Friday 24 April 2015

Comedy Cuts

I wasn't back home quite as late as expected from the KOKO and the Bonzo's gig last Friday, but it was still pretty late, especially considering I had to be up for conducting our local orchestra first thing in the morning. The lack of sleep did not, to quote Wooster, make me exactly disgruntled in the morning but I was far from gruntled.  Worth it, though.

I described the venue in my last blog and I can add a little to this now. When you enter through the foyer of the KOKO, you find yourself not in the theatre pit but straight onto the upper balcony, a disorienting experience. In other words the stage is buried well below ground level. It's a proper 'Muppet' theatre with its rows of ornate boxes adorning the walls layered right up into the gods. The Bonzos were accompanied by their own version of Statler and Waldorf. At this gig the odd couple of disagreeable old men were more akin to a tribute act for the surrealist duo Gilbert and George, making their weird artistic comedy contributions throughout the show.

There is a long line of comedy acts leading to the Bonzos beginning in the days of old-time music hall and threading its way through to the Temperance Seven, the New Vaudeville Band and on to the Beatles pastiche band, the Rutles, created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes in the 1970s, who were supporting.

While driving home afterwards and reflecting on the great show I'd witnessed, I was reminded of a couple of acts whose memory is worth resurrecting. The first of these is Spike Jones (1911-1965) whose band of musicians were, like the Bonzos, highly skilled, unruly and rebellious but, perhaps unlike the Bonzos, were rehearsed down to the finest detail of comedy timing, the whole show being well supported by the USA TV networks. Spike's madcap musical comedy is well worth taking on board and you won't have heard Tchaikovsky like this before.

The other comic musician was a household celebrity still remembered by many but who may now not recall the reason for recognising his name. The Danish Victor Borge (1909-2000) achieved widespread fame in the USA and Europe as a classical pianist who single-handed took the pomposity and elitism of classical music and reduced it to tatters. Musical skill and comedy timing are used by Victor Borge as the blade that slashes at the classical bubble and boy does it let rip. He clearly provided inspiration for Morecambe and Wise's musical sketches, including the one with Andre Preview, and made his own notorious appearance on the infamous Muppet Show. But then which celebrity of any note didn't.