In 1992 I appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in the dum show, the cast of whom are largely forgotten nonentities now, but it did include one Steve Coogan. Tonight I went to see Steve introduce a screening of his new film Stan and Olly, in which he plays Stan Laurel. I spent 40 minutes this morning recording myself clearing stones from a field. It’s impossible ascertain which of us has had the more successful career. Sure, it turns out, Steve’s performance has been BAFTA nominated, but how many stones has he cleared in his life? I doubt more than 100. I could do that much in a day.
But it’s not a competition. We all have different skills and comedy is subjective, so nobody can say that Steve turned out to be the successful one from the dum show. It could have been any of us. Admittedly I don’t recall who the other performers were. So it’s me or Steve. And who is the most enduring character Alan Partridge or Referee 2 from Me1 vs Me2 Snooker?
Ask 100 random people and it would be split pretty much 50/50 I am sure. I’ve kept it fair by choosing one of the least popular Mes.
I guess the discussion will just have to rage on.
Anyway, I was excited to see the film and see what it made of that slightly tragic final tour by Laurel and Hardy round the UK. It’s gentle and uncynical and about that tricky thing that I know a little bit about myself, the double act dynamic. Laurel was the script writer and driving force, full of ambition and Hardy was content to coast along, playing golf, gambling on horses and fooling around. And I like the way the film touches on whether they were friends or just work colleagues, and whether they loved or resented each other. Of course, it’s a mixture of all of these things.
And there’s loads of great performances in the film - the double act of the wives is possibly the best part of the whole thing and Rufus Jones as the oily Bernard Delfont nearly manages to steal the show, but ultimately it’s about the double act and having to cope with the loss of fame or at least your star fading. So sort of like the Bros documentary in some ways (though that one resonated with me more in terms of the strains of the double act).
I think the film takes a few liberties with order of events (wikipedia says that their last performance was in Plymouth, not Dublin), but it’s a film about the relationship not the boring facts!
Certainly worth a look.