“Painfully funny and funnily painful comedy,” said The Times about DEAD FUNNY, Terry Johnson’s homage to the golden age of British TV comedy. I was lucky enough to see the original production when it transferred from Hampstead to the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End in 1994, featuring Zoe Wanamaker and David Haig.
It returned to the same theatre this Autumn, again directed by the writer for a limited run until next February. Lead by Katherine Parkinson as Eleanor, the frustrated wife in a flatlining marriage who is desperate for a baby with her pompous, intimancy-phobic husband Richard, played by Rufus Jones. He gets his jollies chairing the Dead Funny Society, a group of nerdy, emotionally deficient comedy aficionados – Ralf Little (Nick), Steve Pemberton (Brian) and Emily Berrington (Lisa), who meet up in April 1992 when two of Britain’s cherished funnymen Benny Hill and Frankie Howard copped it on consecutive days to not only mourn, but celebrate their contribution to hilarity and laughter.
In the end it’s Eleanor who provides the final irony in the play, wrote Guardian critic Michael Billington, “even though she despises the Dead Funny Society, she is the only one with a sense of humour.
“Johnson’s classic brings laughs with a lump in the throat. Comedy may have changed radically since Johnson wrote the play, but it still holds a disturbing mirror up to all those of us who worship at the shrine of dead comics,” he concluded.
I managed get my montage signed by all five ‘Live Funny’ actors amongst the festive rush at the Vaudeville stage door over the past week.