20th Slapstick Festival


Drum roll please as we unveil the exciting and star-studded programme for Slapstick 2024, including the long-awaited return of our cherished Gala to the venue where it all began, now renamed Bristol Beacon and looking and sounding truly glorious after its extensive refit.

As you flick through this festival guide you will find information on the 30+ unique comedy events we will be sharing during the five days from Wednesday 14 to Sunday 18 February in the company of such famous guests as Samira Ahmed, Hugh Bonneville, Marcus Brigstocke, Terry Gilliam, Harry Hill, Robert Lindsay, Sylvester McCoy, Lucy Porter, Tim Vine and Adam Hills (to name just some).

As ever, the line-up is a mix of silent comedy classics and rarities accompanied always by world-class musicians; nostalgic revivals; honours for modern day artists keeping the slapstick spirit alive; fresh looks at beloved stars of the past and not one, not two, but three regional premieres.

Celebrating Comedy Horror

In a festival first, Slapstick 2024 will feature a Comedy Horror strand, starting with the seminal and much parodied 1927 spine-tingler classic THE CAT AND THE CANARY, hosted by Alasdair Beckett-King and Robin Ince. Events in this strand are flagged throughout this brochure with a special logo and include Tim Vine introducing his film FEARMOTH, a live from New York Spooktacular with Steve Massa and Ben Model, a ‘relaxed screening’ of ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, and Brian da Palma’s rock opera parody PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE.

Leading Women On and Off-Screen

Another strand provides a triple bill of films from 1926 starring women, with Slapstick favourite Lucy Porter introducing two of them. And women take key roles elsewhere in the programme with Samira Ahmed urging a reappraisal of the insights and social impact of THE GOODIES; a Gala cameo by Cheryl Knight as Joyce Grenfell , Christina Newland revealing the real cost of early stunt work in the days before health and safety and Polly Rose highlighting Buster Keaton’s talkie talents and interviewing the author of a new book which puts Keaton’s life and work in new context.

Salutes to the greats

Chaplin, Keaton and Laurel & Hardy feature strongly, of course, including in a new film all about Stan and Laurel’s 1952 visit to Ireland. But today’s comic geniuses will not be overlooked. See inside for details of a day of events at Bristol Old Vic celebrating the work of Robert Lindsay, and Terry Gilliam.

In short, this line-up offers something for everyone who enjoys, or needs, more magic, mischief, and mirth in their lives and we do hope you will join us.

Due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts the GBH event is being postponed. Sign up for details of the new date here – link to newsletter page

Chris Daniels, Director, Slapstick Festival

Gala Chris Daniels All Photos © David Betteridge Photography 1 uai 516x772 2

Join the team: Personal/Executive Assistant

Join the team: Personal/Executive Assistant

Slapstick Festival, a renowned celebration of silent, visual, and classic film comedy, is seeking a passionate and organised individual to fill the crucial role of Personal/Executive Assistant to the Director. This exciting opportunity offers a unique glimpse into the dynamic world of film festivals and entertainment, all while contributing to the preservation of timeless cinematic treasures.

Step into the Heart of Bristol’s Vibrant Arts Scene

As a Personal/Executive Assistant, you’ll play a pivotal role in supporting the Director’s vision for Slapstick Festival. Your responsibilities will encompass a wide range of tasks, including:

  • Providing comprehensive administrative support, managing schedules, and handling correspondence
  • Assisting with event organization, including venue bookings, logistics, and catering arrangements
  • Handling festival communications, maintaining social media presence, and coordinating promotional activities
  • Researching and preparing briefing materials, reports, and presentations
  • Demonstrating exceptional organisational and time management skills to ensure smooth operations

Flexible Hours, Competitive Salary, and Priceless Industry Experience

This position offers a flexible work schedule, allowing you to balance your professional commitments with your personal life. In addition to a competitive pro-rata salary, you’ll gain invaluable experience in the ever-evolving world of film festivals and entertainment.

Unveiling the Magic Behind the Scenes

Working within a small, dedicated team, you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate closely with the Director and contribute directly to the success of an iconic festival that celebrates the enduring charm of classic comedy. Your efforts will not only support the festival’s current endeavours but also play a part in preserving our cinematic heritage for future generations.

Embrace the Opportunity to Make a Difference

If you possess exceptional organizational skills, a passion for classic comedy, and a desire to be at the heart of Bristol’s vibrant arts scene, we encourage you to apply. Join the Slapstick team and embark on a fulfilling journey into the world of film festivals and entertainment, leaving a lasting mark on the preservation of cinematic treasures.

Don’t miss out on this extraordinary opportunity! Apply now and become part of the Slapstick family!

For more details, and to send applications, email sue@slapstick.org.uk

Read Full Job Description

Gender Rebels: Post event notes

Gender Rebels

On Saturday 22nd April Slapstick presented a series of screen comedies at Watershed, Bristol examining how queer-coding and gender play was taking place onscreen as far back in the 1910s. With three films and three guests hosts feedback from attendees gave us rave reviews with over 85% saying they found the screening’s ‘excellent’.

Panel Discussion

After the screening of the 1918 film ‘I Don’t Want to be a Man’, there was a panel discussion about gender representation in film with the internationally respected film historian Pamela Hutchinson, the award-winning performer, filmmaker and playwright Malaika Kegode, pianist Meg Morley and Bristol’s reigning City Poet Kat Lyons. Below are some images from our panel discussion.

Competition Time

Slapstick Sgt. Pepper’s Competition

There’s been so much interest in the Sgt Pepper-esque image created by Keith Kilpin of Aardman for the cover of the Slapstick 2023 brochure and other publicity print that we’ve decided to make it the subject of a Guess Who competition.

To enter, study the original artwork, then turn to the ID grid and use the form below to give names to as many of the relevant numbers as you can manage.

The top prize will be a blow-up of the poster signed by most of our 2023 celebrity guests, x2 top price tickets to our 100th anniversary screening of the Harold Lloyd comedy SAFETY LAST! at St George’s on April 1st and a Slapstick 2023 t-shirt. It will go to whoever is first out of the pork pie hat who can put the right names to the highest number of the 34 spaces on the grid.

You can use the form below, or, if you prefer, email info@slapstick.org.uk putting Guess Who in the subject line. Closing date is January 23rd. Winner will be announced on or around Feb 14 (the day the next Slapstick fest begins).

Top tip – almost all of the faces can be found in the Slapstick 2023 brochure but – be aware -we’ve added in at least one celebrity we’re hoping to celebrate soon.

Quiz Submission Form

Slapstick 2023 Announcement

Slapstick 2023 Announcement

An announcement from Slapstick Festival Director, Chris Daniels

Welcome to the 19th edition of Bristol’s very own Silent, Visual and Classic Comedy Festival.

Music has been a key ingredient of every Slapstick since the festival began, but for our 19th annual edition, we’re giving it extra special attention.

As well as live accompaniments to all our silent films, we’re celebrating some of the many marriages between comedy and music, including via classic mockumentaries, Beatles revelations and family-friendly movies filled with hit songs.

Alongside the musical comedy thread, there’s another – eight event strand saluting the comic legacy of Michael Palin & Monty Python’s Flying Circus, including solo projects by Sir Michael and nods to people they influenced. Central to this, our 2023 guest curator, Sir Michael Palin (who will be 80 in May) will be joining us, introducing a selection of his favourite starring and non-starring films.

Another related strand features events saluting Monty Python’s Flying Circus, including solo projects by key Python members and people they influenced. As part of this, our 2023 guest curator, Sir Michael Palin (who will be 80 in May) will be joining us, introducing a selection of his favourite starring and non-starring films.

National treasure Sir Michael will not, of course, be our only special guest. Others in the live line-up include Rob Brydon, Graeme Garden, Harry Hill, Peter Lord, Alex Lovell, Griff Rhys Jones, Paul Mcgann, Stephen Merchant, Nigel Planer, Lucy Porter, Peter Richardson and all three members of The Scaffold.

As ever, much of the programme is dedicated to silent film comedy, its stars and innovators, with many of the films rare to see, recently rediscovered &/or newly restored. With this, we are delighted to be welcoming some of the finest champions of cinema and comedy’s history, among them the Oscar-winning Kevin Brownlow, Oliver Double, Polly Rose and Steve Massa/Ben Model.

Please look out for the following three themes: Silent Comedy, Musical Comedy, and Palin & Python

None of this would be possible without the kind support of our major sponsors (Aardman Animations and the BFI, awarding funds from
the National Lottery); the many supporters who offer help in cash or in-kind and the festival’s volunteers, advisers, venues and crews.

But what matters is the joy everyone gets from experiencing stellar comedy as it was made to be seen – on a big screen, amid an audience, all laughing together. So please do join us and let the laughter begin.

Chris Daniels
Slapstick Festival

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

Barry Cryer at Slapstick

Screening Notes

Screening Notes

We have screening notes for a number of our programmes, you will find them on the programme pages for the individual films. Clicking the links below will take you to the film pages:

The Circus

An Old Gangster Molls

Sally of the Sawdust

pre festival imagery

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


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


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


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.

Keaton: The MGM Years Program Notes


Directed by Kevin Brownlow

UK 38 mins U

Buster Keaton is currently the most popular comedian of the silent era.  But in the late 20s, he was giving anxiety to his producer, Joseph M. Schenck.

Schenck decided that since his releases for United Artists were not as successful as he had hoped, he would pass him over to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, owned by his brother Nicholas.  Here he could be sure his comedies would have stronger support, both in production and release.  And so it turned out – to begin with.

Despite his string of brilliant comedies, MGM insisted that he worked from a script, something he had not done before, Buster dutifully made The Cameraman just as MGM wanted.  It was a tremendous success.  Spite Marriage was another.  But thereafter, problems assailed him.  Sound became a fact of life.  Coming from vaudeville, Keaton had no fear of talk, but MGM did not yet know how to handle it.   The front office arranged his subjects, and the writers to work on them, and Buster was less and less involved.  Gone was his free and easy picture-making style when he could make it up as he went along, stop if he got stuck and play baseball, spend as much as the project required.

He was given a supervisor.  At least one MGM director had left after having that indignity forced upon him.  And it wasn’t as if the supervisor knew anything about Keaton’s style of comedy.  Lawrence Weingarten specialised in sophisticated, light comedy.  The company kept borrowing the co-workers he depended upon and not giving them back.  On top of which Buster was experiencing marital trouble, was being denied access to his sons, and was drinking heavily.

During Prohibition drink swept through Hollywood like a tidal wave.  Keaton was one of those alcoholics who only needed a couple of drinks to make him incapable.  His state is all too apparent in some of his later MGM pictures, where this once athletic actor had to play sitting down.  He also gambled for high stakes – often with the very producers who were crippling his career.  Of course, it was all done with his best interests at heart.  Having made one film he didn’t care for, he was obliged to repeat it three or four times for foreign versions.  In an attempt to increase his popularity, he was given a partner – the silent Buster was teamed up with the garrulous Jimmy ‘Schnozzle’ Durante.  But his popularity didn’t need increasing – even his bad films were huge box office successes, something which him all the more depressed.

He moved out of his bungalow into a land yacht which, parked on the backlot, became notorious for wild parties.  Finally, Louis B Mayer confronted Keaton and ordered him off the lot.  ‘You studio people warp my character’ said Buster.

Keaton eventually returned, on a far lower salary, as a gag-writer, helping to create some of the funniest sequences in film history.

So Funny It Hurt is the story of Keaton’s years at MGM.  It includes rare footage, such as a home-movie shot in New York in 1928 of The Cameraman in production, and it is presented from the old MGM studios by the actor James Karen, a close friend of Buster’s from the 1950s.

Program notes from Kevin Brownlow.

Kevin Brownlow will be in discussion with David Robinson.

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The Vagabond Queen Program Notes


Directed by Géza von Bolváry

UK 62 mins U

This unparalleled essay in European absurdism was one of the most regrettable casualties of the coming of sound. Released as a silent in May 1929, it was re-issued with synchronized music and sound effects in August 1930 – but too late. Variety, reviewing the new version on its London release, admitted that its production values (with fine photography by Charles Rosher) were far superior to most British pictures, yet mercilessly damned its chances: “Picture doesn’t mean anything in these talker days.” Significantly, perhaps, the same page carried a review of the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers.

The film represents an extraordinary marriage of a native British nonsense tradition with the sprightliness of Hungarian operetta. The story is by Douglas Furber (1885-1961), one of the most prolific English writers of revue and musical plays between the wars (his songs included “The Lambeth Walk” and “The Bells of St Mary’s”). The story is a merciless send-up of Ruritanian romance and in particular The Prisoner of Zenda. Betty Balfour plays the dual role of Sally, maid-of-all-work in a seedy London lodging house, and Princess Xonia of Bolonia, a revolution-prone Balkan state. Sally is carried off to Bolonia to take the Princess’s place in the forthcoming coronation procession, at which a regicide is confidently anticipated. Luck and nonsense naturally save the day.

The prolific Géza (von) Bolváry (1897-1961) began directing in his native Hungary in 1920, but from 1923 to 1958 he mostly worked in Germany. In 1928-9 he made a group of films in Britain or as Anglo-German co-productions: these included the excellent The Ghost Train (1927), Number 17 (1928), with Ivor Novello, Bright Eyes (Champagner, 1929), which teamed Novello with Betty Balfour, and finally The Vagabond Queen.

The musical score added to the film is of particular interest both in the evolution of music from silent to sound cinema, and in the subsequent progression of Bolváry’s career. It was assigned to the composer-compiler-conductor John Reynders, and was almost certainly prepared in close collaboration with the director. Reynders was London’s best-known cinema compiler-conductor of the silent film period. From its opening as a cinema in 1923 until the end of the silent period, he was musical director of the Tivoli Theatre, where he presented much-admired scores for the British premieres of – among numerous others – Greed, Ben-Hur, The Merry Widow, and Moulin Rouge. Subsequently he became a prolific composer of sound film music. His score for The Vagabond Queen is brash and energetic, and contributes very positively to the comedy, with its own jokes and aural commentary. It is particularly interesting that the film was actually extended by 1042 feet when the sound was added; the orchestral score accentuates the distinctly musical rhythm of the action. The creation of this novel comic balletic style may well have influenced Bolváry’s direct progression into film operetta, starting with Zwei Herzen im 3/4-Takt, which was to exert a great influence upon the development of German and Austrian musicals in the 1930s.

In addition to its star, the film boasts an excellent cast. Ernest Thesiger (1879-1961) – a favourite embroidery companion of the Dowager Queen Mary, he practically qualifies as a “Funny Lady” himself – has one of his most abandoned comedy roles as Lidoff the Bolonian diplomat. Patrician by birth and originally a painter, Thesiger had an unbroken theatrical career from 1909 to the end of his life, creating among other roles that of the Dauphin in George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan. He made his first film appearance in 1916 and his last (in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) in 1961. His most memorable appearances were in James Whale’s The Old Dark House and The Bride of Frankenstein, though nowhere is he as extravagant as in The Vagabond Queen. Glen Byam Shaw (1904-1986), the juvenile lead, made his stage debut in 1923, and went on to become a distinguished Shakespearean actor and director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (1953-1959).

Program notes courtesy of David Robinson. Introduction by Lucy Porter.

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The Vagabond Queen

Skinner’s Dress Suit Program Notes

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Skinners Dress Suit2 300×273 1


Directed by William A. Seiter

USA 70 mins PG

This show is intended to revive the reputation of a comedian of the silent era – not on the scale of a Lloyd or a Keaton, but extremely amusing and entertaining in his own right. I have several of his Universal comedies in my collection – they were released on 16mm by both Kodascope and Universal’s Show-at-Home library and tonight’s film is a good-quality copy of one of these.

Denny had been his father’s stage name – he was W H Denny, the Gilbert & Sullivan singer. Reginald adopted it when became an actor. He was born in Richmond, Surrey in 1891 as Reginald Leigh Dugmore – and he died in Richmond, Surrey in 1967. He was educated at St Francis Xavier College in Mayfield, Sussex. He felt he had been educated enough for a theatrical career, so ran away at 16 and got a job as an extra at the Duke of York’s theatre in London. He was hired as a chorus man by a prominent major American producer and opened in The Quaker Girl in New York in 1911. He is supposed to have made a film in 1912 but his memoirs don’t mention it. He signed a contract as a leading baritone with the Bandmann Opera Co touring India and the Orient. Rehearsals were held aboard ship bound for Bombay. It was obvious that Denny was not experienced enough, nor was his baritone deep enough, so he was relegated to lesser roles. He went into partnership with a crook, found himself stranded but managed to raise enough money to get back to America. In 1914 he played his first film role with Hazel Dawn for Famous Players in Niobe, directed by Hugh Ford. He had plenty of roles in the theatre, but this was 1917, and when America entered the war, he decided it was time to enlist. He was shipped by to England to train for the Royal Flying Corps. While he was on his pilot’s training course at Hastings, he won the Brigade Heavyweight Boxing Championship. The Armistice was signed before he finished his course, and on his discharge he returned to America. He found work at the World Studios in Fort Lee, in Bringing Up Betty and The Oakdale Affair, both with Evelyn Greely and both made in 1919. Denny was starred in a boxing series called The Leather Pushers. The money ran out, but Carl Laemmle, head of Universal, took an interest in them and with studio finance they became one of the most popular series of the 1920s. He was sent to California and starred in a series about the North West Mounted Police. With no riding experience, he was thrown and broke an ankle. Which was fortunate, because he then starred in a Jack London story, The Abysmal Brute (1923) about a backwoods boy who becomes a boxer. At Denny’s insistence, light comedy was injected into the melodrama. Universal quickly capitalised on his talent – realising that combining humour with handsome physique was what had made Douglas Fairbanks a star. Not too long afterwards, Denny became the highest-paid English star next to Chaplin.

Bryant Washburn had played this Skinner role in 1917 for Harry Beaumont at Essanay, and it was so successful he made two more Skinner stories. Glenn Tryon remade it in 1929 as Skinner Steps Out directed by Wm James Craft with Glenn Tryon and Merna Kennedy.

As you’ll see, Denny’s characterisation was that of a typical young American entangled in the problems of suburban life. The trouble was that Harold Lloyd did the same thing and was strong competition. And when talking pictures revealed an impeccable English accent, Denny’s career as a star comedian was over. He began a second career as a featured player – appearing in everything from Romeo and Juliet with Barrymore to Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He became one of America’s favourite Englishmen. His career in silent pictures was forgotten, not only by audiences but by Denny himself.

In the 1960, I went down to Palm Springs to meet Laura la Plante. She was a delightful person, and very funny, but pathologically shy. How she managed to become a leading lady is beyond my comprehension. She pleaded with me not to bring a film crew down. We did go down, but only to interview her husband, Irvin Asher for the Hollywood series. However, she did say how much she enjoyed working on this film, and praised Denny highly… She must have enjoyed her experience because director Bill Seiter became her first husband.

Here are some extracts from my diary for my first trip to California in December, 1964,

I was staying at the house of film collector David Bradley in the Hollywood Hills. Bradley had gone to spend Christmas in Chicago and he arranged with his partner, Tom Webster to give me the run of his collection and to do all the driving. It could not have been a better arrangement.

December 12th; Tom picked me up and we headed for the Pasadena Freeway to meet Reginald Denny. Los Angeles was full of signs for Denny’s – a coffee shop which had nothing to do with him. But on Hollywood Boulevard we passed a model shop named Reginald Denny’s, and it turned out that in 1936 he had begun working on a radio-controlled system for model planes. He adapted it for use with anti-aircraft gunnery. These models were designated TDD – which stood for Target Drone Denny.

When we located his street, we saw a tall, unmistakable figure standing on the kerb, lit by the light from his open door. It was a particular thrill to meet Denny, because I knew his younger self so well thanks to Bill Eversons’ screenings. He looked older than I expected and while he talked enthusiastically of his youth, I had the impression that he had thought little of his films. He admitted that he had not seen any of his silent for over twenty years. He clearly had little idea of how good he was and it took some persuasion before he agreed to see Skinner’s Dress Suit.

Dec 14;

Tonight is our Reginald Denny screening, to be held at Bradley’s house. Tom and I go out to buy a lot of drink (which no one drinks). And as we return, the crowd arrives. Reginald Denny and his wife, who played opposite him in a late silent, Night Birds, Reginald Denny jr, Denny’s daughter, Joan and son-in-law, awaiting the show with a trace of nervousness. We settled them in and started with an episode from The Leather Pushers, the boxing series which brought Denny to Hollywood. This showed him as a likable but rather flat character, what humour there was came from the other members of the cast. But it was a surprise to see a leading man box so convincingly.

Then Skinner’s Dress Suit – Bradley’s print was a faded amber with bits missing, but although the audience seemed to miss some of the subtlety, it seemed to go over well. Smooth directed by Wm Seiter, it showed Denny at his best – as a comedian whose polish and technical brilliance never outshone his genuine warmth.

As the Denny family watched this 1926 comedy, the atmosphere noticeably changed. The picture’s gags at first received restrained, relieved chuckles. But as the story took hold, the audience, which included Sennett comedienne Minta Durfee, gave the film their whole-hearted approval. Mrs Denny spotted herself as an extra, and identified Janet Gaynor as another.

The children were very pleased to see that their father was so good as an actor and Denny himself was very bucked. At the end, he was assailed with congratulations. Grinning shyly, he confessed that he had expected the film to creak. “It stands much better than I thought it would,” he said. Then they all left, purring with delight.

Please note that there are a couple of short section missing.

Program notes provided by Kevin Brownlow. Introduction by Kevin Brownlow. Piano accompaniment by Daan van den Hurk.

Spite Marriage Program Notes


Directed by Edward Sedgwick and Buster Keaton

USA 76 mins PG

Spite Marriage is the tale of a tailor who is madly in love with an actress… so in love, that he’s gone to see her play countless times! He is given the chance to marry the woman of his dreams, but what he does not know, is that she is only marrying him to make her old flame jealous!

The film was made in 1929 and stars Buster Keaton, Dorothy Sebastian, and Edward Earle. Spite Marriage was directed by Edward Sedgewick and Buster Keaton. It was written by Lew Lipton, Ernest Pagano, Richard Schayer, and Robert E. Hopkins.

Dorothy Sebastian’s most famous films were in the late 1920s. She was contracted to MGM, and when her contract was over she was relegated to smaller parts. Her other well-known films include A Woman of Affairs (1928) and Our Dancing Daughters (1928). Sebastian and Keaton were romantically linked during the production of Spite Marriage. Edward Earle was a leading man during the early 1920s with roles in East Lynne (1921), False Fronts (1922), and A Dangerous Flirtation (1924).

Edward Sedgwick directed most of Keaton’s films during their time at MGM. They had a shared love of baseball and shared an office on MGM’s backlot. Sedgwick also directed Laurel and Hardy and is credited as discovering Lucille Ball.

This film has the distinction of being Buster Keaton’s last silent film. It is also the second film that he made for MGM after becoming a contract player. The previous film was The Cameraman, also directed by Edward Sedgwick. The Cameraman was a financial success for MGM. In addition to being his last silent, Spite Marriage was also the last film where Keaton was allowed any creative control. When MGM signed Buster Keaton, one of their concerns was over the budgets of his films. In crafting his films, Keaton often used a lengthy improvised approach. MGM wanted Keaton to stick to a shooting script.

Keaton’s original idea for the film was to make a sound comic western. Keaton realised that the success of The Jazz Singer in 1927 was a signal that the age of silent film was about to end. At the time, MGM only had one stage that was used for making sound films. Sound was being reserved for other types of films. It was felt by MGM that comedies that used physical humour where much better made as silent films. Buster Keaton wanted to use sound effects in his films, but keep the dialogue to a minimum.

One of the film’s funniest scenes involves Buster Keaton putting his drunk wife to bed. This scene was recreated with much lesser comedic effect by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953). Buster Keaton would go on to recreate the scene himself on stage in the 1950s with his wife, Eleanor Keaton.

Accompanied live by Günter A. Buchwald, Frank Bockius, and Romano Todesco performing as The European Silent Screen Virtuosi.

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Win Tickets To Ronnie Golden: First A Fender – A Beginner’s Guide to Rock

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Barry Cryer Ronnie Golden

We’re running a cheeky little competition to win a pair of tickets to Saturday’s event with Ronnie Golden in The Lantern at Colston Hall.

To enter just answer this simple question:

Ronnie Golden was the former leader of cult 70s New Wave quartet Fabulous Poodles who were famously radio 1 DJ John Peel’s favourite band. Can you name one of their albums? 

Please send your answers to us on slapstickfest@gmail.com with the subject line “Ronnie Golden”.

A winner will be chosen Saturday morning and will be notified by email.

This event takes place on Sat 27 Jan at 1800hrs and is in the Lantern at Colston Hall. Please ensure you can come to the event before entering! And good luck!

Oh, and did we say Barry Cryer and Rowland Rivron will be making special guest appearances? Well we have now!

For more information about the event hit up Colston Hall’s website.

It’s Just a Jump to the Left!

It’s Just a Jump to the Left!

Slapstick 2018 is just around the corner! We’ve got so many great events in January to help brighten those cold winter days and nights! Make sure you check out our full programme as we have four days chock-full of laughs, music and classic comedy with some great special guests. One of our events might have you braving the chill in fishnet stockings! Slapstick is proud to present The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Special guest, Jason Donovan!

I think everyone has their own Rocky Horror story. It’s amazing to think that this film has been screening in cities around the world for over 40 years! I first watched the film in high school, went to a few interactive screenings in St. Louis (in costume!), and finally saw the stage production a couple of times here in the U.K. It’s quite interesting that in the U.S. people mainly experience the film and in the U.K most people are exposed to the stage production. Both the film and stage versions have their own energy when you see them, but I have to say that I much prefer watching the film with an enthusiastic audience.

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rhps soundtrack 298×300 1

My first experience with Rocky Horror was watching it on video. I had seen my brother’s soundtrack CD and was very confused by the cover… I had no clue that the main photo was of Tim Curry! He had rented the film from Blockbuster (yes, I’m that old!) and I sneakily watched it on my own one evening. “Dammit Janet” is the song that captured my attention! I had heard about screenings and decided to read what I could online. I learned some of the call back lines and very much enjoyed watching the film for the first time with a very raucous crowd! I’ve not seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show with an audience for many years, so I’m very much looking forward to our screening!

What I love about going to see a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is that it is a film experience like no other. Audience members are encouraged to dress up, bring props and shout at the film. Some screenings have cast members that act out the film as it’s being projected behind them. I’ve put a clip below from Fame that shows exactly what I mean:

I guess it goes without saying… but water pistols are a strict no no at Colston Hall!

Rocky Horror has had such a cultural impact. “The Time Warp” is a Halloween party staple. So many films and television shows have referred to the phenomenon. One of my favourite examples is this clip from Sesame Street with Susan Sarandon and the Count:

Richard O’Brien wrote the original stage musical and adapted it for film. He also starred as Riff Raff. In New Zealand, there is a statue commemorating him in his most famous role. Near the statue there is a wall that gives the dance instructions for “The Time Warp”. There is a even a web camera set up so that the world can view visitors to the statue and their dancing skills!

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IMG 0107 300×154 1

Join us for an evening of “absolute pleasure” on Saturday, January 27th! Tickets and more info can be found here.

Slapstick and Mr. Punch

Slapstick and Mr. Punch

January is just around the corner! We are busy, busy, busy in Slapstick HQ getting everything prepped for the festival. One of the new additions to our programme this year is called Young Slapstick! The events are happening on Saturday the 27th and it is a great way to introduce the little ones to the joyful fun of slapstick comedy. The main event will consist of two shorts and some clips hosted by Mark Olver. Following that is a workshop in the physical art of slapstick – pratfalls and all – hosted by Circomedia. Later in the afternoon, there will be a Punch and Judy show. I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a little bit about Punch and Judy and their connection to slapstick comedy.

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The term “slapstick” originated from an actual stick that was used as a sound effect in theatre performances. It was a club that was comprised of two slats of wood that when hit against something (or someone!) would create a very loud slap sound. It originated in Italy’s Commedia dell’arte and was later integrated into the Punch and Judy puppet show. Mr. Punch usually holds a slapstick during a performance. Punch and Judy shows are known for their exaggerated use of physical violence.

Punch and Judy shows also had their roots in Italy dating back to the 16th century and stem from the same Commedia dell’arte tradition. Marionettes were the first type of puppets used in the Punch and Judy show. Mr. Punch even has an official birthday in the UK – May 9th, 1662. This was the date that Samuel Pepys saw a show with the characters in a performance in Covent Garden. Punch and Judy shows were popular in other countries during the period. George Washington even went to see a show in the American colonies. The glove-puppet style that most modern shows use was gradually adopted in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Prof Patel

Slapstick is welcoming Prof. Patel and his very unique Punch and Judy show in January. He is the first Asian Punch and Judy Professor in the UK. There will be two performances – one of a traditional Punch and Judy show, the other is Prof. Patel’s re-imagining of the characters with a bit of Bollywood panache. The show looks to be a lot of fun and I look forward to watching it myself!

Why is Slapstick Violence Funny?

Why is Slapstick Violence Funny?

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3 stooges

The subject of this post was originally going to be on an entirely different topic, which will be saved for a later time!

When I was doing research for that topic, I came across this TedxEmory talk on YouTube. The title of this video is, “Technology and the New Aesthetics of Violence.” I will warn you, there are some violent images shown from certain films in this video. So, viewer be warned! What does this video have to do with the Slapstick Festival? Well, there are a couple of reasons why I have decided to share this video.

The main reason why I even came across this video is that I was looking up the person presenting the lecture. Dr. Eddy Von Mueller is a lecturer at Emory University, and a former professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. More specifically, he was one of my professors while I was doing my film degree at GSU. Dr. Von Mueller had a dramatic impact on my education, and what areas of film history, theory, and criticism that I decided to focus on during my studies. In fact, you could say he was one of my favourite professors!

One of Dr. Von Mueller’s areas of expertise is in the study of animation. During the intro to this lecture, he explains that what he is attempting to explore is why violence in cinema can either make us laugh, cringe in fear or disgust, or make us cheer for a hero. Although most of the lecture is about gun violence is displayed in film, it can easily be transposed to other types of cinematic violence. It certainly makes a good starting point for how film studies explore how violence is portrayed in cinema and how different aesthetics can impact how an audience will react to that violence.

I’ve put a link to the video below… it’s a fascinating 20 minutes and takes me back to the film lectures that I absolutely loved!

Lucy and Ethel – Sitcom’s Best Friends

Lucy and Ethel – Sitcom’s Best Friends

Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance created one of television’s most enduring comic duos – Lucy and Ethel. Lucy and Ethel were neighbours and best friends on the beloved sitcom, I Love Lucy. The two were constantly getting into trouble with all of Lucy’s crazy schemes! I remember growing up watching these two in reruns and never failing to laugh at their antics! One of the most famous scenes involves the duo working in a chocolate factory and trying to keep up with the production line. The comic gem is below.

One of the surprises that I discovered when I was trying to do some research about Lucy and Ethel is the amount of references to these two characters in everyday life! So many articles came up about friends who describe themselves as Lucy and Ethel… or a situation that Lucy and Ethel would have gotten themselves into. I love this facet of popular culture… that something can endure and transcend its original medium. Two people can call themselves the “Lucy and Ethel” of their town and the meaning behind this is immediate, even if you aren’t fully aware of the source behind these names. I think I could even describe one of my own friendships as though the two of us were Lucy and Ethel!

There is so much written about I Love Lucy, and it has a fascinating spot in television history. The show had so much impact on American culture. I just wanted to write a little bit more about Lucy and Ethel. Apparently, Lucille Ball was quite lukewarm to the casting of Vivian Vance as Ethel. Ball had originally envisaged a much older woman in the role. Vance was made to wear frumpier clothes and was made to look older than she was. Ethel was married to Fred Mertz. Fred was portrayed by William Frawley who was 22 years older than Vivian Vance. It was rumoured that Ball and Vance did not get along during the filming of I Love Lucy. Fortunately, this rumour was false. Lucille Ball eventually warmed to the presence of Vivian Vance and her professionalism, and this led to them becoming close friends.

I Love Lucy is over 60 years old, but still holds a fond place in many hearts. Yes, some parts of it have aged… but it is still worth revisiting! Watching an episode almost always guarantees a smile and some laughter. Much of this laughter comes from the enduring friendship and antics of Lucy and Ethel.

Anita Garvin and Marion Byron – A Classic Comedy Duo

Anita Garvin and Marion Byron – A Classic Comedy Duo

I hope everyone has seen our exciting event coming up in June! It’s so great that we will be able to present the Aardman Slapstick Comedy Legend award to that fantastic comedic duo, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders! The event has now sold out… so I’m hoping that everyone who wanted a ticket could get one! French & Saunders join a prestigious group of previous recipients, all of whom can be seen here.

I thought I would use the next few blog posts to look at famous female comedy teams of the past.

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garvin byron

Hal Roach, producer of the Laurel & Hardy shorts, wanted to establish a female version of the comedic double act. Anita Garvin and Marion Byron were one of his attempts at a female pairing. They only made three shorts together, but one of them in now regarded as a classic of silent slapstick.

A Pair of Tights tells the story of two women out a on double date with two very cheap men (the tights of the title). The film follows the two pairs as they drive in a car that leads to a very funny and failed attempt at buying ice cream! I’ve included a link to an excerpt from the short below (ignore the annoying commentary, the quality was better than the full short that I found).

Both Garvin and Byron came from prestigious comedy backgrounds. Anita Garvin worked very frequently with Laurel & Hardy. One of her most acclaimed performances was the role of Laurel’s wife in Blotto. Garvin also appeared in shorts with Max Davidson, Charley Chase and James Finlayson. Marion Byron made him film debut opposite Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr. She was hired by Hal Roach and worked in shorts with Max Davidson, Edgar Kennedy and Charley Chase. Both women retired from acting quite early, but it is great to have their performances preserved on film.

Information about Anita Garvin and Marion Byron was found on IMDB, Wikipedia (Garvin and Byron), and Edition Filmmuseum.




Website & Digital Marketing Volunteer Job

Work For Slapstick Festival!

Position: Voluntary
Contract: Six Months (initially) 8 hours pw

Would you like to work in a creative environment and have real impact within a small team of people who deliver one of Bristol’s biggest film festivals?

This is a voluntary role initially and tasks will include: developing and managing the content on our website, liaising with team-members to remain up to date on all aspects of the festival, creating social media campaigns and competitions, blue sky thinking meetings, writing copy, posting social media updates and setting up measurement, evaluation and report back.

This is a challenging and creative role.  We want an enthusiastic, passionate person who can make a significant impact in a short period of time.  The initial contract is voluntary and for only six months, but there is the opportunity to become a permanent member of the team.

Because this is a part time role, you must be able to plan your time and be proactive in managing your workload.  As good with numbers as with words, you will love problem-solving and be comfortable working individually or as part of a team.

Who are Slapstick Festival?
Slapstick Festival is Bristol’s biggest film festival.  We have associations with the best-known and best-loved comedians in the country and a growing global reputation for excellence in silent comedy presentation and delivery. We produce 30 events annually with an audience of 10,000+

We are looking for someone with enthusiasm for and some experience in digital marketing – either you have built your own website, run a blog, volunteered or worked for an organisation in a digital marketing capacity, or be an avid personal user of social media.  This is an opportunity to develop your career in an irreverent, dynamic festival that will support your learning.

Essential criteria

  • Graduate level or equivalent
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Proven experience in solving problems creatively, a passion for sharing creative ideas and a great ‘finisher completer’
  • Confident in working closely with people
  • A fascination with web content, proficient at adding content and images using WordPress (or equivalent)
  • Comfortable communicating on a wide range of social media platforms and using social tools like Hootsuite and Buffer
  • Organised and able to work under pressure, managing multiple tasks and deadlines

Based in the Banana Warehouse on Spike Island, we are tenant guests of Aardman Animations who sponsor us and let us use their facilities, including a subsidised café and bike lock up.  You will get a host of experience and opportunities to manage the redevelopment of our website and bring us into the 21st Century. We will offer some initial training, supervision, and free tickets to awesome sold out shows!

Closing date is 09/04/17. Applications sent in after this date will not be accepted.

Interested in applying for the role? Fill in the form below!

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Ronnie Golden and Neil Innes perform a song for Donald Trump

Ronnie Golden and Neil Innes perform a song for Donald Trump

During the 2017 edition of Slapstick Festival the organisers programmed a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America, something that happened the day before this screening.

Preceding the film Ronnie Golden and Neil Innes regaled the audience with a reprise of the song Ronnie and Barry Cryer had previously performed during one of our fundraisers, a hilarious song written especially for Donald Trump.

This can be watched below, with an introduction by Robin Ince.

It all started with Alice…

It all started with Alice…

Rediscovering Alice Howell
Alice Howell

One of the tasks that I’m doing for the festival now is organising its DVD library. It is very interesting going through all the titles… I enjoy coming across new and different films. One of the discs that I was reviewing contained two of Walt Disney’s very early animated shorts. I was already familiar with these shorts, but I thought I’d share a little bit of that information here.

In 1923, Disney developed a series of shorts that came to be collectively known as the Alice Comedies. Walt Disney directed all 57 of these shorts that were made between 1923 to 1927. They were loosely based on Alice in Wonderland and featured a live-action young girl who had various adventures in a cartoon world.

The first short, “Alice’s Wonderland,” was produced in Kansas City, Missouri at Laugh-O-Gram Films. This was Disney’s first studio which eventually ended up going bankrupt… but not before Disney moved to California and securing a deal to produce more of the shorts. Four young girls would portray Alice in these shorts. These shorts are now in the public domain.

I thought I’d research a bit more about the first Alice, Virginia Davis. She was in the first short made in Kansas City, and moved to California with her family to continue appearing in the series. Davis stopped appearing in the shorts after a negotiation in pay did not conclude in an increase. This was not the end of her relationship with Disney. She would eventually work for a short time in the ink and paint department of the Disney studios. She also provided uncredited voices in the classic animated film, Pinocchio. She spent her later career as an interior designer. In 1992, she was a special guest of the Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy.

I’ve put a couple of the shorts below.

Information was found from Wikipedia and the LA Times.

Max Linder – French Silent Star

Max Linder – French Silent Star

One of my favourite events from the festival was the screening of Max Linder’s Seven Years Bad Luck. David Robinson’s excellent introduction gave some insight into what had been a very troubled life for the early silent film star. If you weren’t at the event, I thought I would share some more information about Linder.

Max Linder was the stage name of Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle. Linder originally started out on stage in the French theatre, and in 1905 had his film debut. In 1911, he also began directing his own films. Amazingly, since he has been largely forgotten, he was the highest paid star in the world in 1912!

Linder was very meticulous about his films, and often had notes about what types of music should be played with certain scenes. One of the great things about the screening of Seven Years Bad Luck is that there is a scene where Linder is playing the piano quite raucously. Accompanist Daan van den Hurk found the song that Linder was playing and used this in his piano score to the film!

The outbreak of World War I brought trouble to Linder’s life. He was seriously wounded during the war, and this experience also led to bouts of depression. After the war, Linder was invited to the US to make films. During the early 1920s, he made films for United Artists. I found a great clip on YouTube of Max Linder meeting Charlie Chaplin in 1917.

Unfortunately, depression caused Linder to kill himself in a suicide pact with his wife in 1925. Charlie Chaplin is said to have closed his studio for a day out of respect.

Max Linder made around five hundred films, but sadly most of these are lost! His daughter, Maud Linder, was largely responsible for re-introducing the world to this lost genius. She made a documentary about her father and re-issued some of his shorts.

One of the interesting facts that I found about a modern reference to Linder is in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. A cinema in the film is having a Max Linder festival, and characters discuss Linder and Charlie Chaplin.

Here is one of Max Linder’s shorts:

Information came from IMDB, Wikipedia, The New Yorker, and The Huffington Post.

A Bit About The Freshman

A Bit About The Freshman

Last month, Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman was screened at our annual Silent Comedy Gala. I thought I’d take a moment to share some trivia about it.

“The more trouble you get a man into, the more comedy you get out of him” – Harold Lloyd

A little bit of trivia:

One of the more interesting things that I read about the film is that the restored version of the film that is now available is actually pieced together from the domestic and international versions of the film. Scenes were filmed in two different ways for each release… so some of what we see know is kind of an alternate version… but I’m sure equally as funny!

It was great fun to see Pete the Pup from the Our Gang shorts in the film!

Another thing that people might not know is that Harold Lloyd lost two fingers on his right hand when a publicity photo shoot went wrong in 1919. Lloyd used to wear a special glove that would hide this fact in his films shot after the accident.

This was Harold Lloyd’s most commercially successful silent feature.

I thought I would end this post with a video from Leonard Maltin sharing some of his Harold Lloyd merchandise – much of which is from The Freshman.

Pop Matters and AV Club both have great articles about the film!