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01/22/01
The art of being arch in a deluxe way...

 

Last week, Heather lent me a super-duper bootleg copy of a new Blackadder special that aired in England last year, but hadn't been widely distributed. I found out later that you can order it on tape or DVD (only in European format right now), but because it was only available overseas until recently, and because it's been so long since the original classic British Blackadder series, this was a prized possession on the order of that huge diamond in Snatch.

I watched it twice over the weekend, both times loving how absurd, verbal and smart it is and admiring Rowan Atkinson.


Lord Blackadder: so
arch his middle name
should be "Archie"

If you've never seen Blackadder, it's an amazing British show. If you don't know Rowan Atkinson, he is the man who plays Mr. Bean.

But unlike his work in Bean, Blackadder is filled with a whip-smart panache and cutting wit. I've been thinking about it a lot this weekend because the Latino Comedy Project is gearing up to start doing writing meetings for our April show and I've been letting ideas percolate for new skits.

To be quite honest, I don't know where we're going to go. Our chief strength up to now has been that we've gotten pretty good at blending high-concept, complicated sketch comedy with really low-brow humor. It's a great combination, and one that I hope is in the same tradition of the kind of comedy we really love.

But even with the stuff we've done, I couldn't help thinking there's a state of comedy we may have never achieved: arch. Arch is a great word. It's what I think when I see Rowan Atkinson deliver a withering insult to Baldrick. An arch, self-confident, supremely smart remark.

And then it occurred to me that the British have had at least 600 years to develop that arch style. How long have Latinos had to perform is real artistic venues? Like maybe 40 years?

I did some research in the differences between Latino comedy and British comedy, and although the Brits can produce lame stuff just like anybody else, the mean average is usually much more arch. Here are two examples of the same comedic monologue delivered in British and Latino versions:

 

British comedy

SIR BRANDWHITENESS — So you see, gentlemen, the barrister has informed me that if ten thousand men were given potions that allowed them to live a thousand years each, and each of these men were to pool their resources together after a hundred years of training, they could not have conspired, using all of their energy, to commit an act as painstakingly idiotic as that which you have committed today, gentlemen. So I bring congratulations you have certainly impressed us all with the genius and originality of your stupidity.

Latino comedy

PEPE GONZALES — Oye, cabron. I think somebody farted.

 

That's a huge generalization, but sadly, Latino comedy is still in its infancy. We've got a ways to go, but luckily we learn quickly and we're catching up. Unfortunately, enough stereotypse exist about our culture that the easy joke is always for us to exploit those stereotypes instead of digging deeper than that and going beyond it.

Hopefully, we're getting past that.

But you know what? I'm on the lookout for arch people. People who are so good verbally (or in writing), that they can wither you with a particularly incisive comment.

My American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "Mischievous; roguish." Who wouldn't want to be mischievous and roguish?

And so, I've come up with a special quiz just for you.

Click here for the Terribly Happy, "Are you Arch or not?" quiz...

 

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