Saturday, June 27, 2009

British Auteurism, Real Life, Rad Connections

Not only do Brits have a uniquely, well, British sense of humor, they also have a uniquely British approach to producing television comedies. There is a proud tradition of British sketch shows and sitcoms being exclusive in their creative teams--celebrated is the show that's star is also its creator, producer, and writer.

This auteurism dates back to "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and continues through Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie's "A Bit of Fry and Laurie," Steve Coogan's multiple series, including "Coogan's Run" and "I'm Alan Partridge," Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's "The Office," Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding's "The Mighty Boosh," and David Mitchell and Robert Webb's "That Mitchell and Webb Look."

Last night, a (British) friend introduced me to the inventive and hilarious "That Mitchell and Webb Look." Because David Mitchell and Robert Webb are almost entirely responsible for the show's sketches, the series is unmistakably infused with the unique personalities and personal experiences of these two talented individuals.

One particular recurring skit got me thinking about where exactly Mitchell and Webb were drawing their influences from. Was it really possible that these two successful British comedians grew up obsessively watching the 80s BMX masterpiece Rad, as I did?

Rad is a true cult classic--a movie that was only released once, in 1987, on VHS and laserdisc. I remember that there was one sole beat-up VHS that all of the boys in my neighborhood shared. Huddled in dimly lit suburban basements, we marveled at the determination of the movie's hero, Cru Jones, and the athletic beauty of a young Lori Loughlin. Peddling around the neighborhood on our own BMX bikes, we could hear the film's de facto theme song, Real Life's "Send Me an Angel," playing in our heads.

Is it possible that Mitchell and Webb had similar experiences? Their skit "Angel Summoner and The BMX Bandit" sure suggests as much...

It gets in your eyes, it's making you cry
Don't know what to do, don't know what to do
You're looking for love
Calling heaven above

Send me an angel
Send me an angel
Right now, right now

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hey, There

My grandpa (Grandpa Lee) had nicknames for all of his grandkids. At family picnics, on dinnertime phone messages, in black pen scrawled across gifts of giant Hershey's chocolate bars, he referred to us by our nicknames.

He had a thick, Winston-tinged voice and he would always greet me with the same phrase: "Hey, there Gromyko."

It was so common and so casual that I never took any time to think about it while I was growing up.