Our Dear Friend Barry Cryer

2013 Barry Cryer 2 1

Hello everyone,

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.

Chris Daniels,

Slapstick Director

Stop Motion Animation – A Timeless Art Form

Stop Motion Animation – A Timeless Art Form

aardman animation wallace gromit 1

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.

wladyslaw starewicz stop motion

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.

Wallace and Gromit

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.

Best of The Best – Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd

Best of The Best – Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd

Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin. All three began their careers more than a century ago, yet all still maintain their places as the greatest names in on screen comedy. Their films are still constantly discovered by new generations of lucky audiences who can now see them with worthy musical accompaniment – in Chaplin’s case, of his own composition.

What was special about these three was that they were not only the stars, but conceived, wrote and for all practical purposes, directed their own films. They were the total creators. Needless to say, they performed all their own stunts, however perilous: there could be no doubles for such personalities. 

For Slapstick 2022 we have chosen each one’s last or penultimate silent film. Talking pictures had arrived, with The Jazz Singer (1927), but our stars did not rush to adopt sound, and Chaplin, though he was to make use of musical sound-tracks, did not speak on screen until 1940. 

The Camera Man

Keaton’s marvellous The Cameraman (1928) was the first film he made after giving up his own studio to move to MGM – a sacrifice of independence which he rightly came to regard
as the worst mistake of his life. His budget was assured, but he was an employee, subject to the producer’s final word and whim. He was no longer permitted to risk doing his own stunts – and no-one else could do them.

Perhaps the producers had not yet learned to exert their full control when he made his first MGM film The Cameraman (1928). Despite the studio, The Cameraman (1928) still has the qualities of Keaton’s great silent films: his uniquely expressive physical comedy that belies the “stone face”, in the service of a gripping narrative.

The film was Keaton’s penultimate silent movie, as was Harold Lloyd’s spectacular The Kid Brother (1927). Lloyd, like Chaplin, retained his creative autonomy and was one of the comparatively few actors to make a triumphant transition to sound films.

Lloyd, sporting his indispensable lens-less horn-rimmed spectacles, plays Harold Hickory, a hick from Hickoryville, who plays the substitute housewife in a family of overly manly men. He has a chance to prove his worth and clear his family name when a group of con artists menace town.

It is an ingenious blend of slapstick, horror, romance and inventive gags. It was one of Lloyd’s own favourites and one of most impressive monuments of silent comedy 

Upon release, it was a smash hit, both at the box office and among critics. Made at the apex of Lloyd’s career – and of silent film – it is undoubtedly one of the most impressive pieces of silent comedy.

The Kid Brother
4 Chaplin The Circus 1928

It is as common for filmmakers to have a favourite as to have a film they try to forget.

In Chapin’s case the making of The Circus (1928) proved the worst year of his working life. The trouble was not the film but the circumstances surrounding its production.

Throughout the year he was battling a merciless divorce case brought by his wife Lita Grey. Her lawyers fought – and sometimes succeeded – to take possession of Chapin’s assets, including the studio and the negatives, which the crew was always having to secrete or smuggle elsewhere. This was only the start.

The shooting began with the difficult tightrope scenes for which Chaplin and the film’s romantic lead Harry Crocker, had been tirelessly rehearsing. The scenes were successfully shot – but the lab fouled up all the negatives.

Then the set was destroyed by a fire. Because of delays, when they went back to reshoot location scenes, they found the places had been transformed by Hollywood’s rapid development.

Finally, with relief, they set up the film’s final scene in a remote location, where the whole horse-drawn circus train goes off into the distance, leaving Chaplin deserted and alone. All was ready, but when they returned in the morning, everything had disappeared, stolen by mischievous students.

Incredibly the film was finished – to become one of Chaplin’s finest and most faultless silent comedies, with scenes of incredible virtuosity like the hall of mirrors or the climactic scene where Chaplin, balancing on the high wire, is assaulted and de-trousered by a gang of monkeys. It received a special award at the very first Oscar ceremony (nothing like today’s spectacle – just a banquet in the Roosevelt Hotel). But for Chaplin it would always evoke memories of that tormented year.

Forty years later, in 1968, Chaplin finally felt able to return to the film, to release it with his own accompanying score, and a title song, ”Swing Little Girl”, for which a top pop singer of the moment, Matt Monro was contracted. However, Chaplin’s musical arranger Eric James however decided that the 81-year-old Chapin performed it better, so it is his voice we hear over the titles of The Circus.

These three great films all have one notable cast member – a monkey, who saves the day for Keaton, leads the de-bagging of Chaplin, and helps Lloyd sail. This unique simian star is Josephine, whose showcasing career in major films extended from these three films and Street Angel (1928) all the way to Arabian Nights (1942).

But Josephine is not the only thing these films have in common. They represent the finest work of the three great comedy legends of cinema, and they mark the climactic end of the silent era. They also happen to ALL be featured at the 18th edition of Slapstick Festival. Be sure to seize this opportunity.

The Camera Man Monkey

Laughter in Lockdown 2 – John Cleese, Rory Bremner and Friends hosted by Tim Vine

Laughter in Lockdown 2 – John Cleese, Rory Bremner and Friends hosted by Tim Vine

John-Cleese-Fundraiser-03-2016

Laughter in Lockdown 2 – John Cleese, Rory Bremner and Friends hosted by Tim Vine

For our second Laughter in Lockdown stream (see details about Laughter in Lockdown 1 here), we’ve selected a comedy fundraiser from Autumn of 2016 which at the time we styled “A Slap Up Feast Of Fun: A Evening Of Music And Laughter”

Headlined by none other than comedy icon, writer, actor and Python John Cleese, the evening also featured a set by Rory Bremner, who had lots of material to play with bearing in mind Autumn 2016 was just months before Donald Trump was elected president of the US.  As such, this event not only provides lots of laughs but also a fascinating snapshot of an important period in history seen through the eyes of one of the world’s leading impressionists.

The wonderful Monty Python collaborator Neil Innes, who is mainly known for his work in the Rutles and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, opened the show with some quintessentially and intrinsically witty songs. The “music and comedy” theme was further enhanced with a set by the inimitable Ronnie Golden and Aardman Slapstick Comedy Legend and ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’ star Barry Cryer, who also might just have slipped a parrot joke or two into the proceedings buy inderal tablets (spoiler: he totally did).

Compering the evening was that king of the one-liners Tim Vine, brilliantly providing the glue that held all the other sets together.

In their review of the evening Bristol 24/7 wrote:

“All the performers are such national treasures that there was a very British family feel and innocence to the show that modern comedy somehow doesn’t evoke.”

…and concluded…

“It really was a gem of a line-up.”

 We hope you enjoy this rare chance to watch a once in a life time line up.


N.B. These recordings were made for archive purposes and as such are not recorded in ‘broadcast quality’. Where the odd word is hard to hear or the artist can’t be seen as they’re side stage, please remember that these films were never meant to be seen in public and this is a rare chance to glimpse these films thanks to the generosity of the artists involved allowing us to view them. Enjoy!

We’re releasing one video a week for the duration of lockdown – or for as long as we have events available. They will be going live on YouTube first so please subscribe to our channel over there via the button below.

Laughter In Lockdown – Slapstick To Release One-Off Gems From Its Archives

Laughter In Lockdown – Slapstick To Release One-Off Gems From Its Archives

Eric Sykes Graeme Garden and Morph

Laughter In Lockdown – Slapstick To Release One-Off Gems From Its Archives

In recognition of the unique circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment with the ongoing C-19 pandemic, Slapstick have taken the decision to try to make a small difference in the only way we know how – by bringing some laughter into your lives. To this end, from Thursday this week we’ll be sharing previously unreleased footage captured during a selection of the unique events we’ve staged over the past decade featuring, one show every week.

The LAUGHTER IN LOCKDOWN roll-out will start at 10am on Thursday 9 April with film from what is believed to be the last on-stage ‘in conversation’ by Eric Sykes CBE, a comedy writer and radio, film, TV and stage performer who worked with a Who’s Who of stars during his 50 years plus career.

In it, Eric Sykes is interviewed by Slapstick board member, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue panellist and one third of The Goodies, Graeme Garden who recalls:

“Eric Sykes was a comedy hero to me. He ploughed an idiosyncratic furrow between mainline comedy and the anarchy of his chums in the Goon Show. For much of his career he was profoundly deaf and relied on a hearing aid mounted in the frames of the heavy spectacles he wore. Later his vision failed as well, but that didn’t seem to blunt his enthusiasm or his energy. What I admired, apart from his distinctive delivery and physical https://cheapnolvadexpct.com/generic-nolvadex/ funniness, was his inventiveness and sense of mischief. And the mischief was still very much in evidence when I had the pleasure and honour of interviewing him in 2009.”

Other shows we have lined up for sharing include Harry Hill talking about his favourite comedy moments; highlights from when Sir Ken Dodd and French & Saunders received their Aardman/Slapstick Comedy Legend awards; a stand-up comedy set from John Cleese and the first stage reunion in decades of Little & Large, the double act best described as the Ant & Dec of their day and whose reminiscences now seem even more bittersweet following the death this month of Eddie Large (Hugh McGinnis).

Slapstick director Chris Daniels says:

“Like so many organisations, we’ve had to cancel a number of planned events because of Covid-19 risks, including some vital fund-raisers. But we have an archive full of funny and fascinating events staged at past festivals – all of them unique, never-to-be-repeated, one-offs shot as they happened. We’ve never released any of them before but now seems a good time to do it. Hopefully, it will give viewers some much-needed laughter in lockdown and remind them that Slapstick will be back with yet more special events just as soon as it is possible.”

Details of the first event will appear on our home page on Thursday. They will be going live on YouTube at the same time so please subscribe to our channel over there.

Gold Rush Competition

GOLDRUSH COMPETITION

Want to win two VIP tickets to our Silent Comedy Gala screening of Charlie’s Chaplin’s The Gold Rush?

One of cinema’s most iconic scenes is the bread roll dance from The Gold Rush! We would love to see your modern reinterpretations of this comic gem. To win two VIP tickets to The Gold Rush, simply upload a short video of your best bread roll dance to YouTube and then send us the link!

Please use the following hashtags in your description: #CharlieChaplin #TheGoldRush #BreadRollDance

We will have a small panel of judges who will choose the best and most creative video as the winner!

Email us the link to your video with the subject line “Bread Roll Dance” here: slapstickfest@gmail.com.

The lucky winner will receive two VIP tickets to The Gold Rush at The Forum in Bath on the 20th of June, 2020.

Entrants must be 18 and over and live in the UK and must be able to attend the screening. Accommodation and travel are not provided. Tickets to be collected by the winner in person from the venue on the night of the event.

The prize is for tickets to the screening only and there is no cash equivalent.

Entries will also be used by Slapstick Festival to help promote the event.

Entries must be received by the 10th of March and the winner will be notified by email on the 17th of March.

Competition! Win A copy of The Goodies: The Complete BBC Collection

Goodies fans will be thrilled to hear that the long wait is finally over as The Goodies: The Complete BBC Collection has, at last, been released!!! We have full details about this quite magnificent artefact below – plus a chance for two lucky people to win a copy of it!

The low down:

“The DVD set contains all the episodes (69, many of which haven’t appeared on DVD before!) that Tim, Bill and Graeme made for the BBC – from a giant white fluffy kitten called Twinkle to a slippery climb up a giant beanstalk, from the ancient Lancastrian art of Ecky Thump to fighting a ban on fun instigated by an all-too-real puppet government, this is television comedy at its undeniable best!”

The DVD will also feature the absolute bonus of “An Audience with The Goodies”. Recorded in June 2018, this one-night-only event saw Tim, Graeme and Bill reunited on stage to discuss their career and the enduring popularity of the series and to welcome questions from their most devoted fans.

The DVD is already on sale and should you fail to be lucky enough to win a copy in our competition (see below) you can purchase one via this handy link – then bring it along to our Goodies event during Slapstick 2019 to get it signed if you wish!

So – to be in with a chance to win a copy of The Goodies: The Complete BBC Collection simply email us on slapstickfest@gmail.com with the subject line “The Goodies Competition” and we’ll get back to the lucky winners some time after the 14th November 2018, the closing date for the competition.

Good luck everyone!

Oh, and of course it would be remiss of us not to mention that all three Goodies will be appearing at Slapstick 2019 – find out more details about that and all the other events programmed for Slapstick weekend at Bristol Old Vic’s website!

Slapstick 2018 – In Photos

Slapstick Festival 2018

Slapstick ’18 – In Photos

Here are a selection of photos from the 14th edition of Slapstick Festival which we reproduce here with thanks to our brilliant team of photographers, Paul Lippiatt, David Betteridge and Dave Nelson. Check out more of their work on their websites, which can be found here (for Paul), here (for David) and here (for Dave).

More photos are already on our social media channels and we’ll no doubt be adding even more over the coming days so please keep a lookout for them. We are on Facebook as SlapstickFestival, and on both Twitter and Instagram as @SlapstickFest.

A Dogs Life © David Betteridge
A Dogs Life © David Betteridge
Tim Vine © David Betteridge
Tim Vine © David Betteridge
slapstickgala 2018 6456 preview
slapstickgala 2018 6456 preview
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 1 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 1 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 2 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 2 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 3 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 3 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack © David Betteridge
Lee Mack © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Robert Ross Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Robert Ross Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants 2 © David Betteridge 1024x683 1
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants 2 © David Betteridge 1024×683 1
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants © David Betteridge
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants © David Betteridge
Ade Edminson Nigel Planer © Paul Lippiatt 1024x682 1
Ade Edminson Nigel Planer © Paul Lippiatt 1024×682 1
Jo Brand © Paul Lippiatt 681x1024 1
Jo Brand © Paul Lippiatt 681×1024 1
Jo Brand 2 © Paul Lippiatt 1024x682 1
Jo Brand 2 © Paul Lippiatt 1024×682 1
Sunday Roland © Rivron Paul Lippiatt 1024x682 1
Sunday Roland © Rivron Paul Lippiatt 1024×682 1
Kevin Brownlow David Robinson © David Nelson 1024x830 1
Kevin Brownlow David Robinson © David Nelson 1024×830 1
David Robinson Chris Daniels © David Nelson 1024x704 1
David Robinson Chris Daniels © David Nelson 1024×704 1

Three Ages Program Notes

Three Ages 1 300x240 1
Three Ages

THREE AGES (1923)

Directed by Buster Keaton

USA 63 mins U

Three Ages is the first feature-length film that Buster Keaton wrote, directed, produced and starred. The film contains three different stories set in three different time periods of human history: the Stone Age, ancient Rome, and modern times (the Jazz Age). The film was shot in this manner as a kind of insurance for the studio. If it failed, the film could easily be broken up into individual shorts.  The film also works as a satire of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), which was a film that told four different stories over the span of 2,500 years. Three Ages was made in 1923, and starred Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy, and Wallace Beery.

The three time periods that are depicted in the film have characters portrayed by the same actors. In the Stone Age, Keaton is a caveman who competes in a show of strength with another bigger, brawnier caveman (Wallace Beery) for the attentions of a cavewoman (Margaret Beery). In Ancient Rome, Keaton is shown in a rivalry to gain the affections of a Roman noblewoman. Keaton participates in a chariot race and is thrown into a lion’s den. In the modern age (Jazz Age), Leahy is to marry another man, but Keaton discovers that he has been charged with forgery and bigamy.

Three Ages was the first feature-length film where Keaton wore so many hats, but Buster Keaton’s first starring role in a feature-length film was in The Saphead (1920). He was recommended for the role in The Saphead by Douglas Fairbanks. Fairbanks had played the role onstage but had other commitments and, as the film was to have a more comedic slant, put Keaton’s name forward for the role.

This was the only film that Margaret Leahy made. She was discovered in a beauty pageant in England that was seeking new film stars. The stars were then flown out to Hollywood to make a film. Her first attempt was not a success and she was dropped from the film. She ended up making Three Ages, but never acted again after this film. Instead of moving back to England, Leahy chose to remain in California.

Wallace Beery was at one point the world’s highest paid actor. He started out in silent films at the Essanay Studios portraying a Swedish maid in drag named Sweedie. Beery made several of these films including one with his wife, Gloria Swanson. His most notable silent films include: The Lost World (1925), Robin Hood (with Douglas Fairbanks – 1922), The Last of the Mohicans (1920), and Beggars of Life (with Louise Brooks – 1928). He was fired from the studio with the advent of sound, but was contracted by Irving Thalberg to MGM as a character actor. Beery was nominated twice for the Best Actor Academy Award, winning one of them.

Introduction by Peter Lord. Piano accompaniment by Daan van den Hurk.