On the surface it may seem slightly surprising that a master of verbal humour should also be a devotee of silent comedy, but Paul Merton is completely passionate about the early days of Hollywood comedy and the comic geniuses who dominated it. His knowledge is awesome - as anyone who watched his BBC 4 series Silent Clowns or attended the events he has staged nationwide will agree - his enthusiasm is infectious, and these qualities are to be found in abundance in his book.
Starting with the very earliest pioneering short films, he traces the evolution of silent comedy through the 1900s and considers the works of the genre's greatest exponents - Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd - showing not only how each developed in the course of their career but also the extent to which they influenced each other. At the same time, Paul brings a comedian's insight to bear on the art of making people laugh, and explores just how the great comic ideas, routines, gags and pratfalls worked and evolved. His first book for ten years, this is destined to be a classic.
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Silent Comedy is a terrific history of props and pratfalls...I'm a better person for having read this - The Times
***** Such is Merton's enthusiasm that his story grips throughout. - Mail on Sunday
An awestruck and knowledgeable introduction to Hollywood's earliest funsters...lovingly researched - Daily Telegraph
Penned with genuine passion...both well crafted and carefully researched - Film Review
He makes some striking biographical connections the rest of us have missed ... he certainly knows his subject. - Spectator
He brings an insider's insight to this heartfelt study ... it's a good sign when such a substantial book leaves you wanting still more - The Independent
Fascinating, insightful - Choice Magazine
Meticulous ... beautifully illustrated, with period stills and playbills, and he decorates this conscientious survey with fascinating first-hand experience - The Independent
An unabashed labour of love ... The most compelling aspect ... is his tracing of the silent clowns' creative rivalries - The Herald
Generously illustrated ... definitely a book for reading... such is Merton's exhaustive affection, you'll feel a pang when the talkies come in - Word
Beautifully produced and contains some remarkable illustrations ... as a professional, he provides plenty of insight - Spectator
About the Author
After a spell as a civil servant Paul Merton began his stand-up career in 1982 at London's Comedy Store and still regularly performs both there and at the Edinburgh Festival. For many years he has been team captain on BBC1's Have I Got News For You, for which he won a BAFTA in 2003, and he has hosted Room 101 on BBC2. Some of Paul's other television credits include Paul Merton - The Series I & II, Paul Merton in China and Paul Merton in India and he has published two previous books: Paul Merton's History of the Twentieth Century and a spoof autobiography, Paul Merton - My Struggle. Paul is also a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute. He has been a lifelong fan of silent comedy, and his much-acclaimed series Silent Clowns was first broadcast in 2006 on BBC4.