Some comedy television series are almost timeless, aren’t they?
It always seems to amaze me how each year Rowan Atkinson and his character Mr Bean appeal again and again to a new group of students. In the past, I’ve watched Mr Bean with students for fun on days when I had to babysit, with younger students for a carefree example of comedy, with middle school students for a more sophisticated analysis of the comic genius portrayed and even with seniors when studying the actor’s use of body and gesture. Mr Bean seems to appeal to all ages and in a Drama class, all levels of skill. It’s the closest thing to favourite movies young children seem to watch over and over again, as if each viewing was brand new and fresh.
Today in Drama we were studying Farce at Year 9 level (14 year-old girls). Now after twenty minutes of giving notes on this form of comedy, even I was getting a little bored with my own information and started dictating the last few paragraphs in ridiculous German, Chinese and Indian accents. Well, it certainly livened up the room a bit! Then it was time to watch Fawlty Towers, starring the very talented British actor John Cleese. I seriously thought no matter how much I wrapped this show up in the lead-in, this baby would bomb and my students would neither enjoy the humour or ‘get’ the farce being presented.
How wrong I was! They loved every minute of it. About a third of the class had never seen an episode of Fawlty Towers before, but after watching only one episode (The Hotel Inspector), everyone realised Cleese certainly makes comedy (and farce, in particular) a very physical form of entertainment. What better example is there of absurd activity and ridiculous plot lines than Fawlty Towers (or Monty Python films/Monty Python’s Flying Circus)? So if you intend to study Farce with your students, watch Fawlty Towers for a prime example of the genre (or is it a style? …… nope ….. the debate of genre vs style wil be left for another post altogether!).