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Nostalgia is funny

Martin Witts, artistic director of Leicester Square Theatre, who has created the Museum of Comedy in London. Photo: Steve Ullathorn
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Last July I wrote a piece titled ‘We must take a serious approach to comedy archives‘ which described the efforts of comedian-turned-academic Dr Oliver Double to set up a comedy collection at the University of Kent. The venture was announced after the bequeathing of scripts and recordings belonging to the late of Linda Smith. The British Comedy Archive was thus born.

Apparently this laudable venture is still birthing, and sourcing new artefacts, but, while we wait, the Museum of Comedy has arrived to sate our lust for comedy nostalgia.

To deserved fanfare this week, Martin Witts, director of the Leicester Square Theatre, announced the new museum would open at the end of April, under the crypt of St George’s Church in Bloomsbury. It will house everything from Charlie Chaplin’s cane to copies of contracts.

A month later, a 100-seater venue will open within the museum that will be used for comedy workshops and screenings, featuring the likes of Jerry Sadowitz. Meanwhile, it’s hoped that Paul Merton will use the venue for a silent films season.

Given the rich comedy heritage across the UK, it would be great to see other such ventures spring up over time. One assumes that there are other collectors out there who could exhibit some fascinating memorabilia.

With the club scene experiencing uncertainly, further combinations of a museum/collection with a living and breathing performance space are a welcome addition, and could see that past glories ensuring future stars.

Embargo Smargo?

It was announced on Thursday that Monty Python’s July 20th date at the 02 will be their last, and that there was to be no world tour. The announcement came in a press release timed at 5pm with an embargo at 6.30pm.

I must admit that I didn’t clock the embargo and immediately reached for Twitter to jokingly speculate whether the Pythons had already fallen out in rehearsal, playing on some previous coverage of their relationship. With a tour titled One Down Five To Go, these chaps can take a joke.

Minutes later, I took a call from the PR to politely request me to consider taking it down, and adding that the sketch legends hadn’t started rehearsing yet. At first I was a bit miffed that this apparent sense of humour failure, but, given the reasonable tone and the proximity of the embargo I decided I would.

About 6pm the inevitable happened and the embargo started to crumble and the Twittersphere was more or less aware of the news. I duly made my gag.

What stuck with me was that this was the first time I has ever come up against an embargo, and how odd a concept they seem in a world of fast-moving information. They are, I suppose, the PR equivalent of making the audience wait before curtain-up, an appetite-whetting exercise.

They seem a bit quaint in the age of Twitter though, especially an hour or so before an event that doesn’t really require pre-research, something that embargoes were set up to allow for. What’s more the embargo tends to create ‘scoop fever’ between publications and bloggers all poised to break it. The risk here being that once broken, other outlets may push it down their news agenda.

In this case, the exact time of the Python’s demise, morbid fascination was always guaranteed

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