As you will no doubt have heard, yesterday we learnt the news that we had lost a singular comedy genius and very dear festival friend, Barry Cryer.
We first met Barry in 2009 when he came to Bristol with Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and the Clue team to raise money for the festival with an ISIHAC show at Bristol Hippodrome. Right from the start, Baz was a delight. Year after year, he joined us for our annual celebration of classic comedy in Bristol, bringing with him his trademark charm, generosity, passion for new comedy and extensive knowledge of parrot jokes!
Over the last thirteen years, Baz performed in at least 14 events at Slapstick, most notably when he received the coveted Aardman Slapstick Comedy Legend Award in 2015. Some of the other shows he helped create with us included celebrations of Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Cooper and Kenny Everett, for whom he wrote. He also performed a few times at Slapstick with his musical comedy teammates: Colin Sell and Ronnie Golden.
Barry was a friend, a patron and, without a shadow of a doubt, the godfather of comedy. Barry hasn’t left a hole in the fabric of light entertainment, he’s left a chasm that simply can’t be filled.
Our hearts go out to Barry’s wife Terry and his whole family at this difficult time.
We will continue to champion Barry’s incomparable legacy for years to come.
We know Barry would want the festival to go on despite this news, and so it will. We spent yesterday exchanging stories about Barry and telling each other some of his best jokes. If you have a fond recollection of Barry – or a favourite joke – we’d love to hear it.
RIP Barry Cryer. Born 23 March 1935; died 25 January 2022.
For years animation has been one of the most impressive and entertaining disciplines in cinema. Developing from simple flip books to modern CGI graphics it continues to dazzle and develop year after year. Of Course the technicality of it is incredibly impressive, but the thing that has kept animation at the forefront of film for so many years is its universal humour and unique blend of surrealism and hyperrealism. Animated films were designed to bring joy to everyone, it’s done just that since its inception and it continues to do so.
Moving images and animation go back thousands of years, from puppeteering and shadow plays all the way up to the first genuine animated film, made using the ‘Théâtre Optique’. A device created by Charles-Émile Reynaud, the Théâtre Optique, allowed transparent paintings to be projected over a background, and shown in a way that emulated movement, It was first used in 1892 to screen a series of animated short films, heralding the beginning of a century of developments in animation.
Using the Théâtre Optique, drawings came to life and became more fluid through rotoscoping. They also eventually appeared in colour, thanks to the film tinting technique. This continued development would go on for years and years, to this day still animation techniques are getting more and more complex and intricate.
With all this constant development some films can get lost in the past, but one filmmaker’s innovation is still being used to draw constant inspiration. Wladyslaw Starewicz is the founder of modern stop motion animation, originally a professor of biology he was asked to create an educational film exploring how beatles would engage in a fight. But it appeared the beatles would not fight under the lighting required to film the event, angered by this Sterewicz took matters into his own hands and ended up creating the principles for what would be the basics of stop motion.
He would attach the separate limbs of the bugs to strings, occasionally replacing specific body parts with plastic, the result was these incredibly realistic and human-like movements. Sterewicz went on to create many more incredible films, all using beatles and other bugs but
telling incredibly human and emotional stories. The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912) tells a simple story of infidelity, a short tragic comedy made using stop motion bugs. The incredible attention to detail is what made this film the masterpiece it is, every minute movement is accounted for and the result is this magical piece of cinema. Stop motion animation would stay true to its originator, continuing to be an art form for absolute perfectionists whose obsession with precise details allows them to create some of the most jaw dropping films.
Think of Fantastic Mr Fox by Wes Anderson or the incredible Wallace and Gromit series by Aardman Animations.
Both Anderson and Aardman have noted that their inspiration came from Wladyslaw Starewicz. Indeed, if you were to watch Le Roman de Renard – roughly translated to The Story Of The Fox – you would see many similarities between it and Fantastic Mr Fox.
As we mentioned before, animation is an ever-adapting and changing art form. Contemporary examples of stop motion have become intertwined with CGI technology. But by no means has this changed the principles it was founded on. They are still about perfectionism and continue to tell incredibly human and emotional stories.
Aardman studios’ recent body of work showcases perfect examples of this. The Academy Award winning studio began as a project by two students, Peter Lord and David Sproxton, animation fanatics who made innovative strides in claymation.
Now a major film studio, Aardman uses thousands of talented artists in combination with CGI technology while still staying true to the art of stop motion and continuing to tell entertaining and beautifully charming stories.
At Slapstick, we have an incredibly close relationship with Aardman and appreciate the lengths they go to to keep such a timeless art form alive. We will be welcoming Peter Lord back to the festival this year to discuss some of the animations that inspired him and celebrate the unique blend of surrealism and visual comedy that animation does best.
The following is a review of The Real Charlie Chaplin, originally published for Silent London and reproduced here with the kind permission of the author Pamela Hutchinson.
THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN
It’s a bold, almost alarming title. At this distance, can it be possible to uncover The Real Charlie Chaplin? And if there is something hidden in the biography this most famous of filmmakers, one that can without trepidation be called an icon, might those of us who love his films really want to know?
Rest easy then, as this documentary by Peter Middleton and James Spinney (Notes on Blindness) has no disturbing revelations. That is, as long as you have already been reading those large gaps between the lines of his biography. Chaplin liked the company of young women – girls, in fact. He married teenagers. He sometimes (often?) treated them badly. It’s a been said before and it is stated again here without excuses or attacking the women such as Lita Grey who testified to his ill-treatment. This has been trumpeted in some quarters as a belated #MeToo reckoning for Chaplin. That would be very belated. In truth we have always known this, but some fans refuse to hear it.
We learn also that he was temperamental, even as a child, that he was prone to self-pity, and finally was a distant father. The last words in this documentary are given to his daughter Jane, who waited years to get to know her famous dad, and found herself finally alone with him when she had all but given up hope. Also to his final wife Oona, who wrote so much about their life together and then destroyed her own words before she died. Thus the films ends as poignantly as it had began, in Chaplin’s tough, deprived childhood, and his own cruel abandonment by his father. Such cycles are common, we understand. Chaplin was flawed. The films, mostly, are not.
Many devotees will flinch at even that, but The Real Charlie Chaplin is no hitpiece: it’s an elegant, and sympathetic introduction to the man’s work and life, narrated in soothing tones by actress Pearl Mackie. She played Bill Potts in Doctor Who, and she’s from south London, as are the two directors – which matters, just a little. The Chaplin story as they tell it is a diverting way to spend two hours. We follow his path from rags in London to riches in Hollywood to comfortable if perhaps bitter exile in Switzerland.
We see his brilliance and creativity in comedy, his sudden fame and prolonged success, as well as the grisly moment that a certain faction of the American establishment turned against him. His punishment was extreme, in proportion to his previous adulation, you might say, rather than his supposed political crime. His incriminating remarks on communism are quoted here, which are all in a direct line of thought from his cathartic early film comedy, described in this film succinctly as: “The Tramp not only stands up to the man, he gives him a kick up the arse for good measure.” Fellow traveller? Of the funniest kind.
However, it was the murky, messily unresolved case of Joan Barry, dredged up for political ends, that really did for him. The motives of his accusers were far from honourable and no one comes out of this episode with a clean slate.
Illustrating the tale, here are film clips, archive images and the occasional set of distressed mock intertitles. There are few dates and facts – it’s a story rather than a lecture – but there is a certain candour in its tone, despite the absence of shock revelations. As a primer on his career, it gives more the sense of the man and his art, rather than a full filmography. As such, it’s possibly to pick at the odd dropped stich: the voiceover states that Chaplin scored his films, before going on to describe him making The Kid. You could read that as ahistorical, or you could concede the broader point that eventually, musical composition was another string to his bow. A caption on screen refers to Minta Durfee but the voiceover calls her “someone” which tells you the knowledge level that the film is aimed at.
There is something new here, and it provides a dash of welcome cockney colour, if nothing else. A recently rediscovered interview conducted by Kevin Brownlow in the early 1980s with one Effie Wisdom, a neighbour and friend of Chaplin’s from his youth. In re-enactments, Wisdom is played by Anne Rosenfeld, and Brownlow is played by Dominic Marsh. Wisdom recalls in uncanny detail conversations from their childhood and from his return visit to London as an old man, as well as the thrill of seeing him perform on stage as a young boy, and his native accent: “Common, like me.”
If you’re looking for the real Charlie Chaplin, perhaps it’s Effie Wisdom’s young pal we need to think of, the boy who hadn’t had his elocution lessons yet.
The Real Charlie Chaplin will be screened on Saturday 29th January 2022 at the Watershed in Bristol.
The above article was originally written for Silent London (see https://silentlondon.co.uk/2021/10/14/london-film-festival-review-the-real-charlie-chaplin/) and is reproduced with permission of the author Pamela Hutchinson
Following a hugely successful pivot to online for the 2021 edition, Slapstick Festival is thrilled to announce that it will be returning to Bristol venues for its 18th edition in January 2022!
The five-day festival will run from Wednesday 26th to Sunday 30th January 2022.
Excitingly, around a third of the events will also be streamed online, making for our most accessible festival ever!
We can’t wait to share more information about Slapstick 2022 with you very soon!
Festival Director Chris Daniels says
“This is definitely shaping up to be our most exciting programme to date. Given that we’ve been away for almost two years and that so many people have been having such a terrible time living through this pandemic we really want to deliver something very special this year. Having Stephen (Mangan) onboard as the host of our flagship gala event too is wonderful, Steven is such a passionate admirer of Keaton and he absolutely loves silent comedy! What’s more is he’s a hugely talented comic actor and presenter, so he’s the perfect host for us..”
The first festival tickets, including the gala, will go on-sale in early October when the first events are announced.
With rare screenings of Czechoslovakian and Japanese silent comedies and the return of festival regulars Lucy Porter, Robin Ince and Bill Oddie this edition will delight and charm comedy fans of all ages.
Laughter In Lockdown #6 – Remembering the comedy genius of Victoria Wood
Laughter In Lockdown #6 – Remembering the comedy genius of Victoria Wood
On 20 April 2016, the world lost the extraordinarily talented and exceptionally funny comedian, actress, singer, composer, screenwriter, producer and director Victoria Wood.
As a regular guest at the festival (which included her triumphantly hosting our 2013 gala), we knew we had to celebrate her life at the following year’s festival.
So, in collaboration with Bristol Festival of Ideas and The University of Bristol, we convened a panel which included stand-up comedians Pippa Evans and Lucy Porter, along with comedy and theatre historian Louise Wingrove, to discuss her extraordinary legacy and influence. Needless to say, the show sold out in double-quick time.
The event was hosted by Andrew Kelly and is the latest Laughter In Lockdown release.
Laughter in Lockdown 5 – The Goodies 50th Anniversary LIVE with Robin Ince
Laughter in Lockdown 5 – The Goodies 50th Anniversary LIVE with Robin Ince
Back in January, The Goodies gathered together on a Slapstick stage for what ultimately proved to be the last time as a trio, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their groundbreaking TV series.
Hosted by Robin Ince, the show featured a discussion on the extraordinary legacy of their award-winning TV series (1970-82) as well as a countdown of the public’s favourite episodes from the show – as decided upon by an online poll run by the festival in the lead up to the event. This winning episode (no spoilers please if you were at the show!) was screened in full at the end of the evening.
As most of you will now know, we recently learned of the sad passing of Tim Brooke-Taylor OBE. Tim was on great form on the evening of this event, exuding his usual enthusiasm, passion, charm, energy and wit. We hope you’ll agree it serves as a fitting tribute to an undisputed comedy legend.
Those of you who are old enough, cast your minds back to the evening of the 8th of November 1970. What were you doing that night? Were you perhaps huddled round a (probably) black and white television screen eagerly anticipating the first episode of what was to become a hugely popular and groundbreaking comedy series called The Goodies? We like to think probably so!
The Goodies was ultimately so successful it ran to nine magnificent series, clocking up an impressive 77 episodes of anarchic, hilarious, innovative, disruptive, occasionally quite puzzling and always brilliant comedy in the process.
And on the occasion of the year of the 50th anniversary of The Goodies we’ve decided it’s time for you, fans of Slapstick and The Goodies, to definitively help us decide which is the greatest episode of all time!
To make this happy chore a little easier for you we’ve gone through all 77 episodes (a thankless task but someone had to do it!) with the help of The Goodies themselves and a few of our celebrity friends and have narrowed all the episodes down to what we think are the best ten.
When the results of our poll are in, the episode earning the most votes will be screened at Slapstick’s 50th Anniversary of The Goodies event in Bristol on January 25th, in the company of the dashing trio themselves; Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie.
“Sounds like a great idea, how do we vote?” you ask?
Well, it couldn’t be easier. All you need do is click this link and head to our official poll form. You then just scroll down the list of episodes, click on the one you feel deserves to be chosen as “The Greatest Goodies Episode Of All Time”, carry on down to the foot of the page and click “submit”. It’s as easy as that!
Silent Comedy Spectacular with Barry Humphries at the London Palladium
Step inside the iconic London Palladium to be enthralled and entertained by your all-time favourite big-screen comedy stars from yesteryear, accompanied by a live orchestra.
A trio of silent comedies from comedy giants Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy, will be presented by multi-award winning, critically acclaimed performer, writer and silent comedy aficionado, Barry Humphries.
Experience the thrill of Buster Keaton’s most famous – and most dangerous – stunt, the house fall, in the outstanding comedy masterpiece Steamboat Bill Junior (1927). Presented on a vast HD screen, the movie will be accompanied live by The Bristol Ensemble, who will perform the London premiere of a new score composed and conducted by maestro Carl Davis.
Plus you’ll have the chance to enjoy short comedies from Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin, all with outstanding live musical accompaniment.
Barry’s special guests include comedy legend and national treasure Barry Cryer with his partner in musical comedy crime Ronnie Golden, along with showbiz legend, the inimitable Bernie Clifton.
This promises to be a unique and hilarious night to remember.
“If you’ve a shred of a sense of humour – this‘ll be one of the high points of the year” – Sir Michael Palin.
Silent Comedy Spectacular with Barry Humphries at The London Palladium. Sunday, April 29th at 14:30 and 19:30. Tickets from £38.29 available HERE.
We have an amazing prize for one die-hard fan of The Goodies! Win VIP passes for The Complete Goodies at Bristol Old Vic on January 19th and meet Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie after the show.
Finally! The last, great unreleased DVD box set has seen the light of day. For the first time ever anywhere in the world every episode of THE GOODIES has been released for obsessive fans – young and old.
To celebrate, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie reunite on stage at Bristol Old Vic for a unique afternoon in conversation. Graeme, Tim and Bill will talk about their sparkling career in comedy and the enduring popularity of ‘The Goodies’ decades on. Prepare for delight and discovery as ardent fan Richard Herring rummages through his new box set for classic clips from one of the best loved TV comedies.
WIN A PAIR OF VIP TICKETS INCLUDING BACKSTAGE ACCESS!
We’re giving away an amazing prize to one die-hard fan of The Inbetweeners! Join us for a special double bill at Bristol Old Vic on January 19th, featuring actor Joe Thomas AKA Simon Cooper and the show’s creators Damon Beesley and Iain Morris. Fresh off the screen from Fwends Reunited – the show’s 10th anniversary special on Channel 4 – Joe, Damon and Iain will relive the show’s best moments and reflect on its enduring success.
This will be followed by a screening on The Inbetweeners Movie (2011) – which still holds the UK record for the biggest opening weekend of a comedy film – introduced by Joe, Damon and Iain.
To win a pair of VIP tickets for the whole evening, including backstage access, simply send us your email address below…