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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why Can’t We Talk Like This?

How many people have you met whose conversation is instantly publishable?
There can never be more than a handful of such people living at any given time. My peculiar line of work has allowed me to meet a few. Of those I had the great good fortune to sit with on the air, first to mind come Noel Coward, Peter Ustinov and Jonathan Miller. Robert Benchley said that you can divide people into two groups: Those who divide people into two groups, and those who don’t. Another such group pairing would be: Those who were blessed to have seen “Beyond the Fringe” on Broadway — and everyone else.

In 1962, four British lads fresh from Oxford and Cambridge — Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller were their names — hit Broadway with a bursting bombshell of hilarity. A few minutes into the first act, a tall, thin, gangly, somewhat stork-like figure with barely kempt hair lurched to center stage and brought down the house with an improbable narration about a true incident in which a huge, unidentified load of men’s dark serge trousers appeared mysteriously in a London railway storage room; admittedly not a subject usually seen in a comic’s repertoire. In Miller’s hands it left you weak.


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