And now for something almost completely different

The sixth edition of Bristol’s Slapstick festival takes place 21-24 January 2010. As in past years, the programme combines classic comedy from the past with the comedians of today. This year the star attraction is former Python Michael Palin, who will be featured in Michael Palin: Something Almost Completely Different and who will introduce a screening of Buster Keaton’s The Navigator. Other comedy giants on show include W.C. Fields, Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy, plus screenings of René Clair’s sublime An Italian Straw Hat and Boris Barnet’s Soviet hit from this year’s Pordenone, The House on Trubnaya Street.

Featured comedians from the sound through to television era include Will Hay, Kenny Everett, Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Phill Jupitus and former Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band member Neil Innes. There will be the world premiere of a recently rediscovered college film by Innes, featuring the inimitable head Bonzo Vivian Stanshall, and featured in “The Bonzo Dog Scrapbook Show”.

The full festival brochure is here (warning – it’s a 2.5MB PDF), but the ever-obliging Bioscope brings you the main contents anyway:


Something Almost Completely Different

THURS 21 JAN 1930hrs Venue: Colston Hall

Bristol’s Slapstick Silent Comedy Festival invites you to a star-studded evening of classic comedy and live entertainment for its Sixth Slapstick Gala. This unique event presents comedy legend and national treasure Michael Palin onstage to discuss his illustrious career in comedy with fellow writer/performer Graeme Garden. On screen – in homage to Palin’s traveling legacy – we present one of Buster Keaton’s greatest omedies THE NAVIGATOR (1924), set to the world premiere live musical accompaniment by The European Silent Screen Virtuosi. This newly formed five-piece musical ensemble features triple Oscar winning film animator and jazz cornetist Richard Williams and world-acclaimed silent film maestro Günter Buchwald on violin and piano, along with their international friends.

With other celebrity guests both on stage and on screen including Neil Innes, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event not to be missed! Early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.

Tickets: £16.00/£12.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members
Book via Colston Hall: 0117 922 3686 or visit


with live accompaniment by Barbara Lenz

FRI 22 JAN 1740hrs Venue: Arnolfini
Dir. René Clair, France / Germany, 1928, 1h 25m

A hilarious misadventure, heralding the beginning of ‘screwball comedy’, this early classic of French cinema is full of wonderful character gags and situation comedy. On the way to his wedding Ferdinand (Albert Préjean) discovers that his horse has eaten the straw hat of a married woman (Olga Tschechowa) canoodling in the bushes with her lover, Lieutenant Tavernier (Geymond Vital), and his big day begins to go rapidly downhill.

Tickets: £7.00/£5.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members

with live accompaniment from The Slapstick Boys

FRI 22 JAN 2000hrs Venue: Arnolfini
Dir: Fred Newmeyer, USA, 1924, 1h 22m

One of Harold Lloyd’s finest and funniest, this rich character comedy about a bashful stutterer who is chronically shy of women is packed with extraordinary sight gags, brilliant intertitles and hilarious performances. Including live musical accompaniment from The Slapstick Boys, four of the finest musicians in Europe for silent film accompaniment, this screening will also feature an onstage discussion with film historian and filmmaker Kevin Brownlow and avid Lloyd fan, Withnail and I actor Paul McGann. An unmissable medley of
fine silent comedy, exhilarating music and discussion!

Tickets: £7.00/£5.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members


With live accompaniment by Günter Buchwald and Lee Mottram

SAT 23 JAN 1100hrs Venue: Watershed Cinema 1
Dir: Boris Barnet, Russia, 1928, 1h 04m

The big surprise hit of the 2009 Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy was this delicious comedy from (improbably) the classic era of Soviet cinema. True to melodrama tradition, a simple peasant girl (along with an obstreperous duck) arrives from the country, a ripe victim for all the perils of the big city. Exploited by a stingey hair-dresser and his odious wife, she uses the new social order to turn the tables. A uniquely entertaining piece of work. With special introduction from the Director of Pordenone Festival, David Robinson.

Tickets: £6.50/£5.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members

SAT 23 JAN 1400hrs Venue: Arnolfini

With an eclectic programme of classics & rarities from the ‘two minds without a single thought’, Graeme Garden (The Goodies) & silent comedy expert David Wyatt demonstrate why Stan and Ollie are now considered amongst the best comedy teams ever. They will divulge the duo’s influence on other comedy teams including ‘The Goodies’, and introduce films and clips of the rarest of all L & H appearances in Charley Chase’s Now I’ll Tell One (1927) and a complete screening of their classic silent short Putting Pants on Philip (1927).

Tickets: £7.00/£5.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members

SAT 23 JAN 1600hrs Venue: Watershed Cinema 1

Tim Brooke-Taylor and Tony Staveacre (author of ‘Slapstick!’) investigate the legacy of the Exeter-born showman and impresario, Fred Karno. Credited with discovering Chaplin, Stan Laurel and even the pie-in-the-face gag, he has pioneered a tradition of physical comedy which still flourishes today. Their presentation will include rare archive footage of the great man himself as well as clips of his alumni, including Sandy Powell, Flanagan & Allen, Will Hay, Denny Dennis, George Carl, Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin. A rare opportunity to discover the genius of this master showman.

Tickets: £6.50/£5.00 concs and Bristol Silents members
Slapstick Festival Special event

An evening with Neil Innes THE SEVENTH PYTHON (PG)

SAT 23 JAN 1850hrs Venue: Arnolfini
Dir: Burt Kearns, USA, 2008, 1h 34m

This UK premiere is a recent documentary based on the life, work and
unplanned career of musical satirist Neil Innes. The Seventh Python traces one man’s winding path of whimsy as he flirts with destiny at the edge of fame with incredibly influential and unusually lasting work that keeps one foot planted in the worlds of comedy and the other in rock ‘n’ roll. Neil Innes has proven to be the greatest musical comedy satirist of the past fifty years. He has brought us delights from the Bonzo Dog Doo – Dah Band, Monty Python and The Rutles. With contributions from John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Slapstick regular Phill Jupitus.

Tickets: £3.00/£2.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members

‘An evening with Neil Innes’ is followed by:
SAT 23 JAN 2040hrs Venue: Arnolfini

40 years on from the split of the original Bonzos Slapstick 2010 welcomes you to a celebration of all things ‘Innes’ with a special focus on the visual and musical lunacy of The Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band. Celebrating the Dadaist creative insanity of the Bonzo’s, Neil Innes is the inspired creator of many of their best known numbers including Equestrian Statue, Urban Spaceman and Death Cab for Cutie. Neil is joined onstage by Culture Show’s Matthew Sweet and using extracts from the band’s anthology will together explore the incredible influence of this one band revolutionary force on both music and comedy. As if all this wasn’t enough, Neil will be screening the premiere of his recently discovered student art film from 1965 featuring footage of Viv Stanshall performing his famous mock striptease. An evening of the finest filmic and musical hilarity not to miss!

Tickets: £7.00/£5.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members


SUN 24 JAN 1100hrs Venue: Watershed Cinema 1

Will Hay was Britain’s best known film comedian of the 1930s and 40s and his film OH MR PORTER one of the funniest of the period. Join David Wyatt and Graham Rinaldi, author of the recent Will Hay biography, as they discuss and explore his films and theories while showing extracts starring Hay, and some of his favourite comedians such as Chaplin, W.C. Fields, and Laurel & Hardy. Rarities will include silent footage from Hay’s 1922 revue show, on the set outtakes and their new unfinished documentary on the making of OH MR. PORTER – NEXT TRAIN’S GONE. Discover the delights of one of Britain’s finest comedians. A book signing will follow the event.

Tickets: £6.50/£5.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members

SUN 24 JAN 1400hrs Venue: Arnolfini

Already one of Britain’s most successful radio DJs, Everett rose to national acclaim with the Kenny Everett video show, showcasing his unique, anarchic humour. As part of Slapstick after Silents, this is a special event with one of his closest working collaborators, the legendary comedy writer and Sorry I Haven’t a Clue Star, Barry Cryer. With insights from Cryer, who was Everett’s comedy writing partner for over a decade, and onscreen footage of Kenny, join Slapstick 2010 in celebrating the work of this innovative visual comedian.

Tickets: £7.00/£5.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members

Introduction by Chris Serle

SUN 24 JAN 1600hrs Venue: Watershed Cinema 1
Dir. Gregory la Cava, USA, 1926, 1h 07m

Another festival triumph, this time from the 2009 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Mostly remembered for his nasal wheeze and acidulous one-liners, W.C. Fields is here revealed as one of the great silent visual comics, just as funny without sound. He plays the bibulous Mr. Bisbee whose plans to launch his unbreakable windscreen are somewhat complicated by a glamorous visiting princess, a pony, a demanding family and his own taste for sarsaparilla and spirits. Great characters make up a sharp view of small-town life – and Fields manages to slip in his famous vaudeville golf routine. A real discovery!

Tickets: £6.00/£4.50 concessions and Bristol Silents members

SUN 24 JAN Doors open from 5.45pm Venue: Jesters

1830hrs Desert Island Slapstick 12
2115hrs The Rutles: All you Need is Cash

Bristol’s Slapstick Silent Comedy Festival proudly present a double bill evening of classic comedy, film, music and special guests at Jesters, a delightful silent cinema, built in 1914 and now home to Bristol’s premier music and comedy venue. Make sure you pre-order your food before the first act and you can enjoy the fine food and drink of Jesters during the break between performances. Also available are meal inclusive tickets through Jester’s website and box office. In between, please enjoy Jester’s fantastic food and drink menus.

Tickets: £12.00/£10.00 concessions and Bristol Silents members – Includes both events.
Book via Jesters: 0117 909 6655 or visit

Chaired by David Robinson

If you were stuck on a desert island with only one silent comedy to keep you company, which would you choose? The first act of Slapstick’s hilarious double bill is our ever popular celebrity panel show Desert Island Slapstick. Join three of Britain’s best loved television and radio personalities as they each in turn choose their favourite silent comedies for our viewing pleasure. This year’s panel features three members of Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t Clue team including festival regulars Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden plus for the first time at Slapstick festival illustrious comedy writer and performer Barry Cryer. What will they choose?

Dir: Eric Idle & Gary Weis, UK / USA, 1978, 1h 16m

One of the first films of its kind, The Rutles is primarily a series of skits and gags that each illustrate a different part of the fictional Rutles story, closely following the chronology of The Beatles’ story. The cohesive glue of the film is the acclaimed soundtrack by Neil Innes, who created 19 more songs for the film, each an affectionate pastiche of a different Beatles song or genre of songs. Introduced in person by Neil Innes AKA Rutle Ron Nasty, this is a unique opportunity to see the inspiration for successful Rob Reiner cult comedy film, This Is Spinal Tap which followed in 1984. And as a grand finale to the festival, if we can persuade him, Neil Innes may just play us a Rutle hit or two live!

All events are held at Arnolfini and Watershed except the Gala event, Michael Palin: Something Almost Completely Different which is at Colston Hall and Desert Island Slapstick and The Rutles: All you Need is Cash which are at Jesters Comedy Club.

More information, including a special festival pass priced £55 (£40 concessions), is available from the festival website.

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