Kenneth Williams

One Over the Eight

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The One Over the Eight British comedy revue was performed in London on April 5, 1960; this is an original cast recording of the production, issued in 1961. It's droll, arch British humor that makes much use of contrasting accents and class backgrounds. Kenneth Williams is involved in every sketch, but only does a few on his own; on most of the pieces, he bounces off another member of the cast as a foil. It's perhaps not as notable for Williams' own talents (though his send-ups of British character types are accomplished) as the material, most of which was written by a young Peter Cook in the period just before he started his rise to fame as a comic performer in his own right. For the international audience, Monty Python's Flying Circus is the most familiar touchstone in measuring the influence of British comedy predating the late '60s, and you can hear some seeds of Monty Python here, especially in the banter between stuffed-shirt archetypes and loutish semi-loonies with funny voices. "Hand Up Your Sticks," about a botched stickup, will certainly trigger memories of several Monty Python bits when criminals and policemen can't quite get their lines straight. There are other worthy routines here without such specific future reference points, though, like "Interesting Facts" and "Not an Asp" (both based around seedy bores who won't leave their upper-crust partners in conversation alone), as well as "Evils of the Weed," a self-damning anti-smoking message by an incessantly coughing narrator. The LP might be more understated than uproarious, but it has its place as an important source of modern British comedy.

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