Monday, August 3, 2009


I've run out of time-lapse videos to share with you, so I'm switching from "Time-Lapse Mondays" to "Classic Comedy Mondays".

My first choice has to be what was (and remains) the funniest scene I've ever seen. In the summer of 1977, I was living in a funky apartment, deeply depressed from being dumped by my partner of five years, kept from seeing my/our daughter, and frequently suicidal. Little penetrated my despair, and my friends plus my mother were working overtime to keep me going.

I had watched a little Monty Python at the time, and found it intermittently entertaining. I hadn't really "gotten the joke" yet for a lot of their humor -- it was that new. But it was because of John Cleese that I decided one night to watch a new series called Fawlty Towers. The episode I watched was called "Gourmet Night", and I immediately understood Basil Fawlty on a visceral level. Until I was 35 or so, I identified with Basil Fawlty in a number of painful ways.

This scene where Basil is desperately trying to save his ill-conceived "gourmet night" at his shoddy hotel by secretly bringing in the main dishes from another restaurant in town. On the way back, working against the clock, his mechanically-troubled old heap finally dies on him, and he goes off his nut. When he ran out of the screen, I had no clue what he was going to do. When he returned and, well, you'll see, I laughed so hard I fell off my came-with-the-apartment foam-rubber couch onto the gummy shag carpeting, and then I actually passed out for a couple of seconds.

John Cleese and Connie Booth, who created this series and were married when it began, deserve full props for making it the best of the best. Wikipedia reports "Both Cleese and Booth were so keen on every script being perfect, some episodes took four months and ten drafts to write until they were satisfied."

After you watch the first clip of the scene itself, take a look at the second slip which is Cleese being interviewed about how it was made.

John Cleese talks about the "Beating the Car" clip and what technique was employed to make it work.

1 comment:

kat said...


John Cleese is hilarious. He was the celebrity guest at the UC Santa Barbara chamber choir's Christmas concert the year that I was at UCSB. We did the concert in conjunction with the SB Children's Choir.
He was supposed to read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Being John Cleese, and never wanting to be anything less than awesome, he did as though he had spilled coffee on half of the pages, and filled in the "missing bits" with rhymes that were rather rude.

It was fantastic. Though, I've always wondered what the parents in the audience were thinking!!

(He lives in Santa Barbara, and apparently does local events like that fairly frequently....without much in the way of fuss or fanfare. Which is more than I can say of other famous people who occupy the mansions in the hills above town....)