On The Halls

I’ve just read two biographies of George Robey back to back and both authors say that all comedy since has been shite. I’ve noticed this with some Music Hall freaks. They even despise Variety.
But none of them were writing after seeing the effects of The Comedy Store and All That. What is known as Alternative Comedy. What they seem to admire in the Halls, and bemoan the death of since, is exactly what the current generation of standups is delivering. It seems to me.
And certainly none of them saw Bill Bailey’s Amazing Guide to the Orchestra last week, with the hilarious performance of The Swan on tuned alpine cow bells. What did it remind me of? And then the fuzzy black and white memory came to me of a row of suit-tailed harmonica players, one a demi-dwarf with the enourmous bass harmonica, playing musical chairs to the William Tell Overture on Sunday Night at The London Palladium.
So what I really want to know is, has there ever been a funnier time on the British stage? And whether funnier or not, isn’t much of what happens on the comic stage (and TV) now very similar to the bizarre world of the music halls?
‘Alternative comedy’ and the punk rock movement were cultural twins. The same general gamete of anti-glitz created them both. And John Lydon maintained that he was not a rock singer but a music hall performer in the British style. An angry, latter day Billy Bennett, possibly. The surrealism of Bennet is certainly there in Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble and John Cooper-Clarke. And Lor-luv-a-duck, Marie Lloyd’s real name was Victoria Wood, who could have easily penned the gloriously ironic ‘A Nice Quiet Day’ or ‘Don’t Have Any More Missus Moore’.

Now I works just like a good’un
And I isn’t over strong
And I’m mostly on me trotters all the time
So I’m glad when Easter Sunday or a Whitsun comes along
‘Cos a day of perfect rest is really prime.
So I lately took it easy ‘cos I had a day to spare
With the wife and kiddies in their sunday clothes.
Twas a treat to make me mind up for a bit of country air
And the pleasures of a quiet day’s repose…

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