Thursday, 25 April 2013

Squash match

I recently came across this Two Ronnies sketch which raised a smile. It's the kind of faintly surreal comedy I like, although I was never a fan.

The Two Ronnies was a British sketch show which aired on BBC1 from 1971 to 1987. It featured the double act of Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, the "Two Ronnies" of the title.

It also occurred to me that the same sketch could easily have been performed by Monty Python. I see John Cleese in Ronnie Barker's role and maybe Michael Palin in Ronnie Corbett's. Same sketch, different style. 

I'm sure it would have worked, yet the Two Ronnies were seen as solidly traditional while Monty Python supposedly transformed British comedy. 

The television series, broadcast by the BBC from 1969 to 1974, was conceived, written and performed by members Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Loosely structured as a sketch show, but with an innovative stream-of-consciousness approach (aided by Gilliam's animation), it pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in style and content.

In the seventies I was a Python fan - I found it hilarious at the time, although these days I don't think it has worn well at all. On the other hand, the Two Ronnies is still what it always was, never having pretended to push any boundaries. 

With hindsight, I've rather set aside my allegiance to Python, now seeing it as a little pretentious, often silly, but mildly imaginative in a somewhat juvenile way.

So what did Python offer young people to make it so popular? Maybe a kind of faux radicalism without the need to be radical. Maybe it was simply that infantile love of silliness many of us never quite manage to outgrow. Yet the Two Ronnies also offered silliness - as the squash sketch shows.


Sackerson said...

Terry Gilliam's artwork, plus the idea of connecting the sketches, sometimes in surreal ways.

James Higham said...

In many ways it's not worn well and that's as much down to the recording values from those days as to them per se, although I watch it these days and much of it, e.g. Gilliam, goes by.

Yet the sheer surrealism in some of those sketches stands for all time and when one thinks when it came out ...

Woodsy42 said...

Python worked because it was a quite different and irreverent approach to televised humour.
Even at the time some sketches fell flat, some have by now been overtaken by events so lost their context. Yet others are still just as apt and just as funny (or scary)40 years on.
Random memories. Twit of the year is still funny. But that programme where every sketch included a phone call where ID was accompanied by a request for shoe size, that was positively Orwellian.

Demetrius said...

These days it seems difficult to find much "comedy" that you can laugh at. For me Python has not worn well perhaps because reality has come to close to it. With the Two Ronnies this now seems more surreal than it did at the time.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - I enjoyed some bits, but found much of it a little humourless.

James - these days I think I tried too hard to approve of it.

Demetrius - that was my reaction. I thought it rather good.

A K Haart said...

Woodsy - for some reason your comment ended up in spam, which I rarely check.

Yes, some sketches still work, but much of it doesn't and in some cases never did - at least for me.