In The Art of Laughter, which I reviewed three posts ago, Jos Houben tells you what's funny, performs something to illustrate his theme, and then we do indeed laugh. All pretty straightforward. But there's another kind of physical comedy lecture-demo featuring a less trustworthy narrator, where there's a disconnect between lecture and demo, between our host's pretentious words and silly actions.
Here's Zach Galifianakis, from Comedians of Comedy, with a deliberately "fake" lecture:
And here's a Monty Python classic from their Hollywood Bowl concert, with Graham Chapman lecturing very intellectually about comedy while his cohorts do their best to surprise us with twists on standard bits. Funny!
Good as these are, the ultimate to my mind is Bill Irwin's The Regard of Flight, which borrows this notion and transforms it into a brilliant 46-minute, post-modern theatre piece. Irwin's efforts to deliver a manifesto on the founding of a "new theatre" are constantly undermined by a nettlesome critic who forces him to admit to his reliance on the tried and true props of the variety stage. Here are three excerpts:
Coming Soon: Rowan Atkinson's physical comedy lecture, Laughing Matters (aka Funny Business)
• Two previous posts in which Dick Van Dyke delivers mock physical comedy lectures.
• Leslie Nielsen introductions to a series of Three Stooges movies on American Movie Channel. Some stabs at a humorous lecture here.
• Buy DVD of Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl here.
• Regard of Flight was available from PBS as a VHS, but not any longer, and is now hard to find for purchase, though you could check back here or on eBay.