NOT QUITE THE CLASSICS
- Colin Mochrie -
This book is built on an the Classic improve game, the first and last line. In this quasi-version of the game Mochrie takes the first few lines from well known Classic books then writes a short story in between, and finally ends with the last few lines of that Classic book.
If you are at all familiar with who Colin Mochrie is you won't be surprised to hear that the stories are funny, quirky, and sometimes just plain weird. Mochrie is that joking Canadian who stars on Who's Line is it Anyways? (and is also a part of the This Hour Has 22 Minutes - The Classic Canadian political satire show anyone?), so he has the chops to make people laugh...but, you ask, does his humour translate well onto the written page?
For the most part, yes. And, to my surprise his overall writing skills are extraordinary. I was happily surprised at the high quality of the writing. It was so good it almost fools one into believing the absurd topics and storylines are the 'real' Classic writings of Doyle, Orwell, Fitzgerald, or even Seuss. I was especially impressed with Colin's ability to mimic the tone and feel of these Classics. His choice of words and phrases were bang on with the originals. Again, it was so easy to fall into the feeling that you were reading a strange story written 100 years ago by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ...albeit, a strange story about stand up comedy, but, none-the-less believable.
The collection started with the well loved Sherlock Holmes. A great one to start the book with. It had a lively, extremely well written and entertaining storyline. It read just like one of the Classic Sherlocks, but, funny at the same time. The story centred around Holmes trying to solve a mystery. The mystery of humour. He observed people, mades assumptions, then experimented with different types of humour. Most of which sounded good in theory, but, then ended up failing. He eventually came up with the idea of 'Stand Up' and attempted a show. The whole process was both an interesting look at humour, from the comedian's side, while being witty and funny at the same time. I think the interactions between Watson and Holmes were what really brought out the laughs. They were Classic; the eccentric Holmes berating the dim witted Watson for questioning his outlandish conclusions. This was the kind of story that made me want to read more.
Then came the make over of Moby Dick - Moby Toupee. This one almost sank the boat for me. It did not put the wind in my sails as much as some of the other stories did. It was a funny idea: a toupee changes an actors life. Toupees are funny things. But, the story just did not catch my interest.
Luckily, a short while later the splicing of A Tale of Two Cities brought me back aboard. This was another highlight for me. The first line, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.' It ended up being an account of Wile E Coyote's obsession with Road Runner. It took an interesting view, through Wile E's life, attempting to be a human but giving into his animal desires to hunt and eat Road Runners. He has some early highs (the best of times), then becomes obsessed with catching RR and his life quickly goes downhill (the worst of times)...where a big rock rolls down on top of it, then it is hit with an anvil marked 50 tons. We eventually end with Mr. Coyote in jail. It was again, extremely well written, and had a great mix of Classic anvil dropping humour and that sharp satire comparing his Road Runner obsession with, say, a drug addiction. He loses his job, family, even his mind in the struggle to catch the ever slippery Road Runner. The end is a bit disturbing in a dark humour sort of way. So, if you have a weak heart (or stomach for that matter) for the Road Runner, I suggest you do not read the last few pages.
Another story that made my highlight reel was the Frankenstein spoof. It involved a chicken who learned to read. It was not the story that brought the most smiles and giggles, but, it captured my imagination for awhile. The story of the chicken and the farmer mirrored one another, they started out lonely, then found mates, then things went terribly wrong. The hen dies and the chicken tries to resurrect her. This story also ends badly...I guess that makes sense, all the Classics seem to end in death.
I went into this book thinking it was going to be a work of low grade nonsensical writing, with a few easy Moby Dick jokes (which I will assure you there were none of). But, it was not. It was the exact opposite. It was an extremely well written collection of short stories that were funny on so many levels, from the spot on impersonation of the Classic writer's style to the farcical/bizarre tales Mochrie brought to life. The only thing missing was a talking pickle.
RATING : READ
To hear an interview with Colin talking about this book, he was on CBC's The Next Chapter - CLICK HERE
I used the word classic 11 times in that review - new record!