Stewart Lee + Shaun Micallef = Ideal comedy organism

Shane Dundas on his comedy idols

Stewart Lee: 90s Comedian

I'd pay to see Mr Lee opening a letter. Fortunately he does a lot more than that. I saw him open a door once. And for free!

I experienced this live show in Edinburgh in 2005, and that was what did it for me. I was already a fan, but this was almost a religious experience, and not just because of the Jesus references. The man was completely in his element, in the moment, it was like he was surfing on the willing minds of the audience. That's what I aspire to. Mind surfing. I

It was a masterclass in making a show more than jokes, a show being much more than you realise until you're right there. Smart comedy with no concessions. The show on DVD isn't exactly the same as the one I saw, but you'll get the idea. Go Stew!


It was called Flying High! in Australia, possibly due to the incorrect spelling in the American title. This doesn't explain why it was unchanged in the UK. Either way the title's the least funny thing about it.

Call me immature, but this is the movie I laughed at most when I first saw it so it has to be on the list. I don't need to quote it either – you will have your own fave bits. And if you don't, what on earth are you doing on this website? Oh that? I see. Well what you do in the privacy of your own seat on a crowded train is no-one's business but your own.

The performances hit just the right note against everything going on. It was the perfect plot (neatly filched from Zero Hour) to hang the gags on, and at the time it had the highest gag hit rate of any film around. They may not have all been gold, but so many of them were hurled at the screen that it didn't matter. And I'm old enough to have been in a theatre full of delighted laughers when it first came out, way before the whole film parody thing became a faded parody of itself.

Duck Soup

A Night at the Opera may be nice, A Day at the Races might be fun. But Queen made a big mistake not naming one of their albums Duck Soup. And if Freddie Mercury were alive today I'd have a stern word with him about this, and about his pretending to be dead all these years. This is the great Marx Brothers movie. They melded their anarchies (each had their own) with a satire that still manages to hold up, provided you factor in the early 30s acting style of the rest of the cast.

I don't think it was the brothers' - or the public's - favourite film at the time, but what do they know? The public I mean. Oh hang on, that's probably you, reading this right now. And I've just trashed the Marx Brothers' critical opinion of their own film.

In any case it's its own brand of brilliant and worth checking out, not least for the original mirror scene. That's been done since, but rarely better. As far as I'm concerned it's still ahead of its time, which is the early 30s. Just watch it with that in mind and marvel.


If you haven't seen this you're definitely on the wrong website. A devilishly clever excuse for incorporating several extended sketch scenarios into a single narrative. I think this is Pete and Dud at their filmic best, swinging in the 60s, written by a genius (Pete, from story by he and Dud) and directed by someone who knew what he was doing.

I can see the twinkle in these guys' eyes as I watch. Nuns on trampolines and change for a 50 million pound note? Say no more. If anyone mentions the remake I'll slap them upside the head. I just did it to myself for that very reason.

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

I know these aren't bold choices, but they make me laugh. Or at least they make me remember how much I laughed at them once, before I watched them to death. What I'm trying to say is this is still good shit.

Life of Brian is more of a film, more of a statement, but I can't get past the audacity of riding coconut horses and knights who insist on saying ‘Ni!’ even after being instructed otherwise. And Tim the Enchanter. And and and.

The imagery is both grungy and absurd, as was the budget apparently. I often find that the budget of a comedy is inversely proportional to how funny it is. Revisit and enjoy.

Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

This is absurd, black comedy class all the way. Every person involved made it something special, from the writers, director and cast whose names elude me all the way down to hairdresser Barbara Ritchie and aviation advisor Captain John Crewdson. Give me this shit over a contemporary bromance any day.

Shaolin Soccer or Kung Fu Hustle

If you're a comedy aficionado and don't mind the odd spot of biffing, you should take a look at Hong Kong's biggest contemporary film comic, Stephen Chow. And these are the movies to check out.

Shaolin Soccer, concerning the formation of a soccer team of kung fu misfits, is all over the place. That's one of the things I love about it. It can get heavy and dramatic one moment and instantly undercut it with something completely ridiculous. You just don't see this stuff coming.

Kung Fu Hustle's a slicker, more consistent piece. Chow's obviously a big Bruce Lee fan and knows his kung fu archetypes but isn't afraid to play off them to the extreme. There are cultural jokes and references that I missed, but more than enough that connect.

You haven't lived until you've watched a scene culminating in a roadrunner-style chase involving a landlady. I've already said too much. Chow wrote and directed these, and there's something about his attitude that I just love but can't put my finger on. If you haven't seen anything like this before, you won't have seen anything like this before. Bill Murray loves it, so why shouldn't you?

The Goodies: Movies

I love Black Books, Arrested Development and The Office, but I thought I'd mention some other telly fellows that don't get their due. I grew up watching these guys and truly admire their inventiveness. Apparently they're a bit out of favour over there these days. Well you should darn well check out the visual cleverness of this episode and get back to me.

Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty!

And they say Americans don't get it. And rightly so. But they're wrong. At least in this case. And others.

This is Steve in his stand-up prime, taking the piss out of stand-up. By the end of the 70s the live comedy audience was stand-up literate enough to be ready for this kinda stuff. It makes me chuckle every time. The jokes were often about making the jokes, which was a new thing back then.

I'm a big fan of simultaneously doing more than one thing comedically, even if the audience doesn't get it at the time. But they did. Thank you Steve.

Smithereens by Shaun Micallef

This is a collection of essays and tidbits. It tickled me in a very similar way to Woody Allen's Without Feathers, but without reference to feathers. Seen mainly on TV, Shaun's something of an Oz comedy maestro, another fine exponent of the simultaneously clever and silly.

Shaun does just what I'm into. He comedically plays with the conventions, the language, the very fabric of whatever medium he's working in, and in a supremely entertaining way. He knows his way around a sentence, and over the top of a visual gag as well - a bit hard in a book, but somehow his writing often seems like physical comedy applied to words.

His kind of smart fun doesn't always get supported in my country. If there were a god I'd thank it for making a good-sized Australian audience love him, because God knows that couldn't have happened without divine help.

And if I made a clone from him and Stewart Lee, I'd potentially create the perfect comedy organism. However with current cloning technology the more likely result would be a hideously deformed mutant and grounds for a lawsuit.

Published: 15 Aug 2012

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.