Be Normal
by Dan
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


I got this marvelous collection of Coyle and Sharpe pranks for my birthday from a dear friend. Having never heard of them before, they combine so many of the things I like so much about old comedy, that I'm quite amazed something so completely representative of my taste in this genre remained so unknown to me for so long. They are great, and we will start with an appropriate introduction; the first track on the first disc (of 4):

Coyle and Sharpe - "Grevenz"

These radio pranks shine and twinkle with an innocence and a simplicity that feels like the invention of a martial art. At first, at base, only the most slight and deliberate movements are necessary. And this would not work anywhere else. With only audio as a tool, this is the perfect prank. Plus, the guy's name is Stephen King.

This is also unlike a lot of their others, because in "Grevenz" they are two different men: one host and one hypnotist. For the majority of their pieces, they are just two men, essentially the same, barraging the individual with one constant and persistent idea. Take this one, for example:

Coyle and Sharpe - "Human Sugar Bowl"

Many of their pieces are based on Coyle and Sharpe being obscure scientists, with advancements in science that they feel compelled to share with a certain selection of the population. The second most amazing thing about these tracks (second to their positivity and benign approach) is how eloquent their victims are. Listen how quickly this man gets them to admit that this experiment would probably kill him, and how successful that is for the bit, how it challenges them in their focus. This is the sign of pranking in its purest form, where the interaction between fake and real makes the humour, when the audience (and the comedian) can say "yes, look at them fight!"

Coyle and Sharpe - "Crawfish Boat Shirt"

And here this idea flip-flops where Coyle and Sharpe almost let their victim confuse them. They let him do all the work, let him keep talking until he says something they like, and then they just say "fine, yeah, we're asking you to give us your shirt". And then the last most delightful thing about some of these pieces: their break-down and confession to the victim. Something understandably absent from more recent artists' work in the form, but an interesting relic, kind of silly, kind of nice. They really don't want to hurt anybody.

[Buy the marvelous set]

And hurting people has been the way pranking has been going, with some still delightful exceptions. Tom Green had a lot of innocent bits, which were by far his best (lying in one place so long people called an ambulance comes to mind), and though they employ almost strictly bewilderment, Tim and Eric are great, and while I feel it may not all be this way, I'm confident that Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat will have plenty of this; letting the weirdness come from without rather than within. But I'll let you know if I'm way wrong after seeing it.

Posted by Dan at October 16, 2006 3:16 AM

Really good post, Dan. I loved how that guy really thought their language was German.
More comedy!

Posted by M. Tones at October 16, 2006 11:02 AM

Coyle and Sharpe are great, I'm not surprised that you'd be into them given your taste. I think you might like Bob & Ray too, though I haven't heard a huge amount of their material myself.

Posted by Matthew at October 16, 2006 2:50 PM

Only two comments yet! I hope this doesn't discourage you from posting more comedy. These are certainly gems.

Posted by dylan at October 18, 2006 1:01 AM this is sharpe's daughter, very talented and a great original website.

Posted by mark at October 18, 2006 8:59 AM

I think your comments page should always have the tag "be normal". Plus, I liked the clips.

Posted by marc at October 18, 2006 9:27 AM

Good stuff. Happy birthday Dan.

Posted by Dan Z at October 18, 2006 3:28 PM

Lovely post. I really like the all-excited (and also amused and/or desperate) way shirtman laughs while trying to figure out what Coyle and Sharpe want from him.

Posted by Kate at October 19, 2006 4:37 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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