Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Beckett fact no. 16.
Four comedy acts that influenced Beckett:
1) The Marx brothers. The hat-swapping routine in Godot originates in Duck Soup.
2) Buster Keaton. Couldn't 'get' the script of Film and suggested some gags (paring a pencil until it disappeared) to spice things up. Possibly because of his disagreements with the film's motto from Bishop Berkeley, esse est percipi (to be is to be perceived). Keaton was a strict Lockean. Hence his life-long feud with Fatty Arbuckle, a well-known Hegelian.
3) Bim and Bom, les comédiens Staliniens as Beckett calls them in the first French text of Godot. Popular entertainers in Civil War-era Moscow. Satirised the Bolsheviks and once so offended a Latvian rifle detachment they shot up the circus and threatened to do the same to the clowns. Bim and Bom are also mentioned in Dream, as well as providing character names in How It Is and What Where.
4) Valentin and Karlstadt (above). Peter Gidal's Understanding Beckett has lots of examples of this German double act's quickfire dialogue, and very Beckettian it sounds too. Here's the opening of their sketch about yesterday's paper:
Man: Hey, did the man who wanted yesterday's paper get it yet?
Woman: Yeah, I've given it to him.
W: No, today's.
M: But he wanted yesterday's!
W: I didn't have yesterday's so then I gave him today's.
W: Today. I promised him yesterday's for tomorrow.
M: Me too; so you don't have to get him yesterday's because I'm getting him the same one.
W: Neither of us can get him yesterday's, because the editorial offices don't have any left. So the man will have to take one from the day before yesterday!
M: But the day before yesterday's won't be of any use to him!
M: You don't understand me! Let's say the man had come tomorrow, and wanted yesterday's paper, then today's would've already been yesterday's and yesterday's the day-before-yesterday's! In reality though the day-before-yesterday's would've been yesterday's; did you get that?
W: (very loud) Yes, not in the slightest!
W: Mister! I couldn't get yesterday's paper, the one that has what you're looking for...
Customer: Oh, that's not so important -- I just wanted to know the ticket-price at the Zoo!