The Funniest Man in the World

I notice a few of my fellow bloggers on the Sri Chinmoy Centre site are talking about what makes them laugh – or more specifically, who makes them laugh. If I may, I’d like to join in the fun – and name my own favourite comedian.

But first, a runner-up…

I commented on Richard Pettinger's blog a few days ago that I once went to see British comedian Eddie Izzard, whom I knew mainly for his acting work. (He played Charlie Chaplin, arguably the most brilliant comedian of the past century, in a movie called The Cat’s Meow – surely not because he looks like Chaplin, because he doesn’t, but presumably because he’s an English comic.) I had previously had a lengthy and not-at-all-funny interview with him for a newspaper, in which he spoke earnestly about his work without cracking a single joke. As I was given two media passes for his show, I invited a friend and we went to see him.

Before the end of the first act, I was desperate for him to stop!

Fortunately, there was a good reason for this: I was laughing so hard that I was in pain. Really! For one of the few times in my life, I knew the meaning of those lines from the Felix the Cat theme song: “You’ll laugh so much, your sides will ache.” It was never a good description of that particular cartoon, even when I was seven, but it’s exactly how I felt watching Eddie Izzard. Genius!

But my favourite comedian is one of my fellow Aussies. Hence, he’s not so well-known outside Australia – a vile injustice! Shaun Micallef can be called a “cult comedian” because he’s not as popular as he deserves to be. His television series have been somewhat patchy – one of the drawbacks of being original and innovative (as Monty Python well knew). When it works, he seems to be channelling another realm, where everything is funnier. How can you explain the inspiration behind this (very short) sketch?

In sketches like that one (which is now a few years old), almost as incredible as Micallef’s seemingly effortless humour is the way that Roz Hammond, one of his regular supporting cast, could always keep a straight face. I don’t know how she did it!

Micallef is the comedian’s comedian. His TV shows don’t break ratings records, but other comedians (and critics) worship him. He also looks like a film star (when he’s not contorting his face, as above), and he’s played some serious roles (though I haven’t seen any of them). While he’s a masterful writer and impersonator (he’s done a great Tony Blair, Gerry Adams, Bill Clinton… and his Billy Connolly is uncanny), his unique characters are the highlight of his work.

By far my favourite Micallef character is Dave McGhan, a pseudo-academic twit who does truly bizarre mini-documentaries. Here’s Dave’s take on the music of Bach (direct from YouTube… at least until someone complains about copyright infringement).

If you enjoyed that, you have excellent taste. If not… well, that’s OK too. Like every comedian, he’s not for everyone (though he's usually safe for family viewing). But in case you’re wondering: no, you don’t need to be Australian to enjoy his antics. Priyadarshan, an Italian blogger, is one of the most dedicated Micallef fans I know.

As Dave McGhan says (about Bach): “His name will live forever in the minds of those who are immortal and have astonishingly good recall.” (How can you not love that line?) Micallef now appears often in the wonderful improvisational comedy show Thank God You’re Here, which happens to be Australia’s top-rating comedy show – so finally he’s getting an audience approaching what he deserves. Mega-genius!