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That Was Satire that Was: The Satire Boom of the 1960s [Paperback]

Humphrey Carpenter
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Mar 2009

It started with Beyond the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival of 1960. Four Cambridge undergraduates, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett had created a satirical revue, which by its iconoclastic irreverence destroyed what Humphrey Carpenter describes as 'the culture of deference' so prevalent in the preceding decade.

Satire was quick to spread: The Establishment Club, 'London's first satirical nightclub', opened in Soho: Private Eye began to appear: and That Was The Week That Was started to be screened on the BBC on Saturday nights.

Why was there this sudden upsurge of satire? What really happened in those years? Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller, Ned Sherrin, Richard Ingrams and the late John Wells were all interviewed by Humphrey Carpenter. Their stories have been woven together to create a narrative which vibrantly brings alive this period of social and cultural change.

'It's an interesting story, and I think that it's never been really got quite right (before now), largely because it hasn't been set in its social context. . . This is the first detailed, scholarly account of this peculiar episode in British cultural history, and I suspect will remain a definitive one.' Jonathan Miller

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (19 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057125036X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571250363
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,721,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Life in post-war Britain was a fairy tale--grim. The first teenagers were ripe to exploit an austere, recovering Britain, which they saw as stale and complacent. Enter the Bright Young Things: Alan Bennett, Richard Ingrams, Willy Rushton, Jonathan Miller, David Frost, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. Their combined energies gave rise to now-legendary endeavours such as Beyond the Fringe, the club The Establishment, That Was the Week That Was (TW3) and Private Eye. For the post-Goon generation, these young satirists tore up the rulebooks with a sneer worthy of their Restoration precursors. Ribald, clever undergraduate humour touched nerves people didn't know they had, and within weeks, hundreds of unsolicited scripts were being received from hopeful sixth formers. Everyone wanted to be funny. Today, everyone is. "Satire is now an industry," laments one, the producer of Have I Got News For You.

It's hard now to imagine the impact such irreverence made, but author and broadcaster Humphrey Carpenter does his best to bring the era alive. The halcyon days of the Satirical 60s were short, primarily between 1961, when Beyond the Fringe opened, and the end of 1963, when the BBC took TW3 off air. Drawing on personal interviews, scripts and assorted memoirs, Carpenter pieces together the creative processes, the different personalities and the inevitable frictions. Lurking among the soundbites, sideswipes and reappraisals is the ghost of Peter Cook: the most natural star, inspirational, yet doomed to a frustrated, alcoholic demise. Carpenter does not have space to do detailed personal justice to these complex, fascinating figures (see Harry Thompson's superb Peter Cook: A Biography), but his sympathetic eye keenly picks out the fine details of these disparate talents, who paved the way for shows such as Monty Python and Spitting Image. He ends this agreeably nostalgic account by describing how an Internet search engine throws up a hairdressers in Leeds, Alan Bennett's hometown, when he enters the phrase "Beyond the Fringe". Now that's beyond satire. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Atmospheric, entertaining account of the 1960s satire generation that produced Beyond the Fringe, The Establishment Club, Private Eye and That Was the Week that Was, by one of our most distinguished biographers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Three years before Macmillan's 'never had it so good' speech, in October 1954, a tall, fair-haired, bespectacled twenty-year-old Yorkshireman arrived at Oxford to read Modern History. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Treatise 6 Sep 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is THE treatise on British satire in the 60's. Be warned, there's a lot of (interesting) detail for what was a surprisingly short time period and it does read a little like an impersonal history book - despite many intriguing quotes from those involved at the time. As well as documenting events surrounding Beyond the Fringe, That Was The Week That Was and The Establishment Club, the book covers the historical/cultural backdrop, and there's a useful "what happened next" section. For a less complete but more entertainly written background to the same period, I would recommend Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Took me right Back! 11 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Thoroughly enjoyed!

Hard work reading it - I took it in easy doses

Really brought back the memories

Pity there is so little film available

Strongly recommended, particularly if you lived thru that period!
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