'Wherever there is lack of self-awareness, there will be laughs'

Alice Lowe chooses her comedy favourites

Three Miles North Of Molkom

I think the greatest comedy comes from truth and so I often find documentaries to be the funniest things. They're an invaluable source for any character comedian, and, if done well, a privileged glimpse into another human being's world.

I love the mixture of feelings you get from watching a great documentary like Anvil, Grey Gardens for example: the pathos, the joy, the hilarity, the disbelief, the fascination and empathy. Realisation that we're all the same. The beauty of watching a real person being a hero in their own lives. Failing maybe, but still trying.

When you get a laugh coming from real life, it's a 'hard laugh', a real laugh, coming from the gut and working its way out of you. This is how I felt when I was lucky enough to be at the UK premiere of little known gem Three Miles North from Molkom (a title that's virtually impossible to remember).

This follows a group of people who attend a Swedish New Age retreat/festival in order to find themselves. It contains one of the most simultaneously shocking and hilarious scenes that had me laughing louder and more embarrassingly than I have before or since in a cinema. It is also, in the end, a life-affirming film that endears you to humanity rather than just mocking it.

American Movie

Another classic documentary about US filmmaker Mark Borchardt and his attempts to make his feature, Coven. Again, Mark and his friend Mike Schank, are the stuff of comic genius. Their dynamic as a double act is classic Laurel and Hardy stuff. Everyone identifies with a dreamer, and that's Mark Borchardt. His attempts are so earnest, you've got a dramatic arc with its ups and downs, Mark's highs and lows, but also his spectacular low budget horror-filled vision laid before you eyes. What's not to love?

With so many moments in that film deserving of mention, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. Although Mike Schank's vocal performance of a 'scream' is one of the things I have replayed and replayed to the point of hysteria. I have only selected things here that have properly made me laugh even after repeat viewing. Often what really gets me are the small quirks of humanness: a tiny flicker of dismay on someone's face, a strange choice of words, a self-satisfied gesture, the weird little noise that Basil Fawlty makes when he finds two bricks in his briefcase. Human expressions I suppose, which brings me onto...


The first time I saw lemurs on a nature documentary (pre-internet I might comment. I was born in 16th Century France), I literally couldn't believe my cotton-picking eyes. They were actually dancing, across a plain. I fell about laughing for days.

The internet is obviously testament to the funniness of animals, but I think there's no purer laugh. Why do we impose human qualities on them? It's so weird. But it's silent comedy in a sense (except for those goats). It's a combination of innocence and stupidity that makes us love them.

I personally have played on stage or screen, a monkey, a seagull, an owl and a camel, and I found it very liberating indeed. Someone once said to me that as a performer I reminded them of Toto in a stage version of the Wizard of Oz, because Toto always runs on thinking they're the star.

I took this as a compliment.

The thing about animals is that they don't give a shit. It's brilliant. I personally wish I genuinely did have that much confidence as a performer, 'cos I don't.

The Room

Tommy. Wiseau. Oh my goodness. This may be the best comedy film ever made. I went to see a screening knowing nothing about it. And afterwards I felt enlightened. Just knowing there are people like Tommy in the world means that there will always be comedy. Wherever there is lack of self-awareness, there will be laughs. There will be Wiseau.

I sound very sarcastic here but I genuinely think it's a good film. It's eminently watchable and that's saying something. It's very easy to make an unwatchable turkey, but this has many many reasons to keep you glued to the screen. I can quote several parts of it, and I'm not much of a quoter to be honest. The Partridges, Brents and Marenghis (I'm partisan) of this world wouldn't exist without gloriously deluded nutters like this. But then there's some of that in all of us.

Vic and Bob

Just to go for a classic, Vic and Bob were the first comedians who reassured me that there were other people in the world besides me and my best friend Hannah Goddard who did drawings of cat men with light bulb feet and enjoyed saying strange phrases in an accent that didn't exist.

Big Night Out was the first series that got me hooked as a nipper (in 16th Century France), and I have continued to follow them with avid zeal. I actually follow them. I know where they live! I don't, it's fine.

I s'pose silliness in comedy is something that has come and gone in cycles in British comedy. Vic and Bob are our generation's Milligan, Python, Goon show, etc. And long may they reign. Their depiction of Loyd Grossman in Masterchef is as majestic a sketch as you'll ever see. Perfection.

One, Two, Three
This isn't strictly a comedy show or film or even comic so I might be cheating here. But it is a moment of internet-ness that had me howling and crying with laughter. In a lot of discomfort. It's about a man, a singer, an artist, who meets a woman, an expert, a scientist, who asks him to help her to recreate the noises a Neanderthal man may have made. Enthralling. Poetic.

And they both learn something. As much drama as Nell or My Fair Lady or Dirty Dancing for example. Or that one with Russell Crowe where he learns maths or something. Or is it emotions he learns? I dunno. He learns something anyway. Did you know Neanderthals went around saying 'One two three'?

  • Sightseers, co-written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram is out on DVD and Blu-Ray today. Click here to preorder. Oram shares his Perfect Playlist tomorrow.

Published: 25 Mar 2013

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