Saturday, September 06, 2008

Feast of Saint Peter

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

This week we celebrate the feast of Saint Peter. Peter Sellers would be 83 this year. A master of sketch comedy if there ever was one, Peter Sellers was born the son of an extremely overprotective mother and an organist father who played both church and secular gigs. "A bloody street sweeper, that's what you'll be," he told young Peter who attended dance and theatrical classes before entering the world of Vaudeville, initially as a jazz drummer and then ultimately as a comedian.

From the low stage, he entered the world of radio. He scammed his way in by calling a BBC executive, posing as a big radio star recommending Sellers and when the exec caught on, he was so impressed that he gave him a shot on "The Goon Show," a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus. An incredibly talented impressionist with impeccable timing, Sellars became perhaps the world's quickest voice change artist able to move so quickly between characters that he could carry entire schticks by himself without any sense that you were listening to one person.

He moved to the screen with several British films and then landed in Hollywood with The Mouse That Roared, a comedy in which the Dutchy of Fenwick declares war on the US with the intention of losing and getting a Marshall Plan type rebuilding after a California-based winery bankrupts the five mile by three mile large nation. Of course, they end up winning the war by accident and Sellars plays three separate roles.

He is, of course, best remembered for his work as Inspector Clouseau. I'm not sure what one could or needs to say about these films. They are as memorable as any comedy of the late 20th century. the slapstick so perfectly executed, the character so perfectly played. They remain funny no matter how many times you watch.

While a great comic talent, he was a needy individual married and divorced four times. He died far too young of a heart attack in 1980. At his funeral, the song "In the Mood" was played at his request. It is a song he absolutely despised, but which he thought singularly inappropriate for any funeral, muchless his own. As a result, he felt it the most appropriate way to keep his mourners off-balance, just the way he did his audiences.

Thank you, Saint Peter for all the laughs.

What are your favorite Peter Sellers moments?

Live, laugh, and love,

Irreverend Steve