The art of comedy

Making an exhibition of Scottish comics – and Harry Hill

Some of the great figures of Scottish comedy are to be celebrated in a new exhibition at the country’s National Portrait Gallery.

Tickling Jock: Comedy Greats from Sir Harry Lauder to Billy Connolly, will bring together images of 50 stars including Rikki Fulton, Stanley Baxter and Ronnie Corbett.

The title comes from Lauder’s 1904 song Stop Yer Tickling Jock, which will be played on the way into the major new exhibition.

As well as paintings, photographs and sculpture, there will be archive material covering the period 1900-1975, which the Edinburgh gallery says ‘will explore the styles, settings and catchphrases that paved the way for laughs today’.

Director Christopher Baker said: ‘This exhibition presents an exciting prospect for visitors to the Portrait Gallery; Edinburgh hosts the world’s largest arts festival every Summer, and as comedy forms a vital part of it we are delighted to be able to bring together such an incredible homage to those who shaped the way we listen and laugh today.’

The exhibition runs for 15 months, opening on February 23, and admission is free. As a precursor, the Stand comedy club in Edinburgh is hosting an event in which modern stand-ups, led by Susan Morrison, reflect on their predecessors. Giggling Jock is at 5pm on November 15.

Meanwhile, a brief exhibition will open in London in January – entirely dedicated to Harry Hill’s TV Burp.

But the blurb for Anna FC Smith’s BURPology: Harry Hill’s TV Burp as Carnival might be worthy of Private Eye's Pseuds' Corner.

The show description reads: ‘Her sensitive and expressive two-dimensional works examine the action of the television show with the keen observation of an anthropologist. The three-dimensional pieces draw from the folk iconography of Naïve commemorative memorabilia. Collectively, they present , they present TV Burp’s elements and key characters as rituals and archetypes, with relayed slapstick, distorted faces, and characterful expressions.

‘The exhibition playfully demonstrates how certain traditions repeatedly manifest in society... and to understand this unintentional carnival “born out of the traditions in the blood and moulded by the laughter of the audience” as a continuation of a fluctuating folk institution. Accordingly, Smith highlights the enduring methods in which we humans engage and deal with our existence.’

The exhibition is on at the Conningsbury Gallery from January 21 to 26.

Published: 8 Nov 2012

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