Monday 14 October 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'If you didn't laugh, you'd have to cry'


The cast of Derry Girls
The cast of Derry Girls
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

We could all do with a laugh. Even a smile can do it sometimes. That upwards crease of the mouth can do wonders for the soul. These aren't simply regular times either. We are currently witnessing the larger island of this archipelago soil its nappies continuously and it's only natural curiosity to wonder if it will ever be potty-trained.

Meanwhile, across the choppy ocean a mouthy little tangerine man, who wouldn't get a job stacking Walmart shelves in a true meritocracy, looks well placed to get another four years rent-free on Pennsylvania Avenue.

If you didn't laugh occasionally you'd cry frequently.

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It only takes a clip of Stan Laurel, his face lit up with a smile of benign idiocy as he bounces along the sidewalk, to have me in stitches.

If that seems like I'm setting the bar low, it's actually just the opposite. Because Laurel was, of course, a comic genius.

But I've stumbled on some exceedingly good comedy in the past few weeks. Perhaps, out of desperation at the state of the universe, I had subconsciously been seeking something to cheer me up all along.

I didn't think I'd like 'Derry Girls' first time around but I did and the second series, which continues tonight on Channel 4, proves it was no fluke.

The situations are hilarious, the cast nailed-on and, most crucially, the scripts are epic. Razor sharp and without out as much as a punctuation mark wasted, Lisa McGee is a truly original and gifted comic writer.

'Black and Tans' sketch turns funny into hilarious

Describing something as an instant classic is, by definition, an oxymoron but you know what I mean.

Ricky Gervais always came across to me as someone who was too smart and cynical to be truly funny. Comedy needs humility in there somewhere to give it pathos. He didn't seem to have it.

Which makes 'After Life', which he created for Netflix, something of a revelation. The story of a tubby, middle-aged freesheet journalist, who is not even trying to pick up the pieces of his life after his wife's death, is darkly funny and authentically poignant while avoiding sentimentality by the skin of its teeth. It had a few roar-out moments too. Sold.

But it was the return of smooth and smarmy Alan Partridge to the BBC that turned funny into bona fide hilarious.

Last week's 'Black and Tans' sketch, which is still popping up on my Twitter feed in a loop, is possibly the funniest thing I've seen since Laurel and Hardy stared in bemused horror as that famous piano galloped down 133 steps in 1932.

I nearly died laughing. Considering the alternatives, and the state of the world, that wouldn't be a bad way to go.

The madness of youth goes all Lord Byron

Just as well I only got to study at Trinity in my dotage. I'm quite sure, remembering the fecklessness of my youth, I would have struggled to turn up for tutorials let alone fumble through a module. So much madness to be had, so many bloody essays to do. Not a chance.

I'm not sure either that I would have been invited to hang out with the Knights of the Campanile, an all-male 'elitist' sports' society established in 1926. You have to be invited to join.

It found itself temporarily delivered from obscurity last week after a hazing party was secretly bugged by the 'University Times' in a proper scoop. The details don't matter, but it all sounds a bit Bullingdon Club-lite. I'm reliably told that the Knights are the sort of hedonistic fellows who always get their assignments in before they go all Lord Byron.

A 2:2 for effort, I suppose.

Irish Independent

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