Ha Ha

Nick Baker investigates subjects and their teaching as a source of comic material.


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Nick Baker investigates subjects and their teaching as a source of comic material.

Nick Baker finds examples of how the learning of foreign languages has been mined by comedians, songwriters and other performers for its comic potential.

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20061221 (R4)

One of the standard devices that comedy has used from time immemorial is to poke fun at what might be called 'The Good Old Days'.

This programme explores what is so funny about history with help from the likes of Frankie Howerd, Mel Brooks, Stanley Holloway, Danny Kaye, Bob Newhart, the Monty Python team, Messrs Croft and Perry, Rowan Atkinson, and Nigel Molesworth.

What can be funnier than to laugh at the foibles of our forefathers? Especially with all the advantages of twenty-twenty hindsight, and targets who can't answer back.

But is that all there is to it? How soon after the event, for instance, is it possible to hold it up to ridicule? Sooner than you might think.

Although whole websites were devoted to jokes about Princess Diana within days of her death, it took a little longer for people to try and find humour in the events of 9/11, but jokes did even emerge on that subject, too.

It's hard to find a major historical event that people have not been prepared to make jokes about - however serious, and however offensive it might be to some.

And what does it say about a culture that has to look for its comedy targets in the past rather than the present? From 1066 And All That to The Producers, from Oh What A Lovely War to M.A.S.H., Up Pompeii to A Life of Brian, taking in Dad's Army, Carry On Up The Kyhber and countless other sketches, records, plays, musicals, films, routines and books this programme tackles the A-Z of the subject from Anachronism to Zenophobia.

With real Zeno.

And the real Anna.