Tuesday, 27 December 2011

What do you think of it so far?: Comedy in Utopia

Took my Mum for a Boxing Day visit to the Eric Morecambe statue at Morecambe seafront yesterday. We always used to watch Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials at home in my teenage days, and we all remain fans, even so many years later. When I was a Lancaster city councillor there was some talk of developing a Museum of Comedy at Morecambe to build on the success of the statue, though sadly that has not happened. Not yet, anyway.

Our visit made me wonder about comedy and humour in utopia. One doesn’t think of utopia as a laugh-a-minute genre – indeed, quite the opposite, with those long turgid lectures we tend to get from the Old Man who Knows Everything (to borrow H.G. Wells’s phrase). None the less, there are jokes (as well as much generalised neighbourliness) in utopia; and Morris’s News from Nowhere does occasionally reflect on the nature of humour in an ideal society.

For it may be that the threshold of comedy will be very much lower in utopia. When William Guest complains that the remarks of Dick Hammond’s workmates are ‘not much of a joke’, Dick retorts that ’everything seems like a joke when we have a pleasant spell of work on, and good fellows merry about us’ (ch.VII). So perhaps, in utopia, you wouldn’t need a Museum of Comedy as such because social life in general will have been ‘Eric Morecambeised’. My Mum certainly hopes so!


ianmac55 said...

The nineteenth-century scene setting at the beginning of News From Nowhere has always struck me as wonderully humourous. Morris's description of a meeting of the League seems loving and tongue-in-cheek. We've all been to meetings, I'm sure, where "those present ... did not listen to each others’ opinions (which could scarcely be expected of them)" and where "there were six persons present, and consequently six sections of the party were represented".



P.S. It must be obligatory, when visiting Morecambe, to take photos at that statue. I took one, with friends, where Eric is weighed down by claret-and-white scaves, on the last Saturday of the football season last May when Northampton Town were the visitors at the Globe Arena. I later discovered that we have an acquaintance in common who was also at the match. Susan Lucas is a keen Morecambe supporter. She and I met while cycling across France last September on a CTC tour from Caen to Cannes.

Tony Pinkney said...

Hi Ian, I recall Perry Anderson arguing with John Goode over the tone of those opening pages (with Anderson taking your view). As for the Eric Morecambe statue, yes, on any day of the year, and whatever the weather, you will see people up there posing with it in 'Bring Me Sunshine' dancing postures, and someone down below taking a photograph. Last saw Susan Lucas in my local gym, looking fitter than Dick Hammond himself. Happy New Year!

Kotick said...

By the way, Pamela Bracken Wiens has some useful thoughts on comedy in Morris in her 1994 edition of 'The Tables Turned', pp.6-7.

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