Saturday, May 27, 2006

Paul Merton's Silent Clowns

Smile, damn you. Come on, Buster. Cheer up, it might never happen. Just a little smile. No? OK. Bloody sod you, then.

I don't want to go through all this again. Why I don't like physical comedy. But seeing Paul Merton's audience in his lecture about Old Stoneface I think I understand myself a bit better.

I don't like laughing with other people. I can sit in front of Curb Your Enthusiasm, just me and my good lady wife on the settee, and I'll have tears of laughter rolling down my face. But that's between me and Larry David.

The people in the audience watching Keaton are different. They are getting off on other people's laughter. Show me a Keaton film in the comfort of my living room and I couldn't tell you where you're supposed to laugh. Impressed by the stunts, yes, but laugh?

But when there's an audience they all seem to pick up where to laugh almost immediately. I don't know if Merton initiated the laughter himself but...

It reminds me of Billy Bragg when he's talking to an audience about some old folkie or other. He keeps his audience rapt with his witty Essex repartee. They laugh in the right places, too.

At one point Merton asks his audience to imagine how the following excerpt of Buster's film could be improved by dialogue. The excerpt shows Buster running down a hill, seemingly out of control, being chased by rocks.

The dialogue could go like this...

FIRST ROCK: Let's get the bastard.

SECOND ROCK: Stone face, my arse. He only looks like that so he can get the women.

FIRST ROCK: I bet he's had his fair share, too.

THIRD ROCK: Course he has. And do you think he would've if he'd looked like us?

SECOND ROCK: Oi, Keaton! How'd you like a real stone face?


  1. I've always thought the same. I quite like Keaton now but only because he was a proto-miserablist, and I like L&H - but Chaplin and the rest of them you can keep, I'd rather watch Scary Movie 7. However, I do like looking at the nice Californian orange groves in the background, they're nice.

  2. It'll be interesting to see the Laurel & Hardy programme. I quite like their talkies but do I like them being silent?

    The Harold Lloyd one will just give me vertigo.

  3. When I was young my father bought a Super 8 projector and once a week we'd watch classic movies with the likes of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. It was great fun!