Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Four Yorkshiremen or four Ein-hodians?

JOHN CLEESE and GRAHAM CHAPMAN, along with Tim-Brooke Taylor (the future Goodie, who is also in "How to Irritate People"), Marty Feldman (who probably needs no introduction), and Aimi MacDonald headlined the 13 episodes of this black-and-white classic series, which directly preceded (and inspired) Monty Python. With every episode a string of wildly silly and hilarious sketches, it deserves to achieve immortal status. However, the master tapes of all but two of the episodes were erased many years ago. Only through the detective work of tape historians have episodes of the series have been recovered. Six complete episodes are now known to survive, along with many incomplete episodes.
At Last The 1948 Show's most famous sketch, "The Four Yorkshiremen," in which a quartet of businessmen brag about their miserable upbringings ("We used to get up in the morning at half past 10 at night, half an hour before we'd gone to bed, eat a loaf of poison, work 29 hours a day..."), has become the kind of easy-to-adapt standard appropriated by sketch acts in need of quick filler. However, working within such a well-worn structures has its drawbacks; the closing punch-lines nearly always fall with a thud. As Brooke-Taylor says, it wasn't until Python that "they got around it [the closing punch line] by Graham Chapman coming out and saying, 'This is silly, this is boring, let's go someplace else.'"

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