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An Audience with Peter Ustinov (1988)

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Clive James ...
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Sensational anecdotes and witty observations as only Ustinov could supply.

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Comedy

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3 January 1988 (UK)  »

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Good old Peter, compulsively entertaining at all times
12 December 2015 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a wonderful hour of Peter Ustinov standing onstage in front of an invited audience of then-celebrities and being himself. How hilarious can you get! My wife and I knew Peter very well indeed, and often enjoyed dinners with him when we got all this non-stop entertainment between and during all the courses. (Some people can't stop smoking while they are eating, Peter could not stop joking.) Because he and I worked together for some time on a film script, I enjoyed countless hours and days of one-to-one 'audiences with Peter Ustinov'. I can assure anyone who is interested that Peter was the same offstage as on, and of all the comedians I have known (and they have been plenty), he was the only one of whom that can be said. (For instance, the hilarious comic Frankie Howerd whom we knew well was extraordinarily morose in private.) All of Peter's humour came straight from his inner core. He did not have to work at it, he was it. When we were supposed to be working together, he could not concentrate on work but instead would constantly break off and tell me more hilarious anecdotes, and he and I would rock from side to side with uncontrollable mirth. He was so unaffected as a person that I felt perfectly at ease cracking my own jokes at him and, believe it or not, he laughed. He loved all humour, however inferior to his own. I don't think I have ever known anyone who could see more funny sides to every situation than Peter could. He had a hyper-dimensional awareness of angles of humour on anything and everything. He was a walking, talking, real live humour-tesseract (look up tesseract and you'll see what I mean). Apart from the fact that Peter is gone, and has been gone from us for a long time now, and cannot be replaced, there was one other sad thing I experienced upon seeing this DVD again. I had watched the programme when originally broadcast and this was the first time since 1988 that I had seen it again. The sad thing is seeing all the faces of the many then-celebrities, who were all household names at the time known to every television viewer, and realizing how little most of them are remembered today. How quickly the famous vanish into the dust! Even Peter is now unknown to younger generations, who upon hearing his name would only reply: 'Peter who?' Watch and learn, all ye humourless ones. Peter is surely someone of whom we can honestly say: 'We shall never see his like again.' But at least we have this DVD.


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