Monday, July 02, 2007

Comic Actors vs Comedians

There has been some blurring of the lines in recent years but the lines still stand.

A comedy actor is a different species to a comedian.

Just because someone presents a funny comic personality in a scripted tv show does not make him/her a comedian.

And by the same rule, a comedian does not necessarily maketh a comic actor.

I give two perfect examples.

Example #1 Ricky Gervais last night on the Concert for Saint Diana and the Orphans.
Ricky Gervais has gained much public notice on the strength of his appearances in the comedy tv programme "The Office", apparently, I can't confirm this as I could only ever watch five minutes of selected episodes, but putting my personal view to one side it is recognised that he can legitimately call himself a "Comic Actor" and also a "Comic Writer", apparently.

Last night on the Saint Diana function he demonstrated in the most toe-curling cringeworthy way why he is not a comedian having been instructed to do a two minute link before Dame Elton came on stage he set off with one prepared joke-type story about Prince Harry and then followed by singing a song with a sidekick from "The Office" which most of the audience found funny but which in fact had no funny lines in it at all, maybe that was the point, however it went over my head.

After his song he was ready to get off the stage but was told to stay on due to a "technical hitch", this would have been no problem whatsoever for a "Comedian" who would have been able to draw from his hours worth of stand-up material, you'd actually have had a problem getting a proper comedian off the stage.

Ricky Gervais took on the expression of a rabbit in a car headlight as he garbled and struggled to think of anything to say, reverting to shouting at audience members in the front row and eventually doing his infamous dance routine from "the Office" which was then revealed to only be a 20 second fillip - it was embarrassing, not funny at all and he probably won't sleep for months now just thinking of the three minutes of hell in front of a worldwide audience.

Example #2 Paul Shane in Hi-de-Hi
Paul Shane was one of the best stand-up comedians on the northern club circuit in the 1970's, when you went to watch a Paul Shane stand-up routine you knew you were in for a night of belly-laughs and jaw-aching, eyes streaming hilarity, he'd done it for decades and had hours worth of material and if a concert secretary would let him he'd be on stage all night without faltering - the epitome of a stand-up comedian.

Our dad can stake a claim to getting Paul Shane on national tv, something that has cast great shame on our family since. Our dad was a concert secretary, that is he booked acts for his local club and he booked Paul Shane on several occasions and got to know him quite well, supplying him with suit lengths (suit lengths are another story).

Our dad worked for a national company at the time and in or around 1979 one of his bosses from the head office mentioned that he worked for the Burma Star Association, a national charity dedicated to old soldiers who had suffered during the far east campaign of WWII, the Burma Star Association had a huge fund raiser at the Royal Albert Hall every year and our dads boss needed to book a comedian for a five miniute slot towards the end of the show - our dad recommended Paul Shane, gave him his phone number, Paul Shane got the gig.

The fundraiser was a BBC function and was full of the usual tosh that the BBC thought would pass for light entertainment, a line-up of the usual under-contract dancers, magicians, harmless singers and as anchorman, Cardew Robinson, an alleged old time comedian who had shaken all the right hands at the BBC and was a shoe-in for all of their poor efforts at "light entertainment", Cardew the Cad was his act, he'd only been doing the same routine for forty years since before tv was invented, he was safe, didn't swear in front of royalty is the best that can be said for him.

The plan was for Paul Shane to do five minutes of stand-up and then hand over to Cardew the Cad who would take the applause, do his age-old routine then wrap up the show, it was strictly timed as it was to be televised and the Queen was in attendance and didn't like getting home too late as she'd miss cocoa.

Paul Shane did 30 minutes and had to be dragged off the stage with a big hook on a stick, Cardew only had time to say goodnight and was livid - Paul Shane told our dad that he'd screwed up big time and upset a lot of BBC people backstage as the Queen missed cocoa that night, but in fact had made a big impact with the audience and with certain BBC producers who booked him to play Ted Bovis the old northern comedian in their new tv series "Hi-de-Hi".

It was obvious from the very first episode that Paul Shane's acting abilities lay on a par with either of Bill or Ben, the Flowerpot Men, he could not act to save his life, would not, will not ever be a comic actor while so ever he has a hole in his arse - brilliant stand-up, no-mark actor.

Theres a big difference.


Dan said...

I didn't see the concert (couldn't stomach it) but heard about Ricky's failures.

I don't mind him really. He has a very irritating laugh but that's not ultimately his fault - we get the laugh we're given. But I find it odd that he wasn't able to drudge up some material - after all i think he has had two very successful stand up tours behind him.

Apparently Frankie Howard used to have to have everything extremely tightly scripted, down to the last "no stop it". He couldn't deviate at all.

Of course that information is gathered from my Dad who met him once in a bar, and so perhaps is slightly unreliable.

Gary said...

He'd have been ok if he'd known beforehand that he might have to fill in but it was obvious he'd only come prepared for three minutes, not seven.

It really was awful !