Friday, 26 October 2007

Funny business

I've discovered a funny British comedian (Ok, it's not like I found him performing in some dive, became his manager and brought him to fame). He's not really new, but he's new to me. His name is Russell Brand, and he has quite possibly the coolest Web site I've ever seen. Check it out; the least bit of the fun you'll find is that his eyes on the main screen follow your mouse all over the page. I don't really know how it stacks up on content as I haven't gone over it closely yet, but on form, it rocks.

I discovered him through a series of specials that have run on the BBC all week. This is a uniquely British way of giving a comic a special -- instead of one show, he gets five -- one each night all week. It's kind of weird, but in this instance it worked well as Brand tackled a different topic each evening and made them all funny.

This multiple-show thing doesn't always work so well, as when a series of weekly shows called "A Bucket of French and Saunders" aired recently. I liked French and Saunders from their TV shows and had never seen their duo act. And still feel like I haven't. Even though they had something like six specials to go into a retrospective of their long career and to add some new bits, the shows were mostly a series of montages showing short bits of old skits. Do you mean to tell me that in six episodes, they can't show the entire freakin' skits if they selected their best? It ended up being something that you could get no humor out of whatsoever, unless perhaps you had seen the original bits and it refreshed your memory. It was all a bit crap, really. And had a bit too much of the gross body fluid humor that Brits seem to love (I do NOT need to see someone barf, spit up a loogie, have a bowel movement or make any joke that involves any fluids or poo that is ejected from the body. That's way nasty, y'all).

I was pleasantly surprised by Brand's show, as a lot of British comedy doesn't translate well. The only Brit comics really known in the U.S. right now are Eddie Izzard and Ricky Gervais, and Gervais isn't really known for his stand-up act (which I've seen on TV in the UK and really enjoyed). And until I saw Russell Brand, those were the only two Brit comics I really liked. I think Brand's humor would fly in the U.S., with just a few slight changes to some material U.S. audiences wouldn't get.

The odd thing I've noted in the UK when it comes to entertainment is that the country embraces the best of the best AND the worst of the worst. The country has entertainers that are as good or better than the best that any other country in the world can muster. But, the worst crap actors, musicians, what have you, they get embraced, too. People that would be laughed offstage in the U.S. get specials here, musicians that are so bad I thought some shows on them were parodies (they weren't) can become huge hits here. I mean, we have some acts in the U.S. that it's hard to fathom how they sell records, it's true -- but acts that are much worse become huge icons here.

It's all just part of life in the UK. From the outside, we just see all the world-class range of things, from performers to restaurants to whatever. When you live here, you get to see the bottom of the barrel, too.

It's an odd thing that the highs are so high, and the lows are so low. But if you're a bottom of the barrel hack, try coming to the UK, you might get rich and famous here. If that doesn't work, move on to Germany and Japan; if they'll buy David Hasselhoff as a singer, they'll buy anything.

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