Tuesday, 8 December 2009

336: Fairy Tales - I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again

I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, 7 November 1966

John Cleese: Today it’s story time. And you can help me make up the story
Cast: Goody-goody
JC: It’s all about a wicked baron
Cast: Ew, boring.
JC: And a lovely young fairy
Tim Brooke-Taylor (camp) Oh, what’s his name?
JC: (emphatic) A lovely young fairy Princess
TBT: Nyaaaa (then blows raspberry)

I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, 4 June 67

Narrator: And here is a fairy story by Hans Anderson
Tim Brooke-Taylor (camp): Don’t you mean Hans and his son
Narrator: I said a Fairy story
(oooohing and mmmming by cast)
Cleese: Cheeky!


As far as gags about “fairies” go this, this is as simple as you could imagine. What is noteworthy is these obvious jokes showstopping reception at the time.
“I’m Sorry I’ll Read that Again” was a BBC radio sketch programme that ran for the second half of the 1960s, and was a training ground for the writers and performers of “Monty Python’s Flying circus” and “The Goodies”. It consisted of lots of quick fire gags, puns, silliness, broad performances and as much innuendo as was permissible. The audience was always fairly appreciative, but when Tim Brooke-Taylor says “Oh, what’s his name” it brings the house down. There’s non-stop laughter for 10 seconds, and the cast are unable to deliver the next line except after a couple of attempts. For this contemporary audience this is pure comedy gold, something more daring than usual. That this is not a one-off is proven in the same 7 November 1966 episode, a sketch involving a becalmed ship has quick exchange:

John Cleese: A breeze, a breeze at last! I feel like a new man!
Tim Brooke-Taylor: How about me ducky?
CJ: Ah, we haven’t had a puff for weeks!

which again gets a disproportionately large and long laugh. So all I can guess is that jokes involving references to homosexuality are just now breaking into mass entertainment. The Satire Boom had died out a couple of years earlier so slightly more thoughtful or sophisticated jokes about homosexuality under the banner of social commentary had likewise vanished. BBC radio had been broadcasting “Round the Horne” since March 1965, so “Julian and Sandy” had been entertaining a large audience for the previous year and a half. In retrospect everyone knows Julian and Sandy are gay jokes, but at the time of broadcast it was only the gay minority of listeners who recognised them for what they were. The rest of the audience seems to have thought they were odd humorous characterisations of a piece with the rest of the programme. But now, for “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again” jokes about “effeminacy in men” as previously banned by the BBC censor, are permissible and very very successful.

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