Fun Friday Facts: My 5 Favourite…

This “5 on Friday” post is about my five favourite British comedies, inspired in part by the “Whovian” post I did a few weeks ago. They are listed in reverse, from fifth to first…so, let’s get to it!

5. Red Dwarf. This sci-fi-based comedy was accidentally introduced to me by my two older brothers during a Friday Dungeons & Dragons game-night. We had the TV on when there was a break in the action and were dealing with the minutiae of experience points, levels, and divvying up of treasures. One outburst of “Oi, you smeg-head, get me a smeggin’ curry!” from the television speakers made me whip my head around to see what the hell was going on, and I was promptly hooked! That show was hilarious, and I wish it would get the re-airings that it deserves. It just might, now that I think of it!

4. One Foot in the Grave. This sitcom was about an elderly gent who was forced into retirement. Curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew drives his wife, Margaret, to distraction as he wanders about the house and tries to stay busy while she goes to work and keeps up the bills. He’s a decent enough sort, but never seems to get on well with others – try as he might! An Aussie friend of mine introduced me to this show about 15 years ago and I’m quite glad that he did. I have the whole series on DVD so I can watch it at my leisure, and enjoy it just as much now as I did when I first watched it. It’s funny, poignant, and deliciously dry – in short, it’sgreat!

3. Absolutely Fabulous (AbFab). Most people here in the States only know of the show because of the movie which came out last year, but I first saw AbFab on Comedy Central just before Y2K. Blame my Aussie buddy for turning me on to this hilarious sitcom about two boozing, drugging, party-hearty broads who hate the idea of getting old! Patsy and Edina act as if they’re high-schoolers getting up to all sorts of antics, driving Edina’s straight-laced daughter, Saffron, mad with their shenanigans. That series will be the next one purchased on DVD, as soon as I’m able!

2. Blackadder. I had been a fan of Mr. Bean, but knew nothing of the conniving and cunning Edmund Blackadder until a co-worker at one of the radio stations I worked at introduced me to that series. He lent me the first two seasons to take home and watch – they were still on VHS at the time – and I howled with laughter! That show was only aired on PBS during their annual fund-raisers, so didn’t get to watch it as much as I wanted to back then, so I bought the entire series on DVD to view whenever I wish!

Finally, the number one spot on my list goes to The League of Gentlemen. This show shouldn’t be confused with the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as they are completely different animals! It aired on Comedy Central not long after AbFab was taken off; again, my Aussie buddy encouraged me to give it a chance, and I’m glad that he did! The little town of Royston Vasey has a unique population, to say the least. The only answer to the question “Are you local?” is “Yes!” This show was warped,dark, demented, and insanely hilarious – emphasis on “insanely,” LMAO! Of course, I simply had to get the series on DVD, and I even recorded one of my favourite lines from it on my phone so that people hear it if they call me and get my voice mail. One of my sisters had called the other day, and all I could hear was hysterical laughter on the voice message! She wasn’t expecting to hear what she heard, and it definitely took her off guard. My sense of humour isn’t compatible with most others, for sure!

This post wouldn’t be complete without at least one clip from each of these shows. A bit of laughter is perfect for this fun Friday, and the best way to start the weekend off with a smile. Enjoy!

Thoughts on Bill Cosby

Dr. William Henry Cosby, Jr.: 12 July 1937 – Age 76

Author’s note: I planned on doing a post on Bill Cosby last week but decided to wait until today to publish it, seeing as how today marks his date of birth!

Where do I begin? For starters, I’d say that Cosby’s creations have figured prominently in my life from…oh, about the age of six. On weekdays I religiously watched The Electric Company; come Saturday mornings, I eagerly awaited hearing the familiar intro to Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids. I loved that show! Bill, Rudy, Russell, Weird Harold, the ever-present Fat Albert, and the rest of the group were a rare treasure for me in my ‘White-Sylvania’ childhood. That show, along with my subscriptions to Ebony Jr.! magazine, were my only means of seeing other Black people – it was refreshing to have some modicum of positive reinforcement. I can’t imagine what my mindset would be like if I’d been exposed to the television trash that is woefully popular these days! Anyway, those positive messages filtered in to my sub-consciousness. They fortified the ‘tower of iron will’ that surrounded the tiny spark of my self-esteem and kept it from being extinguished by my surroundings.

A bit of knowledge about The Electric Company, for those who might be interested. From Wikipedia:

“The original cast included Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby, Judy Graubart, Lee Chamberlin and Skip Hinnant. Most of the cast had done stage, repertory, and improvisational work, with Cosby and Moreno already well-established performers on film and television. Ken Roberts, best known as a soap-opera announcer (Love of Life; The Secret Storm), was the narrator of some segments during season one, most notably the parody of the genre that had given him prominence, Love of Chair.

Jim Boyd, who was strictly an off-camera voice actor and puppeteer during season one, began appearing on-camera in season two, mostly in the role of J. Arthur Crank. Luis Ávalos also joined the cast at that time.

Bill Cosby was a regular in season one, and occasionally appeared in new segments during season two, but left afterward. Nevertheless, segments that Cosby had taped during the first two years were repeatedly used for the rest of the run, and Cosby was billed as a cast member throughout. Similarly, Lee Chamberlin also left after season two, but many of her segments were also repeatedly reused; consequently, she was also billed as a cast member for the rest of the run.

Added to the cast at the beginning of Season Three was Hattie Winston, an actress and singer who later appeared on the show Becker. Beginning in season four, Danny Seagren, a puppeteer who worked on Sesame Street and also as a professional dancer, appeared in the role of Spider-Man.”

From IMDb:

“The Electric Company,” aimed at children ages 7 to 10, was designed to teach basic reading concepts to its young viewers. Skits featuring the show’s regulars, cartoons, vignettes, and regular features revolved around sound clusters (such as -ly, sh-, oo-) and punctuation marks. On occasion, a fun song was played with the audience challenged to supply the lyrics during the second sing-through. Through the years, different features were added including “Love of Chair” (1971-1973, a spoof of “Love of Life”), “The Adventures of Letterman” (added in 1972), cartoon segments featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner (1973), and Spider-Man (1974).”

From Wikipedia:

“Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids is an animated series created, produced, and hosted (in live action bookends) by comedian Bill Cosby, who also lent his voice to a number of characters, including Fat Albert himself. Filmation was the production company for the series. The show premiered in 1972[1] and ran until 1985 (with new episodes being produced on an “on and off” basis during that time frame). The show, based on Cosby’s remembrances of his childhood gang, centered on Albert (known for his catchphrase “Hey hey hey!”), and his friends.[2]

The show always had an educational lesson emphasized by Cosby’s live-action segments, and in early episodes the gang would usually gather in their North Philadelphia junkyard to play a rock song (summarizing the lesson of the day) on their cobbled-together instruments at the end of the show.”

The first time I saw ‘Bill Cosby: Himself’ on television, I died laughing. The year was 1982; my brothers and I were at a neighbour’s house, prepping some characters for the weekend Dungeons & Dragons™ game that was fast approaching. We didn’t have cable TV at our home, so we watched anything and everything we could when we visited our acquaintances – you’ll get to read about some of the best of the worst things I’ve seen on TV when my book is complete and published! Due to unforeseen events this year, the release date is being pushed to March 2014…besides, my wedding plans are still going forward and those are a bit more important, LOL – digressing…

One of the funniest parts of that comedy piece is the one about drinking! Where he talks about the “raggedy old bourbon drunk,” I think: “LMFAO! That’s me after three shots of Smirnoff on a full stomach!” His observations were spot on, and he didn’t need to resort to F-bombs and other gratuitous tripe to get his point across. That whole sketch was hilarious; if you’ve never seen it then you are missing out! I have it on VHS and will get the DVD soon…

Bill Cosby – Himself: “Drinking

I’ve always loved this next part of the act, as well – I think it’s pretty much the only profanity used in a show that lasted close to 2 hours!

Bill Cosby – Himself: “Thoughts on drugs

Comedians don’t have to be outrageously over-the-top; if you’re funny, you’re funny! Your act can stand alone. Same with movies: if there has to be an arseload of T & A and overly-done CGI ‘special effects,’ then it’s guaranteed that the movie has little-to-nothing in the way of a plotline. Speaking of movies…

I never saw the atrocious Leonard: Part 6, but I did see Ghost Dad – funny thing; Ghost Dad was actually funnier, in my memory, than pretty much any so-called ‘comedy’ being shat out by ‘Holly-white / Hollyweird’ these days!

Next, we have The Cosby Show – a fantastic sitcom that I enjoyed immensely, especially the episodes which drew directly from Bill’s stand-up routines. More from Wikipedia:

“The Cosby Show is an American television situation comedy starring Bill Cosby, which aired for eight seasons on NBC from September 20, 1984 until April 30, 1992. The show focuses on the Huxtable family, an upper middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York.

According to TV Guide, the show “was TV’s biggest hit in the 1980s, and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC’s ratings fortunes”.[1] Originally, the show had been pitched to ABC, which rejected it.[1] Entertainment Weekly stated that The Cosby Show helped to make possible a larger variety of shows based on people of African descent, from In Living Color to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.[2] The Cosby Show was based on comedy routines in Cosby’s standup act, which were based on his family life. Other sitcoms, such as Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond, would later follow that pattern. The show spawned the spin-off A Different World, which ran for six seasons from 1987 to 1993.

The show focuses on the Huxtable family, an upper middle-class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York, at 10 Stigwood Avenue.[3] The patriarch is Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable, an obstetrician, son of a prominent jazz trombonist. The matriarch is his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable née Hanks. The two characters are then followed by their five children, four daughters and one son; Sondra, Denise, Theodore (Theo for short), Vanessa and Rudy. Despite its comedic tone, the show sometimes involves serious subjects, such as son Theo’s experiences dealing with dyslexia, inspired by Cosby’s son Ennis, who was also dyslexic. Teenage pregnancy is also a topic when Denise’s friend, Veronica, played by Lela Rochon, becomes pregnant.”

Again, it was refreshing to see people who looked like me, being…well…being REAL PEOPLE, not stereotypes or buffoons! Other shows since then have gone out of their way to manufacture and perpetrate some of the most racist stereotypes seen since the 1930s. Cosby’s critics panned him every chance they got, with some of the most vitriolic hate coming from the so-called ‘Black community.’ Many claim that The Cosby Show tried to paint an unrealistic picture of Black life in the USA – funny, I see far less realism about Black families today! Mr. Cosby has a doctorate in education, which qualifies him to speak out on how this entire country is failing all of our children miserably.

My only complaint about The Cosby Show is the way the men could be any shade they wanted, but the ladies were invariably light-skinned and had straightened / chemically-altered hair. Black men are allowed to ‘be themselves,’ just like any man, but the women were still held to some narrow, ‘white-washed,’ ‘Eurocentric’ ideal of beauty…I don’t think any of the girls and women on the show had ‘natural’ hair! Still – that’s only a small complaint. I enjoyed the show for many reasons; seeing the televised repeats make me smile, when I happen to be channel-surfing and catch them being aired. Recently, Phylicia Rashad, the actress who portrayed Claire Huxtable, had some things to say about people who continue to criticize the show. From the Huffington Post:

“For eight seasons, actress Phylicia Rashad played TV’s favorite mom on “The Cosby Show.” As Clair Huxtable, Rashad portrayed a strong, confident lawyer married to a successful doctor, the epitome of an upper-middle-class family living in Brooklyn, New York. While “The Cosby Show” was beloved by many, its critics felt that the portrayal of an African-American family wasn’t realistic — a charge Rashad had dismissed time and time again during the sitcom’s run…The critics, Rashad explains, simply don’t bother her. “People will always find something to complain about,” Rashad says. “It piggybacks to what [Alfre Woodard] was saying about knowing your life and who and what you are. And you can stand in that and it doesn’t really matter.”

I can relate to that last sentence wholeheartedly!

Many people forget about the fact that Bill lost his only son, Ennis, to senseless gun violence in January 1997. I was horrified when I heard the news: Ennis had been changing a flat tire at a freeway ramp outside of Los Angeles, and some cretinous arsehole gunned him down in cold blood. Just this past Father’s Day, Bill posted a beautiful picture of himself with his son – what handsome men!

When a parent loses a child, especially to violence, they become members of a club that nobody should, or even wants to, belong in. People criticize Dr. Cosby and claim that his ‘tone is too harsh’ when it comes to speaking out about the ills of society. To them I say, “STFU!” If you can’t put yourself in this man’s shoes, then you really have nothing to say. He isn’t the one ‘airing dirty laundry’ – the people engaging in daily ‘coonery & buffoonery’ on various websites, blogs, and ‘reality’ shows (Maury, Jerry, Ricki, Cheaters, Steve Wilkos, etc.) are the ones stinking everyplace up with their funky-ass drawers! Sheesh…

I know, I know…a lot of you probably expect me to excoriate Bill because of the scandalous affair revealed when some skank tried to extort monies from him. Or maybe you think I should be offended by the fact that he has hosted the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles since 1979 – he recently retired from that position. I don’t have to like the venue he chose, but I’m glad that he’s at least one person keeping jazz, the blues, and other music in the spotlight! He’s a human being with his own faults, foibles, and frailties. People who place others on a pedestal deserve to be disappointed, IMHO…

Here is a little on Dr. Cosby’s history:

“William Henry “Bill” Cosby Jr. (born July 12, 1937) is an American comedian, actor, author, television producer, educator, musician and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at the hungry i in San Francisco and various other clubs, then landed a starring role in the 1960s action show, I Spy. He later starred in his own sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show. He was one of the major performers on the children’s television series The Electric Company during its first two seasons, and created the educational cartoon comedy series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, about a group of young friends growing up in the city. Cosby also acted in a number of films.

During the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in one of the decade’s defining sitcoms, The Cosby Show, which aired eight seasons from 1984 to 1992. It was the number one show in America for five straight years (1985–89).[2] The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an affluent African-American family. He also produced the spin-off sitcom A Different World, which became second to The Cosby Show in ratings. He starred in the sitcom Cosby from 1996 to 2000 and hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things for two seasons.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante included him in his book The 100 Greatest African Americans.[3]

In 1976, Cosby earned a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His dissertation discussed the use of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as a teaching tool in elementary schools.

Cosby was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is one of four sons born to Anna Pearl (née Hite), a maid, and William Henry Cosby Sr., who served as a sailor in the U.S. Navy.[4][5] During much of his early childhood, Cosby’s father was away in the U.S. armed forces and spent several years fighting in World War II. As a student, he described himself as a class clown. Cosby was the captain of both the baseball team and the track and field team at Mary Channing Wister Public School in Philadelphia, as well as the class president.[6] Early on, though, teachers noted his propensity for clowning around rather than studying.[7] At Fitz Simmons Junior High, Cosby began acting in plays as well as continuing his devotion to playing sports.[8] He went on to Central High School, an academically challenging magnet school, but his full schedule of playing football, basketball, baseball, and running track made it hard for him.[8] In addition, Cosby was working before and after school, selling produce, shining shoes, and stocking shelves at a supermarket to help out the family.[8] He transferred to Germantown High School, but failed the tenth grade.[9] Instead of repeating, he got a job as an apprentice at a shoe repair shop, which he liked, but could not see himself doing the rest of his life.[8] Subsequently, he joined the Navy, serving at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland and at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.[10]

While serving in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman for four years, Cosby worked in physical therapy with some seriously injured Korean War casualties,[10] which helped him discover what was important to him. Then he immediately realized the need for an education, and finished his equivalency diploma via correspondence courses.[11] He then won a track and field scholarship to Philadelphia’s Temple University in 1961–62,[12] and studied physical education while running track and playing fullback on the football team.

As Cosby progressed through his undergraduate studies, he continued to hone his talent for humor, joking with fellow enlistees in the service and then with college friends. When he began bar tending at the Cellar, a club in Philadelphia, to earn money, he became fully aware of his ability to make people laugh. He worked his customers and saw his tips increase, then ventured onto the stage.[13]

Stand-up career

Cosby left Temple to pursue a career in comedy, though he would return to collegiate studies in the 1970s. He lined up gigs at clubs in Philadelphia and soon was off to New York City, where he appeared at The Gaslight Cafe starting in 1962.[8] He lined up dates in Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. He received national exposure on NBC‘s The Tonight Show in the summer of 1963 which led to a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, who released his debut LP Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow…Right!, the first of a series of popular comedy albums, in 1964.

While many comics were using the growing freedom of that decade to explore controversial, sometimes risqué, material, Cosby was making his reputation with humorous recollections of his childhood. Many Americans wondered about the absence of race as a topic in Cosby’s stories. As Cosby’s success grew he had to defend his choice of material regularly; as he argued, “A white person listens to my act and he laughs and he thinks, ‘Yeah, that’s the way I see it too.’ Okay. He’s white. I’m Negro. And we both see things the same way. That must mean that we are alike. Right? So I figure this way I’m doing as much for good race relations as the next guy.”[14]

Cosby remains an actively touring stand-up comedian, performing at theaters throughout the country.

After The Cosby Show went off the air in 1992, Cosby embarked on a number of other projects, including a revival of the classic Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life (1992–93) along with the TV-movie I Spy Returns (1994) and The Cosby Mysteries (1994). In the mid-1990s, he appeared as a detective in black-and-white film noir-themed commercials for Turner Classic Movies. He also made appearances in three more films, Ghost Dad (1990), The Meteor Man (1993); and Jack (1996); in addition to being interviewed in Spike Lee‘s 4 Little Girls (1997), a documentary about the racist bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, church in 1963.

Also in 1996, he started up a new show for CBS, Cosby, again co-starring Phylicia Rashād, his onscreen wife on The Cosby Show. Cosby co-produced the show for Carsey-Werner Productions. The show was based on the British program One Foot in the Grave.[citation needed] It centered on Cosby as Hilton Lucas, an iconoclastic senior citizen who tries to find a new job after being downsized and, in the meantime, gets on his wife’s nerves. Madeline Kahn costarred as Rashād’s goofy business partner Pauline. Cosby was hired by CBS to be the official spokesman of the WWJ-TV during an advertising campaign from 1995 to 1998. In addition, Cosby in 1998 became the host of Kids Say the Darndest Things. After four seasons, Cosby was canceled. The last episode aired April 28, 2000. Kids Say the Darndest Things was also canceled the same year. Cosby continued to work with CBS through a development deal and other projects.”

One Foot in the Grave was a funny-ass show! I have it on DVD, just like my treasured Blackadder and League of Gentlemen collections. On a side note: I used to wish that Bill Cosby was my dad…I really, truly did.

All the best to you, Dr. Cosby: you are fearlessly honest and one of the funniest men ever. Those who criticize you lack wisdom and foresight…to hell with ’em all! With that, I leave you with a few of my favourite, comical Cosby skits – and a bonus one from MADtv, back when that show was funny and worth watching!

Dentists

Natural Childbirth

Hofstra (Playing Football)”

Child on the Plane: Geoffrey

Buck-Buck & Fat Albert

MADtv: “Cosby’s Crib

Humor: What Amuses Me

My sense of humor is like me – it can’t be pigeonholed.  I find many different things funny, and others are downright hilarious.  Sometimes an extremely ribald statement will have me rolling on the floor, while others will just leave me shaking my head in disbelief.  I don’t understand the popularity of Carlos Mencia or George Lopez, but I enjoy the comedy of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O’Brien, among others.

Television-wise, I prefer British sitcoms to American ones.  The British comedies tend to be more intellectual, in my opinion – they don’t rub your face in piles of dreck, or beat you over the head with toilet jokes or overtly gratuitous sexual innuendo.  Monty Python: ‘The Holy Grail’ was my first introduction to British humor. I was 12 when I watched it, and thought it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen.  Time Bandits was another one that had me in fits, and I saw it when I was 14.  Ever since then, I’ve sought out foreign films, TV shows, and comedies more often than ones here in America.  My favorite British shows include The Young Ones, Mr. Bean, Black Adder, Absolutely Fabulous, One Foot In the Grave, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, and The League of Gentlemen.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t like American comedies as well; I do, but there just aren’t many out there that tickle my fancy, on the whole.  Thank goodness for reruns – I can still find channels that air Frasier, Bernie Mac, Malcolm in the Middle, Girlfriends, and Cheers.  I love the animated comedies like The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, American Dad, and Futurama.  Cartoon Network also has their ‘Adult Swim’ lineup, which offers such gems as The Venture Brothers, Metalocalypse, Robot Chicken, and Assy McGee, as well as their late-night Saturday anime showings.  Still, it would be nice to see something, somewhere, that isn’t filled with thinly-veiled racism against non-white people!

 

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