Document 64473

You have to laugh
Before you read
(Paper 1 Part 3)
1 Look at the title and subheading of the article and the photo.
Discuss these questions.
J Have you ever seen any of Rowan Atkinson's comedy programmes or
films? From the photo, what kind of humour would you associate him
with (e.g. slapstick, mime, satire)?
2 From the title and subheading, what aspects of Atkinson's career do you
think you are going to read about in this article?
2 Skim the article quickly. Then try to explain the references in the title to:
• the rubber-faced joker • the burden of comedy • the joy of fixing a plug
Multiple-choice questions
Task strategies page 168
3 Read the magazine article and answer questions 1-6. Mark the letter A, B, C
or D. Give only one answer to each question.
He's the rubber-faced joker with millions in the bank, yet Rowan Atkinson.
. .
.~ . ."
. .'
. .
.:.~.::~:would~stlll swap the burden of comedy for.the·Joy of fixing a plug.
The well-known comedy film writer Richard Curtis
remembers a day in 1976 when he and a group of fellow
students at a university drama club got together to discuss
sketch material for their summer review. 'Suddenly, Rowan,
s this rather odd electrical engineering student who had
come to all the meetings but never uttered a word, stood
up and started to mime and talk at the same time. I'd ne\.'er
seen anything like it. It was pure genius!' It was as a result
of this that Rowan Atkinson stumbled across his future
'0 vocation, going on to gain valuable performing experience
and forging a professional relationship with Curtis that
would underpin his career. He'd done some acting at
school, but says there is nothing in his 'old-.fashioned and
establishment' farming background which indicates the
IS path he would later follow, unless it was perhaps the desire
to break out and rebel.
Less than three years aher leaving university, Rowan
Atkinson was a star, albeit a most unlikely one. True. the
disjunction between an intensely private, shy, serious man
20 and a compellingly watchable performer such as he is is not
unusual among comedians. But in Atkinson, the division
goes deeper, for his comic persona exists in a parallel world
dominated by his lifelong passion for cars and machinery.
Friends say he is a 'motor mechanic dreaming he is an
25 actor', and his passion for collecting and driving cars seems
to be all-consuming. While on tour, theatre riggers were
astonished to witness the sta r performer unplugging the
cables, unbolting the scenery and lifting crates. It was
almost as if he was pursuing a separate existence as the
'0 electrical engineer he had originally planned to be.
Despite being acknowledged allover urope as the heir
to the mime greats of the past, Atkinson insists that he is an
actor rather than a comic, and says he hasn't been funny
off-stage or screen since adolescent self-consciousness set in
,at the age of '11 He may have natural gifts - his trademark
pliable 'rubber face', the ability to turn nondescript words
like 'bag' into lumps of volatile comic explosive, an
instinctive knack for mime - but he claims that he needs
an audience and the formality of staging or a camera
,,) before he can be somebody else, 'I must have a good script
to disappear into,' he says, 'Any apparent spontaneity is
deceptive It is all entirely contrived:
Successful as Atkinson is, he still works hard to extract
maximum leverage from his talents, paying incredible
4S attention to detail, always terrified of the risk of failure,
'I constantly believe that there is a better performance
just out of reach That is quite a debilitating and negative
experience,' he says, So why doesn't he stop) 'The prospect
of doing a role is fun. Looking back on having done it
;0 is fine.
But the reality of rehearsals and performance l '
he shudders visibly. 'Show business is a sandwich with a
vicious filling, But even though I hate the filling, I still like
the sandwich.'
Whether or not you find its silent slapstick funny, Mr Bean
55 is one of the most successful international exports in British
comedy; the highest-rating comedy show on commercial
TV in the 90s, it has been sold to more than 245 countries.
Atkinson's character communicates through an impressive
In the first paragraph, we learn that Rowan Atkinson's
desire to be an actor may have resulted from
A ,1 reaction against his conventional background.
B a desire to follow up on his university studies.
a chance meeting with a well-known writer.
D a lifelong ambition to perform in public.
2 Wh,lt is suggested about Rowan Atkinson in the second
A He is an unusually shy man to be a comedian.
B He shows no signs of enjoying the celebrity lifestyle.
His colleagues fear that he regrets his choice of career.
D His true interests lie outside the world of
3 What do we learn about Rowan Atkinson's childhood
in the third paragraph?
A He studied the history of theatre.
B He was more confident as a child than as a teenager.
He practised funny facial expressions and ways of
D He made people laugh a lot when he was a child.
4 What does Rowan Atkinson suggest about his comic
A He needs to be in character to make people laugh.
B His success is largely due to the scripts he has written.
arsenal of facial expres<,ions and contorted body parts.
But Atkinson is adamant that 'the most embarrassing
man on the planet' wa<, not based on anybody. 'He was
a rehearS21I-room creation. emerging spontaneously from
visual jokes As soon a<, word<, were denied me, I beC<lrrH'
Bean, and I find I can llJrn him on and off like a ldp'
,,' Asked to explain the phenomenal success of Bean. he
adds, 'The lack of word" can't be the key to his appe<lL
And he's a thoroughly unplcas<lnt man. I think it's the
child in a man's body which i<, tile common factor of mo:,t
visual comedians. As such, Ile IllUSt represent to adult"
;" from Illany nations the child Within them, who behavc"
as we would like to behave, but feel we can't.'
Although impressed by what he has seen of the low­
key reality-based comedy that has emerged in the last
few years, Atkinson has found himself better suited to
"exaggerated, visual comedy. And while he is interested
in what his family and friends think about his work, he
doesn't feel as though he needs their approvaL He is
aware that Mr Bean is the target of disdain in certain
quarters, particularly the more educated critics, but seems
80 to relish Bean's intellectual shallowness. 'It's myself and
the audience out there who I'm interested in,' he says. 'My
tastes are pretty simple, and I have an inner confidence
that what I find funny finds a wide audience. I'm not
particularly intellectual or clever or minority-focused in
85 my creative instincts or ambitions.'
He is uneasy when required to speak rather than mime.
D His particular brand of humour depends on
i 111 provisa tio n.
5 What aspect of being an actor docs Rowan Atkinson
particularly dislike?
A being compared to fello\\' performers
B feeling dissatisfied \\'ith his OWll performance
receiving negative feedback after a performance
D realising that he was insufficiently prepared for a
6 To what does Rowan Atkinson attribute the universal
success of the character he created, called Mr Bean?
A the accident-prone nature of the character
B the fact that people identify with this character
the spontaneous way the character was created
D the fact that the character's comedy is purely visual
7 Which of the following is implied about Rowan Atkinson
in the last paragraph?
A He aims to gain the respect of an intellectual minority.
B He is embarrassed by the superficial nature of Mr Bean.
He doesn't take a great deal of notice of what the
cri tics say.
D His success is a result of research into what people
find amusing.
4 Discuss these questions.
1 What kind of comedy makes you laugh? Do you prefer visual comedy or
comedy based on verbal wit? Give examples.
2 What are the most popular comedy television programmes or films in
your country? Who are the most popular comedians?
3 Do you think other nationalities would find them funny, or does humour
depend on a cultural context?
b Complete the gaps in the text with a noun and
preposition combination fro111 Exercise 2a,
Similar meanings
1 a Find words and expressions in the text on pages
152-153 that could be replaced in this context by
the words in italics.
Paragraph I
l never sl1id I1llything
2 discoI'C1ed his future vocation I)' c!/IJ/ICC
3 developll1g a strong relationship
4 provide (/ solid basis for his career
Paragraph 2
5 a passion that is so strong that he thinks of
little else
Paragraph 3
6 easily recognised and widely known face
7 very ordinary words
8 apparent spontaneity that is in fact carefully
Paragraph 4
9 a harmful experience
10 he shakes (because he thinks of something
11 a nast), nnd unpleasant filling
Paragraph 5
12 insists t//lJt
13 an 1.IIII/S/101 nnd impressive success
Paragraph 6
14 wio)'
b Complete the following collocations with the
correct form of words from Exercise la.
1 il/an
2 a/an
3 a/an
4 a/an
5 a/an
suburban house/grey suit
an agreement/alliance
a sound/name
....... at the thought/with embarrassment
Impressionists are people with a (1)...., copying the
voices and expressIOns of others. Politicians are often
a (2)., this type of comedy, and few rehsb the
(3).. being caricatured When an lmpresslOnllst
(4) ......... detal IS
copies a wei I- k nO\\'ll pep;ona II· t)·
is to. exaggerate
very important. Tlle (5)
the person's outstanding features and to pick up on
anythlng that t1ley 1lave a (6) ......· · ,
such as food,
football or music It's a difficult form of comedy, and
there is always a huge (7).
c Complete the questions with the correct
preposition, then ask a partner.
I Is there anything you have a special knack
2 Would the prospect ....... becoming an actor
appeal to you? Why?f\Alhy not?
, something? And
3 Do you have a passion.
what things do you do as a result of that passion?
3 a 'What meaning do the prefLXes add in these
adjectives from the text?
I The well-known comedy film writer,.,
2 He hasn't been funny off-stage or screen since
adolescent self-consciousness set in ...
3 What he has seen of the low-key reality-based
b Which of the prefLXes in Exercise 3a call be Llsed
with the following words/adjectives?
assured confident duty established guard
important level line paid profile respecting
road risk satisfied tech track travelled worn
c Look back through the text and note down
any more useful expressions you would like to
remember. Check their meaning in your dictionary.
Noun + preposition + noun phrases
2 a Add the missing prepositions to these phrases
from the text.
1 his passion
.. mime
2 a knack
3 the risk
4 attention
...... doing a role
5 the prospect
his appeal
6 the key
7 a target
c Add two more words to each group.
d Complete the sentences using a compound from
Exercise 3b.
1 Atkinson is now a
comedy actor.
2 However, he is very modest and not at all
if they
3 An actor's career can easily go
choose the wrong part.
4 No
. actor would appear in a shampoo
5 Acting tends to be a
job, so actors
often need to find other work.
6 Photo-journalists try to catch celebrities
....................... to get more natural pictures,
7 Atkinson seldom gives interviews and prefers a
.......... , ..... lifestyle.
e Which of the adjectives beginning with setf­
describe you?