10 January 2019, The Tablet

Comic cuts: the genius of Laurie and Hardy explored


Free Thinking – Landmark: Laurel and Hardy’s The Music Box
BBC Radio 3

It’s no disrespect to Matthew Sweet and his distinguished collection of talking heads to say that highbrow conversazioni on the subject of bygone comedy acts nearly always have a faintly predictable air. Sure enough, this exploration of the world of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (8 January) had barely passed the halfway mark before someone mentioned Pinter and Beckett and adjectives like “existential” began to fly through the ether like so many javelins.

Booked to coincide with the launch of the Stan & Ollie biopic, Sweet’s panel included the actor Lucy Porter, screenwriter David Quantick and musician Neil Brand. In most cases, parental influence or childhood exposure seemed to have been at work. Porter’s father had seen the pair on stage in Belfast in the fifties; Quantick recalled their films featuring in seventies-era children’s television schedules.

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