The Bath Comedy Festival originally took me by surprise, when it kicked off several years ago. For a while, I felt like I was the only person in the city running any kind of local comedy scene, with The Unrelated Family sketch shows (there was Mirth Control, but this tended to be very catholic stand-up populated by London acts), which I then had to curtail to get stuck into my first book, The Clue Bible. Having moaned about the lack of a comedy scene here for years, it seemed to rather be taking the piss that a whole festival was starting just as I was busy moving onto something else.
Nonetheless, I reformed The Unrelated Family and set up some shows to take part in the very first festival, and I’ve done all I can for every subsequent year, now it’s run by the very determined and enthusiastic Nick Steel. For a few years now, I’ve striven to take over the city’s greatest music venue (The Bell Inn, co-owned by Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel and sundry Wurzels) and stage a whole night celebrating funny music, COMIC NOISES, with musical comedian guest acts and new interpretations of classics by Bill Bailey, Hugh Laurie, Victoria Wood etc. I’ll be doing this again this year, and a week after that, reuniting with Unrelated Family stalwarts for a series of sketches in the same venue. The Bell will also play host to another instalment of Unrehearsed Theatre on Easter Saturday, with Unrehearsed Life of Brian. We’re performing a script which brings back in all the sequences cut from the film as we know it – and all of these events are completely free! Maybe a collection for Comic Relief…
Our own ragged restaging of that classic comedy out in the courtyard on a (hopefully sunny) Easter Saturday will be just the preamble to the real main event – interviewing the director of that film on stage! I will also first of all be racing from 1st Century Judea to the Bath Cricket Club to interview Alternative comedy hero Helen Lederer about her new book LOSING IT, which is extraordinarily exciting, I look forward to asking her all about the early days with Rik & co, and my books will be available as well as Helen’s… so I hope to see you there! However, the day after, Easter Sunday, will see the launch of what will hopefully become a defining mainstay of the Festival from now on – THE BATH PLUG!
It struck me that having a central award for each year’s festival was always a great excuse to wallow in some great comedy with the very best artists, and as the Bath Festival’s patron, who better to receive the first award than Terry Jones? Hopefully he will be the first of many to appreciate the honour, not least as it’s not a piece of crappy perspex to throw in a dusty cupboard, but a proper gold bath plug, which can even be used if need be. Recipients can also use the event to ‘plug’ whatever they’re up to. Do you see? Do you see how many levels this works on? Thank you, yes you do.
Naturally, I’ll be doing all I can to get fresh anecdotes out of the esteemed Python, concentrating on his cinematic career above all else – as an obliging chap, this is one of a dozen Q&As he’ll be doing this season, so I want to make this a distinct celebration of his screen output. Terry himself specifically requested we show his undervalued 1996 adaptation of The Wind In the Willows, and what jollier way to spend Easter afternoon could there be than to join us? And after a break, we’ll chat, and then there’ll be a chance to see Monty Python & The Holy Grail on the big screen.
The temptation to put Life of Brian on, on Easter Sunday, was immense, but, well A) We’d already decided to do Unrehearsed Theatre, and B) LoB’s infamous history with cinema bannings etc. means that few films have been re-released into cinemas quite so often. I myself have seen it at least twice on the big screen, and saw Meaning of Life in the cinema last year in Bristol. If it had been up to me (in lieu of Terry’s brand new sci-fi caper ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING, which simply isn’t ready for release yet) we’d have shown And Now For Something Completely Different! Because, yes, it’s not a great film, but what’s the point of doing these things unless you’re showing something really unusual, something you wouldn’t normally find in cinemas? But as it is, the nightmares clearing the 19-year-old WITW movie have been bad enough, we’re only getting to show it due to round-the-clock hard work from Nick Steel, Will Sansom, and producer John Goldstone, so Holy Grail it is. You can’t exactly complain about one of the funniest movies ever made being shown. So at last, we have a jolly Pythonesque Easter evening to look forward to.
I hope I can catch any random readers of this blog at any one of these events, and that next year’s Bath Plug will be a second huge success! ‘Have a nice day…?’