Joel Morris: Be Funny Or Die

50 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club is Joel Morris, an award-winning comedy writer whose credits run from co-creating Philomena Cunk to writing gags for Viz and punching up the script for Paddington 2. In his new book Be Funny Or Die, he sets out to analyse how and why comedy works. He tells me why there are only three keys on the clown keyboard, what laughter does for us in neurological terms, and why Laurel and Hardy could get away with anything.

What did Succession get right about the Murdoch empire?

24 min listen

Andrew Neil, The Spectator‘s chairman and super fan of the HBO show, Succession, joins this episode to talk to Freddy about where the show overlapped with the real life media empire of Rupert Murdoch, who has his own problems of succession to think about. This conversation was originally filmed as an episode of ‘The View from 22’ from Spectator TV, which you can watch here.

Succession: five nightmares for the next pope

14 min listen

A charming octogenarian who plays ruthless games with the people who think they’re going to succeed him: I reckon Logan Roy would have recognised a kindred spirit in Pope Francis, despite their diametrically opposed politics. Like many of you, I’m heartbroken that Succession has come to an end – but if you’re missing the back-stabbing melodrama then you could always start following the real-life struggle to shape the Catholic Church after Francis. Plenty of cardinals would like to swap their red cassocks for a white one. But, as I suggest in this episode of Holy Smoke, whoever eventually takes the job will have to confront at least five nightmare situations, most of them created by the camera-friendly but privately ferocious current occupant of the See

Benedict Cumberbatch and the truth about method acting

What’s up with Kirsten Dunst and Benedict Cumberbatch? It’s rumoured that the pair refused to speak to each other on the set of their new movie, The Power of the Dog, because Cumberbatch had embraced ‘method acting’ and his character hated her character. To protect the truth of his interpretation, he deliberately snubbed his co-star throughout the shoot. Is that true? Something about it doesn’t feel right. Any thesp who follows ‘the method’ is likely to infuriate their colleagues. HBO’s hit series ‘Succession’ has generated rumours about Jeremy Strong who plays Kendall Roy. Strong, in the words of his fellow thesps, is ‘complicated’ to work with. He identifies so closely

A highly polished exercise in treading water: Season 3 of Succession reviewed

At one point in an early Simpsons, Homer comes across an old issue of TV Guide, and finds the listing for the sitcom Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. ‘Gomer upsets Sergeant Carter,’ he reads — adding with a fond chuckle, ‘I’ll never forget that episode.’ Even for British viewers unfamiliar with the show, the joke is clear: that’s what happens in every episode. Sad to say, this popped into my head while watching the first in the new series of Succession. The acting, script and direction are as brilliant as ever. Nonetheless, once Logan Roy began yet again to dangle the possibility of becoming the next CEO of his media empire before

Succession gets the rich and powerful all wrong

They have stepped into the pop-culture spotlight via the HBO hit Succession, a hatchet job on the very rich and powerful produced by the very rich and much more powerful Adam McKay (The Big Short). McKay started off by doing a lot of cheesy comedies, made a large fortune, and then went after Wall Street types. Nothing wrong with that; films are supposed to go after the rich and powerful, and always have. It’s the media’s coverage of a TV series about a fictional family that is slanted and totally false. The media hint that the mogul and patriarch Logan Roy is based on Rupert Murdoch, and that Roy’s dysfunctional