Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Michael Frayn wrote Noises Off, what I consider to be the funniest stage play ever written, outside of possibly the works of Oscar Wilde. At least, it is the funniest one I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen it twice, and nearly hurt myself both times. (Unfortunately, the 1992 Peter Bogdanovich film was not nearly so funny, though it had its moments.) He is the master of every stage trick of mistaken identity, comic misunderstanding, and disastrous mishap imaginable. Clockwise is jammed full of them, with John Cleese as an uptight schoolmaster, punctual to a fault, who is trying to take a trip. Everything goes wrong. No point it describing it all; see it yourself. Sometimes I think Michael Palin was the funniest Python, and every once in a while I think it was Graham Chapman, but most of the time it’s John Cleese. The guy is so quintessentially British, so when he does these goofy things, dead seriously, it just slays me. The perfect Cleese routine is “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Perfectly deadpan. And of course there is Basil Fawlty, the ultimate stuffed shirt. This movie is very much in that vein.