By Daniel Skora
It is, after all, England that we’re talking about, the country across the pond that with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men still couldn’t control that ragtag bunch of colonists who went on to thumb their noses at the men in red, declaring their independence in the process. The British are different from us, indeed, and that difference extends not only to what they think is funny, but how they respond to what they think is. They wheeze, they chortle, they giggle and guffaw. They chuckle, they snicker, they titter and snort. But laugh out loud with a belly shaker like Santa Claus? No Way. Picture Charles Coburn, with his monocle and rumpled suit, who may have been born American but came across in the movies as more British than most of the Brits.
To show you what the British think funny, Mind the Gap Productions have put together “Heroes of British Comedy – Part II”. The show is a series of sketches made popular by some of the finest of British comics. It’s a multi-formatted show, beginning with film clips of the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Peter Sellers doing what they did best in the movies. It segues over to a short history of comedy and the joke, offering up a brave trio (one, by the way, braver than the others) having a go at the comedy staple, the banana peel slip, and everybody’s favorite, the pie-in-the-face.
“Heroes of British Comedy” has been compiled by director, producer, and actor Adrian Diffey. The reason it’s a Part II is because there was a prior version performed not too long ago at a dinner theatre in Saline. Diffey has carved into the previous version, eliminating some sketches and adding others. It’s fitting that the show is being presented at Northville’s Historic Marquis Theatre. Charlie Chaplain, clips of whom are shown at the beginning of the show, once appeared live at the theatre in the 1920’s when vaudeville was king and the Marquis was known as the Penniman Allen Theatre.
The show is an eclectic mix of song, video, and sketches, all owing their origins to British comedic stalwarts like Dudley Moore, Peter Sellers, Rowan Atkinson, and Monty Python, among others. In one sketch, a woman sings the praises of the peace and quiet to be found in the great outdoors with the song “All Alone” from “Spamalot”, until she discovers that the woods isn’t as peaceful and quiet as she thinks. Two blokes in a pub have a spirited conversation about a relationship over a couple of mugs of Guinness, their dialogue more than a bit similar to the lyrics of the Beatles song “She Loves You”. A prize fighter appears to be having more success pounding away at a painter’s canvas than he may ever have had as a boxer. And a skit called “Blackberry” pokes some pun-acious fun at words like blackberry and apple that used to be names for fruit before they were hijacked by the electronics industry (Anyone got a Bluetooth?)
Though the sketches as a whole achieve varying degree of success, you’re bound to find several of the more than twenty to tickle your funny bone. One quality that many of them have that can be unnerving to American audiences is their lack of a punch line or a resolution to the situation at hand. The seven member ensemble includes Diffey, Fran Potasnik, Carrie Sayer, Richie Slater, Jeannine Thompson, Dale Vandrese, and Stephan R. White.
There are two performances of Heroes of British Comedy remaining, Friday April 8th and Saturday April 9th. Performances are being held at the Marquis Theatre in Northville. Tickets are $15 at the door or can be purchased with a Visa or Mastercard by calling the Marquis Theatre box office at 1.248.349.8110 between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Marquis Theatre is located at 135 E. Main in Northville.