Alasdair Beckett-King

Alasdair Beckett-King

A film-maker and illustrator, as well as a stand-up, he won the NATY award in 2014 and was runner-up in the Laughing Horse new act of the year 2013.
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'Imagine Pirates of the Caribbean - but good'

Alasdair Beckett-King shares his comedy favourites

Father Ted

Father Ted was created by comedy writer Arthur Mathews and mad internet bully Graham Linehan. And I'm grateful to both of them for writing the funniest line I've ever heard in a sitcom:

FATHER TED: Mrs Doyle, have you got your contacts in?

MRS DOYLE: No. A dog ran off with them.

It doesn't seem that special written down. But when I heard that at the age of 14, I found it debilitatingly funny. I missed the rest of the scene. I could barely concentrate on the rest of the episode. It's the ridiculous conviction in Pauline McLynn's performance. It's the pure silliness of the image.

I love jokes that conjure a strong image, and Father Ted is full of memorable images and visual gags: kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse, Chris the sheep and the spider baby. The dirty, grimy production design is a huge part of the show's charm. I've never understood why so much comedy seems to exist in a world where everything is bright and clean. I think the best sitcoms look miserable: Steptoe's scrapyard, Blackadder's dugout, the Craggy Island Parochial House.

Anyway, what's your favourite humming noise?

Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead

Find me a novel with a better opening line than: 'The ducks swam through the drawing-room windows.' I won't wait, because I've got a lot on.

Barbara Comyns' almost completely forgotten 1954 novel is a masterpiece of apocalyptic black comedy. It's an excellent British counterpart to Shirley Jackson's The Sundial.

A Warwickshire village is cut off by flooding and its inhabitants begin to go mad. This is great news for Ebin Willoweed, who revives his journalistic career by spying on his neighbours for the London papers: 'Who will be smitten by this fatal madness next?'

All this occurs in the shadow of the tyrannical matriarch, Grandmother Willoweed. Deaf, cantankerous and rude, she refuses to set foot on land she doesn't own and terrorises Ebin and his many daughters.

Gratuitous animal cruelty is something I've always hated in comedy. (I had to stop watching League of Gentlemen because of the vet.) But the near-constant animal death in Comyn's writing seems both funny and tragic - and an essential part of her weird, original, comic genius.

The Curse Of Monkey Island

If you know what adventure games are, then there's no need for me to explain what the Monkey Island series is. If you don't know, then imagine Pirates of the Caribbean, but good. The Curse Of Monkey Island has gorgeous animation, memorable characters, great voice acting and just so many good jokes. The game is much-imitated (including by me).

As loveable schmos go, Guybrush Threepwood is one of the most loveable. He just wants to be a mighty pirate. Unlike Kiera Knightley, his paramour Elaine Marley isn't the daughter of the Governor – she is the Governor. Guybrush's attempts to rescue her from the villainous LeChuck usually make things worse. And Murray the Demonic Skull's dreams of world domination are hampered only by the fact that he can't move or do anything at all.

It's like being allowed to wander around in the most delightful Saturday morning cartoon ever.

Little Shop Of Horrors

I think Little Shop of Horrors is a perfect film. It's a camp musical featuring a sadistic dentist. It's also a mainstream comedy film with big-name cameos and stunning puppetry effects. It's also a sci-fi B-picture about a man-eating plant from space.

And it's ALSO a very touching film about people on Skid Row being crushed by an uncaring world. Ellen Greene's performance as Audrey deserves every award available for being good. We're laughing at Audrey when she says:

AUDREY: I used to wear cheap, tasteless outfits. Not nice ones, like this.

But Greene's performance is totally committed. When I was a kid, I found Somewhere That's Green a bit boring and sentimental. As an adult, I find Audrey's yearning for an anodyne, sexless, lower-middle-class American Dream very moving.

Apparently, Ashmen & Menken also wrote a musical version of Kurt Vonnegut's tragi-comic novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. For goodness sake, someone revive that.

Strong Bad's Emails

Back in the early 2000s, the internet was not the civil, genteel forum for debate we enjoy today. It was the wild west. Flash animations were everywhere, and they were mostly sub-South Park abominations: mean-spirited, badly animated and about Star Wars.

Homestarrunner.com was different. The Chapman Brothers (no, not the Turner Prize winners) created a comedy site that was family-friendly, nice to look at and full of weird characters. The humour is built around in-jokes. Until you've watched a few of them, you won't appreciate the recurring characters, interwoven references and silly tropes. References to the site cropped up in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and I would be surprised if Big Mouth's Coach Steve didn't share a common heritage with the socially inept Coach Z.

Fans could email Strong Bad (the stocky villain in the Mexican wrestling mask & boxing gloves) and he would reply making fun of their names, spelling and punctuation. It was great, and now it's all on YouTube - cheap as free.

The Maria Bamford show

No, not the Netflix Original Series Lady Dynamite! (Although that is good.) The Maria Bamford show was a web-series – a one-woman sitcom in five-minute snippets. It was my first introduction to 'The Bammer'.

The series is a portrait of Bamford recovering from a nervous breakdown in Duluth Minnesota, with her family and her pug Blossom (RIP). Essentially, it's lo-fi camcorder footage of a woman doing different voices. But the voices are so good, and the characters so recognisable that it just works. Fans of Bamford's stand up will recognise a lot of the lines:

MARIA'S MOM: 'Honey, when you don't wear makeup... you look mentally ill.'

The content is pretty dark: self-harm, suicide, and the oppressive forces of those nice Duluth folks, you betcha. But there's something uplifting about Bamford's ability to find comedy in her own anxieties. The show has the funniest routine you'll ever see about chopping people up into bits and having sex with the bits. (Please don't use that sentence as the title of the piece, Chortle)

Alasdair Beckett-King performs The Interdimensional ABK at  Pleasance Dome at 18.50 during the Edinburgh Fringe.

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Published: 4 Aug 2019

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