Canned Laughter (TV Short 1979) Poster

(1979 TV Short)

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Before Bean There was Box
ShadeGrenade2 January 2006
Every now and then something comes along which hits you in the face like a wet flannel. I caught 'Canned Laughter' on its original I.T.V. transmission in 1979, following a showing of 'Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes'. Not having heard of Mr.Atkinson, I wasn't sure what to expect. Thirty minutes later, my sides ached from laughing too much. I spent the next few days telling all and sundry about this strange rubber-faced man whom was clearly destined to be the next Peter Sellers. Atkinson played three roles; the nerdy Robert Box, his sinister boss Mr.Marshall, and would-be stand-up comic Dave Perry. Box has somehow gotten the most attractive girl in his office, Lorraine ( played by the lovely Sue Holderness ) to agree to a date, and, being a right twit, messes it up. Box was clearly the inspiration for 'Mr.Bean'. Despite its excellence, 'Canned Laughter' strangely never became a series, leaving Rowan free to do 'Not The 9 O'Clock News' for the B.B.C.
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Solid showcase for early Atkinson
Warning: Spoilers
"Canned Laughter" is a British comedy short that runs for slightly under half an hour and here we got an early career effort by director Geffrey Sax and an even earlier career effort by Rowan Atkinson as this was apparently his very first on-screen appearance, but still he is the man at the center of it all playing all kinds of different characters in costume and that's also why I would not call it a Mr. Bean movie. Anyway, at this point Atkinson is already good enough to carry it on his own and he is the main reason ehy this is worth checking out. But they probably should have done without the laugh track that is annoying, even when it is not too loud, which luckily it isn't most of the time. The action here takes us into the bedroom, out to the street, into a fancy restaurant and Atkinson makes the most of these situations by delivering his usual comedy routine paired with a great deal of socially awkward actions and reactions. All in all, Atkinson really carried this entire project on his shoulders and while I am not a fan of all his work, I cannot deny that this one is quite impressive for a man way before the age of 30, especially as he also wrote the entire thing on his own. Go see it.
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Seems very unfunny to me now.
philip11 April 2010
I liked this enough back in 1979 to tape it from TV.

I just watched it again, now. (March 2010)

I did laugh at the "Bean-like" character, at first, but the comedy in the restaurant scene looks pretty thin, now.

Perhaps we have seen Rowan Atkinson do much better things, since, and this seems primitive in comparison.

I think that if Rowan Atkinson re-made this, now, the comedy would be much funnier and sharper.

(I don't think I have changed - I'm still a big fan of his - but this now looks like a weak cup of tea compared to his more clever humor that came later.)
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