Satire's Wry Revolution; That Was Satire That Was. by Humphrey Carpenter (Gollancz, Pounds 20). Reviewed by Simon Evans

By Evans, Simon | The Birmingham Post (England), July 22, 2000 | Go to article overview

Satire's Wry Revolution; That Was Satire That Was. by Humphrey Carpenter (Gollancz, Pounds 20). Reviewed by Simon Evans


Evans, Simon, The Birmingham Post (England)


In our cynical age, when politicians are regarded with the kind of contempt normally reserved for England fans, journalists and the national cricket team, it is hard to imagine the impact a certain satirical revue made when it was launched upon an unsuspecting Edinburgh Festival some 40 summers ago.

Taking as its targets the class system, religion, empire and the military - not to mention Harold Macmillan's Conservative Government - Beyond The Fringe was considered nothing sort of revolutionary at the time.

It was written and performed by Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett, four versatile performers who would leave lasting imprints on English cultural life, and although this remarkable quartet would later play down the significance of Beyond The Fringe, its shockwaves are still being felt, in the form of Have I Got News For You, Weekending and of course Private Eye, the sole survivor of the so-called 'satire boom' ushered in by Cook, Miller, Moore and Bennett.

Satire had once been described by the playwright George S Kaufman as 'what closes on a Saturday night' although a more rigid dictionary definition calls it 'the art by which topical issues, folly or evil are held up to ridicule'. By the end of the 1950s, with Britain still struggling to break free of the constraints of Victorian morality, there was certainly plenty to ridicule.

The satire boom of the 60s - the period roughly from the debut of Beyond The Fringe in August 1960 to the end of the weekly television show That Was The Week That Was (known as TW3 for short) in the winter of 1963 - is covered by Carpenter's entertaining book.

He traces the roots of the satire fashion to the theatrical tradition of 'little revue' and the sardonic 'university humour' bred in the Oxbridge dramatic societies, Footlights and OUDS - and how, in its early 60s manifestation it was created by the kind of people (Cook, the son of a diplomat, Miller, the son of an eminent psychiatrist and a novelist) who would be expected to form part of the very establishment they were mocking.

Beyond The Fringe was originally created as an entertainment designed to exploit the recent growth of the 'fringe' events outside the official boundaries of the Edinburgh Festival. Cook, Miller, Bennett and Moore had all cut their theatrical teeth in Oxbridge productions and their revue was an immediate sensation, perfectly capturing the spirit of rebellion engendered by rock and roll and the Angry Young Men. Something was happening in Merrie England and nobody was quite sure what it was until articulated by this unlikely foursome.

Cook - the humorous powerhouse behind Beyond The Fringe, owner of Private Eye and founder of the Establishment 'satirical night-club' - was perhaps the most important single figure behind the satire boom. Friends would often recall how comedy simply poured in a deluge out of Cook, his mind making ever more bizarre connections between the most unlikely of subjects. Like his creation E L Wisty telling anyone unfortunate enough to be in earshot that 'serpents hear through their jaws you know, it's the bone structure that does it.'

When Miller first heard Cook perform, he asked his future collaborator if he had ever worked with schizophrenics, telling Cook' 'You've perfectly reproduced the schizophrenic speech pattern'.

Richard Ingrams, editor of Private Eye for more than 20 years, recalls how Cook would often drop into the office after a good lunch and entertain the staff for hours an end. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Satire's Wry Revolution; That Was Satire That Was. by Humphrey Carpenter (Gollancz, Pounds 20). Reviewed by Simon Evans
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.