pascal‘s quote: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” It’s frequently referred to, though; I remember the Anglo-Australian novelist* Nevil Shute saying, in his autobiography, that the reason he was a failed poet was: because of its length, there is no room in a poem for mistake.** And, structurally, a poem is to a novel what a sketch is to a sitcom. In a sitcom, although it’s not ideal, you can cope with a weak scene in each episode, or a weak line in each scene. In a sketch, you don’t have enough room for any weak lines. Like a poem, though, it all has to make sense, despite having very little space for setup and explanation.

Too much of Horne & Corden felt like private jokes; too little of it was funny to an outsider. Sometimes I thought: I can see what they’re trying to do here, but that’s not funny. Sometimes, they had a setup, but nowhere to take it: “wouldn’t it be really funny if we did synchronised swimming! And we weren’t very good!” Sometimes, I couldn’t see where the joke was meant to be at all. We won’t be watching it again. At least now, though, I can criticise them with a clear conscience.

* and aeronautical engineer. I have a vague memory, which may be wrong, that his company designed the first retractable aeroplane undercarriage.

** Of course, he apparently never tried to write an epic poem

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Misogynistic Stereotype Killers

In which Mario Reading is quiet, so we criticise Horne & Corden instead


Quick update on yesterday’s post: as those of you with your own blogs will know, if you link from one blog to another, your blog will send a thing called a “pingback” or a “trackback” to the other one, and the owner of the other blog can choose to display it as a comment.

Yesterday I linked to the blog of Nostradamus-interpreter Mario Reading, when writing about his prediction that George W Bush would be assassinated in 2006, and his later claim that this prediction was right all along. Mario* saw the pingback, followed it back here, and (presumably) read my post about him. Unfortunately, he decided not to display the pingback on his blog, and so far hasn’t responded to what I pointed out: that his claim of correctness fundamentally contradicts the prediction he’s claiming is correct. I’m disappointed. Mario, if you’re reading,** if you want to respond to what I’ve said, then whatever you want to say, I promise I’ll publish it here. I won’t just delete it, like some people would. That’s a fair offer.

Moving on, comedy of a more intentional kind.*** We couldn’t avoid noticing posters around the place for the new British comedy film**** Lesbian Vampire Killers, starring Mathew Horne and James Corden; and, thinking: oh my holy pantheon. Someone would really produce a film with a premise like that? I mean, I’m not surprised someone – probably a 14-year-old boy – would write a film with a title like that, but, produce it? Agree to appear in it?

Well, fortunately, you don’t have to listen to me ramble on about how awful, ugly, and misogynistic we thought it sounded when we haven’t even seen it,***** because the excellent not-quite-worksafe blogger Bitchy Jones has written a similarly-kneejerk castigation of its low concepts. You only need to look at the URL of that to realise that she’s not-quite-worksafe; and she has done a far better critique of it than I’d manage. There are comments, too, from people who have actually seen it. If you also thought: “what, that’s a real film?” go and read.

Talking of Horne and Corden, I feel like I can’t get away from the buggers at the moment, because every time I switch the telly to the BBC, there’s a trail for their new sketch show; well, unless it’s BBC4. Being a sketch-show trail, it shows sketches. Sketches without jokes in. Their writing strategy seems to go something like this:

1: comedy set-up, relying on recognisable situation (eg. the movie “Ghost”
2: err …
3: … that’s it

No joke. No punchline. What’s the point of that, then? Is this some new zen-comedy, are there catchphrases that I haven’t noticed yet, were the trailers wrecked in the editing, or is it just lazy writing? Answers on a postcard, I guess. The trailers certainly don’t inspire me to watch it.

* or, whoever moderates his blog for him, if he doesn’t do it himself

** fighting my pun-instinct is really really hard here, you know

*** The blog title is about this bit, by the way, and completely unrelated to Mr. R.

**** words which, already, are not a promising start

***** See, at least Mario Reading gets criticised on the grounds that I’ve read his books and his blog and can spot the flaws in them, and not just on me thinking it sounds like it might be wrong.

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Another musical thought

In which I bemoan the work of Peter Kay


I know, before Christmas, I grumbled about how disinterested I am, this year, in the annual Christmas Number One single news. So disinterested, in fact, that I wrote two whole paragraphs in it. But, having had to listen to that annoying Peter Kay Christmas song too many times over Christmas,* I decided to write another.

There’s no copyright on ideas, as you probably know. Nor on concepts, however many people try to make money selling gameshow concepts to TV production houses. It’s hard, after all, to prove that you came up with an idea independently of someone else.** I wondered, myself, what the comedian and writer Tony Hawks thought when he first heard Peter Kay’s song. Twenty years ago, Hawks recorded the song “This Is The Chorus”, about ear-worms. This year, Kay gets to the top of the charts with, ooh, a song about ear-worms. Kay’s business sense, though – I hesitate to use “genius” – is to write a song about Christmas ear-worms. Who has a reason to listen to “This Is The Chorus” now, when it’s twenty years old? Nobody. Who has a reason to revive Peter Kay’s song?*** Any DJ whose Christmas tape is a bit short. Maybe it will make it into the canon, and keep coming back onto the air over and over again every year. I hope not.

* twice

** as Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz famously found out the hard way.

*** I’ve (thankfully) forgotten its name.

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Joke of the week (part one)

In which a classic joke turns out to be rather sad


“My dog’s got no nose”

“How does he smell?”

“He doesn’t. He sits around all day getting into a deeper and deeper cycle of depression, because he can’t smell anything, in one huge cloud of nose-related ennui. He never even comes out of his basket.”

“That’s quite sad, really.”

“Yeah, I don’t know why the title says it’s a joke.”

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A Big Splash (Or, Films I’ve Never Seen, Part One)

In which we wonder what the film-makers were thinking


Every time I’ve been to the cinema recently, I’ve had to sit through a trailer for newly-released film Evan Almighty. And it makes me slightly uneasy. Because – if you’re lucky enough to have managed to avoid the thing – it’s a lighthearted family comedy based on the story of Noah And The Flood, from Genesis. God comes down to Earth, visits an innocent politician, and tells him to build an ark because he’s decided to do the whole flood thing again.

Read that again. It’s a lighthearted family comedy, where God comes down to visit a politician, because (going on what happened last time) he wants to warn him that everyone else on the planet is going to be killed in the biggest natural disaster you can imagine. Did anyone even think at all about this film before it was made? Did they get beyond “comedy, sequel, some Bible story that everyone vaguely remembers”?* To my mind, the idea of writing a comedy about God breaking the only promise he ever made to the whole of mankind,** and apparently planning to kill everyone on earth apart from an American politician, is a little … well, perverse.***

I assume – not having seen the film – that not everyone (apart from the blessed family) gets killed at the end. Surely no Hollywood studio is going to release a big summer comedy where everyone on earth apart from a handful of people dies at the end? Drama, maybe, but not comedy. All in all, it sounds like a bit of a mess. Does God turn out to be nice in the end? Does he say: “Aw, I was only kidding. I just wanted you to learn how to be a better person.” How many people are killed by the flood that I did spot in the trailer? I really don’t want to find out.

* Although most people forget the bit at the end where Noah gets drunk, and one of his sons is forever cursed for seeing his drunken father’s tadger.

** Because it – the promise that “I’m not going to kill you all ever again” – was made before the Tower of Babel incident, when God scrambles everyone’s brains and makes possible the Tourist Phrasebook – so, as everyone was rather samey, there wasn’t any one Chosen People. And he never does kill everyone all together again – after that, he limits himself to smiting one city at a time.

*** And not in the good way

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Weekly news

In which we think some people are not entitled to keep their opinions to themselves


Time for a news roundup. Today in the news: Ellenor Bland, a Conservative councillor and parliamentary candidate has been caught forwarding an unfunny poem about illegal immigrants. She said it might have been her husband that did it, not her; but he’s also a Tory councillor, so it doesn’t really make much difference.

I don’t particularly care that some Conservatives might enjoy racist jokes – it’s hardly recent news, after all. I’m more worried that they have such a poor sense of humour. The “poem” has been going around for some time now – several of my colleagues were circulating the email a few weeks back – so it’s hardly news either. The worst thing is what she said to attack the rival politicans who broke the story:

[S]he claimed that the leak was “an infringement of my life”, adding: “I’m finding this all rather tiresome.”

I’m sorry? You want to be a politician, don’t you? If you want to be a politician, even a local councillor, you have to expect people to want to know what your opinions are.* If you do something that seems to demonstrate you have an opinion on a political topic, you can hardly complain when people want to talk to you about it. You can’t pick and choose which opinions you want to discuss.

In other news: someone has been searching the web recently for: “symbolic forest pressure group”. Which is clearly a sign that I should set up a pressure group of my own; I’m just not entirely sure what I want to campaign for (or against). Suggestions, please! Maybe I should campaign for more single-issue campaigns.

* even though, like most politicans, you may well end up straining as hard as you can to prevent people finding them out.

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