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Clowning around

One reason to see Cirque du Soleil's Dralion? It stars one of my favourite Brisbane actors, Hayden Spencer, as a clown. Spencer follows in the big footsteps of Queenslander Stephen Bishop, who appeared in Cirque's Varekai. More here.

Some kind of gag

The Daily Record has hired edgy Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle as a columnist, but it already seems he's a bit controversial for the family paper. In his first column, The Record has rendered the word "bastard" as "b*****d", shit as s*** and piss (I think) as p***. None of these words would be censored from most Australian papers these days, as long as the editor felt they were contextual - which they are here given Boyle's oeuvre. Stranger still is the fact that I have heard the F-word (which most Australian and British papers would not print in full) more on television - and, significantly, in the street - here in Scotland than I ever have in Australia.
PS: Boyle's column is subtitled, "He's the comic who can't be gagged".

Give the kid a break!

Just two months ago, the Daily Mail was praising Harry Potter star Emma Watson for her dress sense, and comparing her to Princess Grace. Now the paper is berating her as dowdy. Goodness, the poor girl is only 18 and she's already having to put up with this nonsense. Leave her alone!

Life imitates art

Remember the episode of The Young Ones where they went on University Challenge? Well now there's a contestant on University Challenge, the long-running BBC quiz show, who has a passing resemblance to TYO's Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson, pictured). Nineteen-year-old James Archer - who was representing King's College, Cambridge rather than Scumbag College - has even had a tangle with the law. He was warned not to wear his miltary-style jacket because it's illegal to impersonate an RAF officer (bright red mohawk hairstyle notwithstanding). More here.

Wrestle with a Python

The Monty Python team has made many of its funny bits available on YouTube, with the aim of making money from attached ads. It's explained, and it's accessible, here

Farewell, Reg Varney

I have fond memories of Reg Varney as Jack Butler in On The Buses, and for his variety performances that were screened on TV when I was a kid. But I didn't know that Varney - who has died at the age of 92 - was the first person to use an ATM. According to this report, he used a cash machine at Barclays bank in Enfield, North London, in 1967. How come, then, when I first came to the UK 20 years later, ATMs were still as scarce as the proverbial hen's teeth?
PS: The same article reveals that Stephen Lewis, who played the apparently ancient Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake, is now just 72 - meaning he was only in his mid-thirties when On The Buses was in its hey-day. Amazing.

Goon but not forgotten

Scripts for The Goon Show and The Two Ronnies serial The Phantom Blower of Old London Town, plus a piano played by Paul McCartney, are up for sale at an auction of Spike Milligan's belongings.

Vive le difference

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross have paid the price for their prank call to Andrews Sachs, but the world is laughing along with French Canadian comic Sebastien Trudel who fooled Sarah Palin into thinking he was French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The difference? I think it's because one was a mean-spirited and personal attack on an elderly man who didn't ask for it, the other exposed the naivety of somebody who has suspended some of their rights to privacy by pursuing high office. You can here it here.

Story of the week

The Daily Mail asks: Did Kenneth Williams poison his father? Apparently, the camp Carry On star was the police's only suspect in the death of his homophobic father.

Brand, Ross pay the price

Comedian Russell Brand and talk show host Jonathan Ross have been suspended by the BBC for their offensive prank call to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs. There have been calls for them to be sacked. Whatever the outcome of this case, I hope broadcasters everywhere take note. There is a line that can be - and in this case has been - crossed in the name of "entertainment". Prank and gotcha calls often come at a cost to somebody's dignity and privacy. In the UK, there's also the mitigating factor that the BBC is funded by licence-fee payers (me included). Ross, who hosts a late-night chat and variety show, is on a 6 million-pounds-a-year contract, and Brand reportedly earns 400,000 pounds and was regarded as a "star signing" for the BBC. The average annual pay packet is about 25,000 pounds. The duo repeatedly rang Sachs's answering machine telling him Brand had slept with the actor's granddaughter. They later suggested that Sachs might kill himself after hearing the news, and they joked about breaking into his house and sexually abusing him. The pre-recorded program went to air after being approved by a senior BBC executive. One can only imagine the personal embarrassment to the woman in question, 23-year-old Georgina Baillie, who has a right to expect such matters to remain private. However, her thoughts are with her grandfather, who has no need nor, I would imagine, any desire to hear about her sex life. "What's funny about humiliating a lovely old man who has never harmed anyone in his life," she says. "My grandfather is really upset and says he wants the whole situation to end. It has been awful for him." Moreover, it's been a dark episode in the history the BBC and broadcasting in general.
Update:Brand has quit his BBC Radio 2 program and taken full responsibility for the incident. Presumably, this will take some heat off the highly paid Ross - who, let's not forget, was the first the make the offensive remark to Sachs.

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