Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

I was sorry to hear of the passing of the great comedy writer (and occasional performer) Barry Cryer, which was announced today. He was 86.

  Cryer might not have been as instantly recognisable as the major comedians of the last half century or so, but in many instances it was his brilliant creativity that helped guide them into the limelight and a lifetime of public acclaim.

  After a period as a stand-up comedian, Cryer began to concentrate on writing jokes. Over several decades, he wrote for the cream of comedy, supplying material for icons such as Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, Tommy Cooper, Kenny Everett, Les Dawson, Bob Hope, and Dave Allen (and many more).

  The heartfelt tributes being paid to him speak of a lovely man who probably never fully realised how gifted he was. Those who worked with Cryer spoke of a ‘genius’ who was incredibly funny, original, and generous.

  Stephen Fry tweeted: ‘A glorious, gorgeous, hilarious and gifted writer and performer who straddled all the comic traditions. Universally beloved’.

  They really don’t make them like Barry Cryer any more. May he rest in peace.

Friday

Pet Peeve Corner (an occasional series): Why do sportstars and pundits occasionally – but annoyingly – ‘pluralize’ a player when talking on TV or radio? I was listening to a renowned inter-county hurler on radio this week, and sure enough, he began to talk about “your Henry Shefflins”…as if there’s more than one of them!

  This has been going on for ages. On Sky Sports, you’ll hear a pundit say something like: “Obviously Manchester United are rebuilding, they need leaders…it was different in the past when they had your Roy Keanes, your Eric Cantonas, your David Beckhams”.

  And older readers may remember when Jack Charlton was so fortunate to have his “Paul McGraths” and his “Ronnie Whelans”. Who started this, and can it stop? Maybe it was your Gary Nevilles or your Jamie Redknapps…(or one of the four of them at least).

Saturday

It may have been a disappointing day for the two Roscommon clubs in All-Ireland Club Football semi-final action, but St. Faithleach’s and Padraig Pearses have been distinguished ambassadors for themselves, their county, and their province. They both exited their respective All-Ireland championship today with heads held high.

  After launching a determined late onslaught that looked like it might yield yet another extra-time showdown, St. Faithleach’s fell just short against Trim, losing by 1-11 to 0-11. Later, in Cavan, Padraig Pearses matched Kilmacud Crokes for most of their semi-final, and it took all the Dublin champions’ experience and squad depth to finally sway the outcome.

  Well done Padraig Pearses and St. Faithleach’s…both clubs have had great campaigns, did Roscommon proud, and can look forward to more great days in the near future.

Sunday

The next of those regular face to face meetings between the Queen and the Prime Minister of the day promises to be awkward. I’m advising a hopefully bashful Boris not to go down the humour route. Please avoid…

Queen: “These recent party antics…one is most definitely NOT amused”.

PM (spluttering): “Eh…wasn’t it one of your social lot – perhaps a Queen of France, if I recall – who, er, said ‘Let them eat cake’?”

Monday

When writing, in last week’s column, about my all-time favourite UK sitcoms, I promised to turn my gaze to the American scene this week.

  In Ireland, we grew up on British and American sitcoms, or at least we did once we got access to BBC and ITV. We’ve certainly been treated to some great shows over the decades.

  Listing one’s favourites runs the risk of leaving some out, but I guess this subjective exercise will inevitably highlight the ones that have meant most to me.

  As touched on last week, my all-time British favourite is Fawlty Towers, with Only Fools and Horses, Porridge, Yes Minister/Yes, Prime Minister, The Royle Family, The Office, and Blackadder, amongst the chasing pack.

  On this side of the Atlantic, it took us a while to adapt to the American sitcoms (lazy conclusion: ‘They have a different sense of humour to us’) but, differences in style notwithstanding, it soon became obvious that the output in the United States was at least as good as in BBC/ITV (Thames) land. If anything, the American comedies of the past 20 years or so – invariably backed by huge budgets – have surpassed the sitcoms of previous eras.

  I have fond memories from my youth of watching M*A*S*H, the slick war comedy-drama which starred Alan Alda. It was a beautiful series, funny, warm-hearted, and at times deeply emotional.

  The groundbreaking Mary Tyler Moore Show was regarded as unmissable (certainly in the days when we had only a few channels). ‘Soap’ was extremely silly, but good fun; repeats of The Phil Silvers Show delighted me, while ‘Taxi’ was pretty iconic too.

  The Odd Couple, starring that great duo Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, was a stylish classic, as was the film version, which starred legendary actors Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

  Cheers (1982-1993) was absolutely iconic, while Seinfeld was a seminal sitcom. The Larry Sanders Show was also very original. I never quite got into ‘Fraser’ but am aware that it is revered. ‘Friends’ remains timelessly glorious. In recent years, the very slick (but occasionally smug) Modern Family has been an enjoyable ‘easy watch’.

  The US version of ‘The Office’ was less dark than the UK original, and more ‘laugh out loud’ funny. Remarkably, there were 201 episodes in the American series, many of them absolute gems.

  Finally (for now), my favourite of recent years is the usually wonderful Curb Your Enthusiasm, devised by and starring the genius that is Larry David. Check it out!

Tuesday

There’s absolutely no truth in the rumour that a repentant Boris Johnson is planning to try and win back public opinion by producing, for charity, his adapted version of a classic song…‘It’s my party and I’ll lie if I want to’.

Wednesday

Random (but important)

observations to do with life…

It turns out that the bread doesn’t toast more quickly if you stand over the toaster.

  There will be at least one person in the queue behind you if your card is rejected at the ATM.

  Even in 2022, young/middle-aged radio presenters/DJs still think listeners want to hear inane stuff about their personal lives in between playing hits.

  The dog will never, ever get used to the fact that the postman calls every weekday morning.

  The fear that you might put diesel into your petrol car or petrol into your diesel car will never quite leave you, and you may even question your sanity while nervously operating the pumps.

  Even in 2022, not everybody has received the memo suggesting that it’s common courtesy (takes deep breath) to acknowledge it when a driver gives way to a fellow motorist or pedestrian.

  We’re Irish. It should be obvious by now that when we say ‘no thanks, I’m fine” when being offered a pint – or a cup of tea – we want a pint, or a cup of tea.

  (To be continued). Feel free to send your Random (but important) observations to do with life to paul@roscommonpeople.ie