A Word In Your Ear with Roy Edmonds - August 29, 2019

Stan & Ollie
Stan & Ollie
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The tears taste just the same

We went to the pictures the other afternoon, although it wasn’t a cinema. Instead it was the Lowther Theatre in Lytham and a really memorable theatrical experience!

The film was Stan & Ollie, about the last theatre tour in Britain of comedy film greats Laurel and Hardy – and also, touchingly, about the end of their bill-topping careers.

Starring Steve Coogan and American actor John C. Reilly, it was inspired casting with excellent performances from the heart, amid superb settings vividly evoking those struggling 1950s.

Their story was deeply moving too. It made us laugh out loud but also cry. I also found myself at times on the edge of my seat, as outstanding drama should make you.

But, then, I’ve always felt the toughest and loneliest role in entertainment is the stand-up comedian.

Years ago, when the Gazette was in Blackpool town centre at Victoria Street, the Grand Theatre ran live auditions for aspiring comics. Anyone could have a go and, if promising, perform live in front of a matinee audience of holidaymakers.

One of my late colleagues, features editor Peter Baxter, tried it. He was nervous beforehand but devastated when he actually walked out in front of a packed audience. Peter had previously scrawled a few punchlines in chalk on the stage floor as prompts, only to discover cleaners had erased them.

“It was the longest 20 minutes of my life,” he confided afterwards, thoroughly drained and humbled.

You can read still worse traumas in the autobiography of Fylde funnyman Les Dawson, about his early years on the club circuit. It was Les who partly inspired my mystery series of romantic thrillers, Sam Stone investigates, starting with A Cut Above about a comic’s death.

Comedy demands profound experience of life’s depths. It is the reverse face of tragedy and disaster - but the tears taste just the same.

●For Roy’s books visit royedmonds-blackpool.com, Kindle or Waterstones.