The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'comedy'
As austerity cuts bite and politicians retreat from the great unwashed rabble they are supposed to represent, comedians are finding themselves on the firing line of public anger at social injustice, the political class or just “outsiders”, writes Irish comic Keith Farnan:
There you are: a boy, standing in front of a whole bunch of other boys and girls, asking them to love you. But when times are tough, people need a target and politicians are much too canny to actually go out in front of a crowd that hasn’t been tightly vetted and controlled so they get the maximum return for their tested and meaningless sound bites. Comedians are in danger of becoming the canaries down the political coalmine. When one of them doesn’t come back up, you know it’s time to cede control of that voting district to some extreme left or right organisation.
As in all times of economic strife, the “outsiders” are being blamed and, while this traditionally and obviously means “immigrants”, there must surely be a cautionary tale in how the comedy clubs of the Weimar Republic were shut down after violent unrest at various 'why did the German cross the road jokes'. (Because zere vas a zebra crossing, ja, it is safe to go now. Ok, I made that bit up; Ireland is now a German-economically-occupied state, what can I say?)
Whether it’s a strategy or a natural consequence, there has been a rise in surreal and abstract comedy as well as mime-comedy. Mime-comedy is the perfect comedy for any time of social upheaval, because you can’t enrage a crowd when you’re literally saying nothing. If you’re going to play the fiddle while Rome burns, then play the fiddle and shut up about it.
(via withtimferguson) ¶ 0
Two more institutions of 20th-century Britain celebrate their anniversaries this month. It was 40 years ago today that Monty Python's Flying Circus first aired on the BBC. And almost exactly ten years later, BBC Radio aired an odd little radio play titled The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which encapsulated a Pythonesque sense of absurdism, a now quaint view of post-WW2, pre-Thatcherite Britain, and visions of futuristic technologies that, seen from today, are at once uncannily prescient and jarringly cautious, in the way that yesterday's futurism tends to be:
Within this handy framework, the Hitchhiker stories make up a sort of folk-art depiction, like on a tribal carpet, of the late-1970s English middle-class cosmic order. So there he is, the hapless Arthur Dent, in the middle, his maths insufficient to grasp even the first thing about his current position, in a county in a country, on a continent on a planet, in a solar system, in a galaxy, and so on. (Even now, the only way I can get the hierarchy right is by referring to the products of Mars Inc.) Except that the universe, 1979-style, would have seemed different from the one we know, and don't know, today, with space travel, in the years between the Moon landings and the Challenger disaster, both current and glamorous-feeling in a way it certainly isn't now. Tomorrow's World went out on the BBC every Thursday; Carl Sagan's Cosmos went out in 1980; cool space-junk was everywhere, Star Wars and Close Encounters, Bowie and P-Funk and the Only Ones. Relativity and the space-time continuum, wormholes and the multiverse featured everywhere in science fact and fiction, and were easily bent and twisted into the sort of paradox at which Adams's mind excelled – the armada of spaceships diving screaming towards Earth, "where, due to a terrible miscalculation of scale, the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog"; the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where you can pay for dinner by putting 1p in a present-day savings account, meaning that "when you arrive at the End of Time . . . the fabulous cost of your meal has been paid for".
Except that the Guide wasn't just a literary device, a concept. It really was a "Book", a thing of plastic, an actual piece of tech. It looked, we are told, "rather like a largish electronic calculator" – as such a device would have had to look in the 1970s, before iPhones, Kindle, Ernie Wise's Vodafone. On it, "any one of a million 'pages' could be summoned at a moment's notice" – what, only a million?, 21st-century readers object.
But there's a definite tea theme, and a lot of Englishness, and a distinctive note of piscine melancholy: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; The Salmon of Doubt. If Adams's books were a domestic appliance, they'd be a Sinclair ZX80, wired to a Teasmade, screeching machine code through quadraphonic speakers, and there'd probably be a haddock in there somewhere, non-compatible and obsolete.I'm slightly disappointed that Google didn't put up a special commemorative logo.
The awards for the funniest jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe have been announced:
1) Dan Antopolski - "Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?"
4) Zoe Lyons - "I went on a girls' night out recently. The invitation said 'dress to kill'. I went as Rose West."
6) Adam Hills - "Going to Starbucks for coffee is like going to prison for sex. You know you're going to get it, but it's going to be rough."
Last year, I saw two shows by a brilliant Irish stand-up comedian, David O'Doherty. Today, I find out that he has a Twitter feed. Of course, it's no substitute for a live comedy show, but does feature some amusing and/or surreal lines like:
the best way to impress girls is to brag about things from 1992. Try this: "I have a Swatch." (You'll need a Swatch for this to work)and:
bobby chrome's friend saw Brokeback Mountain in India and they'd cut all the gay stuff out, leaving a 45 minute film about sheep farmingShould you, dear reader, get a chance to see O'Doherty's live show, I strongly recommend doing so. It's some of the funniest stand-up I have seen in my life.
(via GordonHodgson) ¶ 0
This year's if.comedy award (formerly named after a brand of mineral water) at the Edinburgh Fringe has gone to Irish comic David O'Doherty. And quite deservedly too, judging by an earlier performance of his I saw (at Josie Long's Splendid Evening, at the literary festival at Southbank). With any luck it'll mean we'll see more of him.
The Independent has a list of what it claims are the 50 best jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe:
"I told the ambulance men the wrong blood type for my ex, so he knows what rejection feels like" – Pippa Evans
"The Scots invented hypnosis, chloroform and the hypodermic syringe. Wouldn't it just be easier to talk to a woman?" – Stephen Brown
"'What's a couple?' I asked my mum. She said, 'Two or three'. Which probably explains why her marriage collapsed" – Josie Long
"If Britons were left to tax themselves, there would be no schools, no hospitals, just a 500-mile-high statue of Diana, Princess of Wales" – Andy Zaltzman
"My granny was recently beaten to death by my granddad. Not as in, with a stick – he just died first" – Alex Horne
Obscure television programme of the day: Heil Honey I'm Home!. Produced in Britain in 1990, this was intended to be a rediscovered 1950s US sitcom set in Nazi Germany, and concerned with the domestic life of (a fictionalised) Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun and their neighbours, the Goldensteins. The characters are presented in classic 1950s American sitcom tradition; the Hitler character himself comes across as a loud, oafish guy, a sort of Fred Flintstone in Nazi drag, Eva Braun is a traditional housewife, and the Goldensteins are cantankerous schmucks, apparently from somewhere in Brooklyn.
Not surprisingly, the programme turned out to be controversial and was scrapped early; only one episode was ever aired, a low-quality copy of which may be seen here.
The latest project for Chris Morris, the satirist who brought us Brass Eye and Nathan Barley, looks set to be a fictionalised TV special about Islamist suicide bombers in Britain:
A casting sheet describes seven characters aged from 17 to 38, with one billed as "the sort of guy who'd protest against cartoons in a bomb belt" while another is "insanely intense, bright, very focused, blind to anything he's not focused on, small seething boffin".
Morris has taken a keen interest in Islamic terrorism and was recently spotted at a terror trial taking copious notes. He was also seen at a seminar on al-Qaida.Morris also mentioned a while ago that he is working on a second series of Nathan Barley. (Which, IMHO, should be more interesting than The I.T. Crowd, a rather dull and obvious American-style sitcom dressed up in computer-geek garb, and with all the bite of Hey Dad!).
(via andy_yayus) ¶ 8
An article interviewing some of the people taken in by Borat; some of them are sanguine about the experience, whilst others are angry:
"They were exercising a First Amendment right," said Haggerty, adding that he enjoyed the movie. "And this Sacha Cohen guy's going to make 87 gazillion dollars. You know, good for him. I'm just sorry that he had to do it in such a way that he allowed people to make jerks out of themselves exposing their character flaws."
Kathie Martin, who runs an etiquette school in Birmingham, Alabama, was also left out of the joke. Even though she was gracious and calm when Borat showed her nude photos of his son, Martin admitted she was "taken aback" by his routine during their on-camera meeting. "Unless you can figure it out for yourself, you have no way of knowing you have been tricked into being part of a childish prank with an R rating attached," she told the AP via email.
Ronald Miller, of Natchez, Mississippi, was baffled by the ruse. He and his wife attended a dinner at a plantation house, which they were told would be an interview with an "Eastern European television reporter coming to Natchez to film social customs in the South", he said.
This evening, I went to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. I found it quite amusing, despite having read about most of the highlights in advance. There was enough there that the online chatter doesn't quite prepare you for.
The basic concept involves, as you've undoubtedly heard, Sacha Baron-Cohen (with the assistance of a team of "producers") gulling various Americans into believing that he is, in fact, a somewhat out-of-touch Kazakh journalist making a documentary for Kazakh consumption only, asking them a few basic questions about life in America, easing them into more and more absurd territory, and then keeping just the last bits (having made sure that they signed a release form well in advance) and editing them into a road movie recounting a journey from New York to Los Angeles. Already he's possibly being sued by a group of fratboys who claim that they were induced to make arses of themselves under false pretenses (good luck with that one!) and the residents of a dirt-poor Romanian village that stood in for Borat's hometown, who didn't like being paid £3 each and then described as rapists, not to mention former unintentional internet celebrity Mahir Cagri who's pissed off that Cohen took his shtick and made it profitable.
Fact: Borat's "Kazakh" greetings are in fact Polish ("Jagshemash" = "jak sie masz", or "how do you do"), though the longer dialogue is in Hebrew, Yiddish and Armenian.
I'm still not sure how much of the scene at the end with Pamela Anderson was staged.
Cult 1970s BBC comedy troupe The Goodies, who recently reissued some of their shows on DVD and did a successful tour of Australia (where, thanks to the ABC's buying of their show, they are a national institution), are now doing a UK tour, starting off with a show at the Edinburgh Festival.
The show is a mixture of reminiscences, clips from the shows, new sketches and their chart hit song, "The Funky Gibbon". Then there are the recordings of Oddie, 65, "who we can switch off at any moment". Among the sketches is one about the Goodies' invention of Ecky-Thump, a Lancastrian martial art, at which a man in Scotland died laughing when it was originally broadcast. "We'll have medics on hand," Brooke-Taylor said.
Both Brooke-Taylor and Garden, 63, admit they are not sure who their audiences will be in Edinburgh, but if it goes well there is a chance of a national tour. Garden seems slightly nervous. "In Australia there was this great fan base. In this country, nobody has seen the show for 25 years," he said. For anyone under 40, features included a rip-off of King Kong with a kitten on the Post Office Tower, and the Goodies' bicycle for three. The show routinely attracted audiences of up to 14 million.(14 million? Wasn't that the entire population of Australia at the time? Presumably they mean in Britain during the 1970s.)
The Graun looks at Christmas and New Year's television programming across the world. While Britons get into the Queen's speech (and "alternative" takes by various "edgy" celebrities like Jamie Oliver and Damon Albarn), Americans are shedding tears over Rankin/Bass's animated Frosty The Snowman, Russians are getting maudlin over extended reruns over a 3-hour comedy titled The Irony Of Fate that they have all seen dozens of times before and Romanians are watching action replays of the execution of former dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Meanwhile, Australians are watching celebrities singing "Aussie carols" like Six White Boomers and Santa Never Made It To Darwin (which, in all my years in Australia, I had never heard of), while their (apparently more self-consciously "British") neighbours in New Zealand watch Only Fools And Horses and Morecambe And Wise. The French seem to have the coolest Christmas TV fare, though:
Since 1982, black-comedy Le Père Noël Est Une Ordure (which translates along the lines of Father Christmas Is A Scumbag) has risen from obscure box-office failure to France's ninth most popular movie. Set on Christmas Eve in a social service helpline call centre, three workers try with varying degrees of failure to spread festive cheer among the depressed, suicidal homeless, heartbroken and bereaved who turn up looking for salvation. Utterly bleak, totally farcical, and very very funny.Across the border in Germany, however, one of the annual Christmas favourites is, inexplicably, an old British comedy skit named Dinner For One:
Dinner for One, also known as Der 90 Geburtstag (The 90th Birthday), has rattled around the cabaret circuit for decades. Written by British author Lauri Wylie in the 1920s, it presents a morbidly funny story in miniature—(just 11 minutes on TV): Elderly Miss Sophie throws her birthday party every year, setting the table for her friends Sir Toby, Mr. Pommeroy, Mr. Winterbottom, and Adm. von Schneider, while conveniently ignoring the fact that they've all been dead for a quarter-century. Her butler James manfully takes up the slack by playacting all of them. He serves both drinks and food while quaffing toasts on behalf of each "guest," a bevy of soused British noblemen and von Schneider, who toasts Miss Sophie with a heel-click and a throaty "Skål!"
In 1962, German entertainer Peter Frankenfeld stumbled on Dinner for One in Blackpool's seaside circuit. Frankenfeld was so charmed that he invited actors Freddie Frinton and May Warden to perform the sketch on his live TV show Guten Abend, Peter Frankenfeld. The now-classic black-and-white recording dates from a 1963 live performance in Hamburg's Theater am Besenbinderhof.The skit's popularity has spread across Northern Europe, and it has inspired numerous derivative works, including dubs into regional German dialects, many parodies and a Latin translation. To this day, nobody is entirely sure of why Dinner For One is so big in Germany, though there are theories:
But why? How did a sliver of British humor come to dominate another culture's holidays—with apparently no connective thread back to its source? First, the slapstick of Dinner for One transcends the language barrier. Second, it offers a slight thrill of the verboten: After all, it features a very crazy old lady, a bevy of lecherous male friends, a big stench of post-WWII death, a hell of a lot of drinking, and senior-citizen sex. A third notion, floated by Der Spiegel and the Guardian alike last year, is that the film plays to Germans' worst idea of the British upper class: dotty, pigheadedly traditional, forever marinated in booze despite titles. The BBC counters with the more politic theory that Dinner for One "has become synonymous with British humor, on a par with Mr. Bean." British TV executives see it as fit only for foreigners, or they would rush to broadcast it themselves. Why Germany finds it so funny and the British don't is, according to Der Spiegel's Sebastian Knauer, "one of the last unsolved questions of European integration."
Best of all, Dinner for One is a perfect foundation for a tidy drinking game in which you down four different liquors in 11 minutes, "the same procedure as every year." What more fitting way to ring in the New Year?
It looks like there's a Nathan Barley DVD coming out in late September. (It's only Region 2, btw; I have no idea whether this series has made it outside of Britain.) I wonder what extras it will have.
Your Humble Narrator went to the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square for the launch of the second Goodies DVD compilation, picking up a copy of said DVDs.
The launch consisted of a screening of two of the episodes on the discs (The Movies and Bunfight at the OK Tearooms); not my absolute favourites from the compilation (that'd probably be South Africa or Radio Goodies), but enjoyable anyway.
After the screening, the lights went on and the three Goodies took their seats on the stage. Tim still looked like Tim Brooke-Taylor, only without the Union Jack waistcoat (maybe he'll wear one during the upcoming Australian tour; who knows?), and Bill looked like an older version of his younger self. Graeme, however, was nigh-unrecognisable without his trademark sideburns (when asked by a member of the audience whether he'd grow them for the tour, he said he may buy a pair to wear).
Anyway, the Goodies answered questions from the audience. Some points that emerged from the session: there is a third 8-episode 2-DVD set planned, for later this year, by when, it is hoped, all the popular and interesting BBC episodes will be available (the Goodies reckon that there are 24 that fall into this category), and possibly some episodes from the final ITV series. Some episodes may not make it to release, due to licensing issues (apparently Michael Jackson is refusing rights to some Beatles material in Goodies Rule OK). The Goodies are about to embark on an Australian performance tour; one audience member asked whether they'd do any UK shows; they said that it's less likely, given that the BBC hasn't screened any Goodies episodes for a few decades, cutting down on the potential following. So it looks like the Aussies reading this should count themselves lucky.
The DVD itself is pretty good. It has eight episodes, and also a good deal of extras. I get the feeling that while the first one was made (relatively) quickly and cheaply, its sales exceeded expectations, resulting in more being put into the second one. As well as the episodes, we get several shorter sketches from other shows, commentary tracks, and PDF files of the scripts, in various revisions, not to mention a somewhat fancier animated DVD menu.
The DVD is listed as Region 2, though the first one (which was also thus listed) was Region 0 (i.e., playable anywhere); no idea whether this one is. It's also coming out in Australia in a month or so, and will probably be somewhat cheaper there.
Entries in b3ta's Crap Computer Games challenge, in which contestants submitted demos (as animated GIFs or Flash; though at least one entrant wrote an actual ZX Spectrum program) of naff 8-bit computer games that never actually existed, both original ones and interpretations of pre-supplied concepts like Window Cleaner, Trade Union Organiser and a Spanish holiday simulator; anyway, you'll find these and more (including Football Text Adventure, the tape loader from Ocean's Last of the Summer Wine tie-in, and Mirrorsoft's Robert Maxwell Yacht Simulator) all (well, most) in pixellated 8-bit glory.
The contest was in connection with Look Around You, a BBC comedy series satirising 1970s educational television. The first episode of the new series (now changed from 9-minute "educational" programmes to a half-hour magazine-programme format; not unlike Curiosity Show for the Australians in the audience) aired last night. Unfortunately, I only managed to catch the last 5 minutes (did anyone manage to tape it?), though what I saw looked very amusing; perhaps even more so than the first series.
IMHO, Look Around You is the cream of British comedy these days. For all that is said about Little Britain, the usually cited candidate for this honour, there's no escaping the fact that it's basically a British version of The Comedy Company (right down to Vicki Pollard being a chav Kylie Mole). It inherits little from the great British absurdist tradition of the Goon Show and its heirs, instead throwing out the same predictable plots and trademarked catch-phrases in slightly different settings.
Following on from the fact about John Garden, a few more Goodies-related items. Firstly, the the second DVD compilation comes out in the UK in two weeks (there's an official launch in London's Prince Charles Cinema on the 12th), with Australia following on 3 March, and will include, among others, Radio Goodies and Sarth Efriker. Apparently a third DVD set is also in the works, on the strength of sales of the first set, so if your favourite episode isn't in the first two sets, it may well be there.
Secondly, Tim, Graeme and Bill are doing a Goodies tour of Australia, playing gigs on the East Coast (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra) in early March. Australia seems to be the world leader in Goodies fandom, being more fond of the series than Britain (case in point: you can get Goodies T-shirts on Brunswick St., though you won't find them amongst the Michael Caine/Vespa/Atari/random-sexual-innuendo T-shirts all over Camden and Carnaby St.). I'm hoping, though, that they do some London shows at some stage, if only for the city's population of Australian expats.
Apparently there's a new Look Around You series coming soon.
Staplerfahrer Klaus, a German factory safety video that seems to have been inspired by Peter Jackson's early works, or possibly a comic splatter-horror film masquerading as a factory safety film. Includes forklifts, chainsaws and the sort of daggy/groovy incidental music that they seem to make only in Germany. If your browser doesn't play Windows Media inline, you can grab the WMV file here.
I went to see Tripod at the Comedy Festival tonight. The show was OK; it wasn't bad, though wasn't as brilliant as I was expecting from what I heard about them. The songs were a bit like something the Doug Anthony Allstars might have done, only not quite as edgy or surreal (there was a bluegrass number about Britney Spears, and the song about not letting a dead body ruin one's romantic memories worked well); though the arguments between band members seemed more annoying than amusing. Though the encore, a cover of Radiohead's Paranoid Android, for three voices and one guitar, was worth the ticket price by itself.
Arab-American stand-up comedians are making some rather edgy jokes:
"I'm normal, people, just like you. I put my pants on one leg at a time, strap on a bomb, go to work," said Helen Maalik, a Syrian-born comic.
"There's only one thing I've got to say about racial profiling: It's awesome. Seriously. Look at me. I got my ass kicked all through high school. And now, people are actually scared of me,"
Dan Ahdoot's family is from Iran, though he was born in the United States. "No guys, that's a lie. I'm not Iranian. I was Iranian for 23 years up until Sept. 11th and now I'm Puerto Rican because that makes life a lot easier."
"We want to become more American than Americans. So, me and my family have been discussing it and we're actually thinking about turning in my father. Not because he did anything, but it would just make us look so f------ patriotic," Malak joked.
After reading the comments about BeTh's boat-naming dilemma, my mind turned to the question of why there wasn't a DVD of cult 1970s comedy series The Goodies. The theories I've heard about this included (a) that it's considered too racist/sexist/politically incorrect for this enlightened age, (b) that Tim/Graeme/Bill would rather the public forgot about their youthful indiscretions, or that (c) no archival footage of the series survives, with decaying VHS tapes recorded off the telly being the only remaining record of this series.
So I decided to do a Google search for "the goodies" dvd, and lo and behold, it appears that there is now a Goodies DVD, with 8 episodes. And it's region 0 too, for those still trapped under the jackboot of the MPAA.
(It doesn't seem to have the pirate radio episode, alas, but you can't have everything. Maybe if enough people buy this one, they'll release more episodes.)
This evening, I went to see Otis Lee Crenshaw (aka Rich Hall's white-trash country singer persona). I saw him a few years ago, and enjoyed his show then; this one was just as good. This time he was supported musically by two members of some outfit called The Gadflys, including Phil "The Great Muldavio" Moriarty who's also in the Black Sea Gentlemen. Anyway, the routine was quite amusing, with Crenshaw performing a number of songs, improvising with the audience (this show's version of Big Joe was about a printing worker named Winston) and cantankerously ranting about his romantic life, Texas and the poor state of country music today:
What the fuck is wrong with country music? Jesus Christ, the biggest selling song is Toby Keith... You look at one of them fuckers like Garth Brooks with his 14-acre field of felt around his head... he's about as country as a fuckin' bag of wet mice. This man with his bullshit country metaphors, he's 4 foot 3 with friends in low places, yes I believe you do you fucking midget, you're in a low place you prick. "The road is like a woman sometimes..."; what the fuck is that? Who needs to hear that, what is he saying? She's been laid over six or seven counties?... Shania Twain, "that don't impress me much". First of all you're Canadian. Anything would impress you and you know it... Look at Patsy Cline, now that was true country music. Every song she sang was about psychotic breakdowns.
While opinion of American politicians has never been lower in Britain, American comedians are doing very well; well, the more liberal ones like Rich "Otis Lee Crenshaw" Hall (whose act includes a song titled "Let's Get Together And Kill George Bush", whose irony would be lost on the typical middle-American audience).
Conversely, some jokes are now acceptable in America that would never be permissible in a mainstream British comedy club. "Why are there no Muslims on Star Trek?" Hall heard one American comic ask. "Because it's set in the future." "It's a very heavy joke, laced with blanket hatred. I disagree with that, but you can do that. You can get away with that in America, because the basic mindset of most Americans is that we're at war with the Muslims, and that really bothers me."
I seem to recall that there weren't many Christian Fundamentalists on Star Trek either (which would make its secular, vaguely multilateralist future, profoundly un-American, if some polls are to be believed). Though I recall that there were religious Jews on Babylon 5.
Meanwhile, British hip-hop comic Ali G has fallen flat on his face in America, partly due to an inopportune joke about 9/11; and partly because the idea of a white gangsta news anchor isn't that much weirder than some of the things sincerely on US cable TV.
Anyway, apparently Rich Hall is doing some gigs at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I saw him a few years ago, and can say that he's well worth seeing.
Comedy Festival: Tonight I went to see Cyderdelic. They're a UK comedy outfit whose act is being a mad anarchist outfit/sound system, probably inspired by Chumbawamba, the KLF and the anti-capitalist movement. They played some ravey musical numbers (which were mostly prerecorded; or at least, the Roland S-50 on stage wasn't plugged in), slapped each other around, ranted hyperbolically (at one stage arguing heatedly over whether an animal-research lab experimented on badgers or budgies) and showed videos of their antics at various demonstrations. The show finished with them leading the audience out into Swanston St., megaphone in hand, and proceeding to blockade taxis whilst chanting "we all live in a fascist regime". Classic.
Obituary: Comedic legend Spike Milligan has died, aged 83. Milligan was the last surviving member of the Goon Show team (the others were Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine), and founded that very English strain of surrealistic, alternative comedy, paving the way for the likes of Monty Python, the Goodies and Eddie Izzard. Like many great comedians, Milligan suffered from manic depression and struggled with mental illness.
British comic Rowan Atkinson (best known for his roles in Blackadder and Mr. Bean) has written a letter, claiming that proposed new religious vilification laws may stifle comedy, to the point where making something like Monty Python's Life of Brian would be criminally prosecutable. (via Lev)