Tag Archives: Bernard Black

No Man is in Ireland

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Hello, dear reader.  How was your weekend?  I hope you managed to catch up on your sleep.

Last week my lovely friend Katie nominated me on Facebook to post “seven things that you might not know about me”.  I love Katie very dearly, and I respect the fact that she met this challenge, but I will not be completing it myself.  This is for two reasons:

1) Whatever the seven facts about me would be, there’s probably a reason that they’re not common knowledge, i.e. they’re boring as hell.  Who cares about my Year 6 SAT marks?  Not you, that’s for sure.  Not really me, either.

2) I’m a very transparent person, and I’m not sure that there are seven facts about me which aren’t common knowledge.  My Year 6 SAT marks, by the by, were 6, 6 and 5.

I make no apology for the fact that I’m an open book, because I think being honest about yourself is the only way to make real connections with other people.  Obviously I don’t go around with a megaphone broadcasting my personal information to the unsuspecting public of London town, but if someone asks me a question I will do my best to answer it truthfully.  (Except in very specific circumstances, such as when I’m being interrogated by MI5.)

Making connections with other people is important, because we need each other, don’t we?  Even Bernard Black needs Manny.  Ok, here’s something that you might not know about me but could probably guess: I’m very dependent on other people.  I set a lot of store by my friends’ advice, because they’re a pretty wise bunch, and when I’m sad or ill or cranky I want hugs and sympathy.  Sometimes we might berate ourselves for needing other people.  We do this because it doesn’t really fit in with the whole “independent, capable go-getters of the 21st century” persona that we are all so determined to portray, but actually that’s just a knee-jerk reaction to feeling insecure.

It’s all very well to look like a self-sufficient success story, but in reality nobody is completely independent.  No man is an island (or “no man is in Ireland”, which is what I thought the phrase was until I was about 11, and it confused the heck out of me at the time).  Yes, of course we should be able to take care of ourselves, be aware of our own worth and cross roads without other people’s assistance, but there is no shame in respecting and valuing the emotional contributions of the people in our lives.  That’s why we have them in our lives in the first place.

This is also true from a professional perspective.  Working in the arts is demanding (not least because the amount of effort you put in very rarely corresponds with your salary), and we need each other’s support in order to stay motivated.  In the case of Tumbling After specifically (the show I’m directing in Edinburgh this year – here’s some more info in case you missed my last post), the devising process means that we all need to trust each other and be as honest as possible.  Just in terms of the admin, the producer and I find that we are more productive if we meet up to swear and glare at our laptops together.  Sure, we could sit at home individually and do the same thing, but we are more productive (and more importantly, much happier) if we have someone to share ideas and coffee with.

Have a beautiful day.  Go and hug someone who contributes to your life.

What A Character!

Good morning, dear reader.  I hope you’re feeling well-rested today.

Yesterday was a very sad day for comedy fans everywhere: it brought news that Rik Mayall had died at the untimely age of 56.  My heart goes out to his family and friends, and although there is sadly nothing I personally can do to comfort them, I would like to pay a small, silly homage to Mayall in today’s blog post.

Performers like Mayall are a rare and wonderful breed: not only do they portray truly unique and memorable characters, but they do it with a very individual skill and energy. We love these characters because they are like and unlike us at the same time: we could never (for reasons of practicality, society and/or the law) be these characters, but something about them speaks to us very clearly.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Rik Mayall – Flashheart

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The bolshy, boisterous and alarmingly cavalier Casanova of the Blackadder series – a perfectly outrageous foil for Rowan Atkinson’s devastatingly sarcastic protagonist.  In Blackadder Goes Forth, Flashheart’s daring exploits, enjoyment of adventure and constant references to his sexual prowess represented everything that the British public secretly wanted their men in the air to be.  We would all like to think that we could be as dry and witty as Edmund Blackadder, but there can be no question that we would also love to have Flashheart’s eye-watering confidence and bravado.  After all, it does seem to pay off.

Dylan Moran – Bernard Black    

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Moran’s performance perfectly captures the absurdity and lovable awfulness of this very unique character.  On the surface of things, there is nothing particularly sympathetic about a man who drinks, smokes and tyrannises his way through life; this is a bookseller who cannot stand to sell books.  The reason we love this man so much is because he is acting out all of the ridiculous, socially unacceptable and vice-based behaviours that we all wish we could get away with.  Narcissistic, alcoholic, abusive and anti-social: oh, to be allowed to behave like Bernard Black!

Richard Ayoade – Maurice Moss

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Setting aside for a moment that Ayoade is just a freaking awesome human being who has far too much talent for one person, Moss is one of the nation’s favourite comedy characters because he is a naive genius: his intellect is superior, but his experience is lacking.  Moss reminds us that it is possible to be unbelievably clever and endearingly ignorant at the same time.  We tend not to want that trait for ourselves, but the uncomfortable fact is that we all do it from time to time – we just couldn’t function with the same levels of extremity that Moss does.  Who else could become embroiled in the dark underground world of street Countdown?

 Emma Chambers – Alice Tinker

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Loyal, loving and full of joy, Alice Tinker is also (as the other characters constantly point out) very, very stupid.  If we went around saying the kind of things she says in The Vicar of Dibley, none of us would be able to leave the house unsupervised, let alone get a job, make friends or find true love.  Yet despite all of her eccentric idiocy (“I haven’t been so excited since I won that Beauty Contest, d’you remember?”  “Yes.  We were playing Monopoly at the time, weren’t we Alice?”) the other characters genuinely love her.  Sadly but truly, we could never live in her fantasy world, but we love her because she gives us hope that even those of us with the most extreme deficiencies can be happy and be loved by others.

I’m not suggesting that you have any extreme deficiencies, obviously.  You’re flipping wonderful.  Have a spectacular Tuesday.