Tag Archives: Silent Comedy Watch Party

“A friendly place to get some laughs and forget all the craziness”: A year of the Silent Comedy Watch Party

Time flies when you’re getting nothing done. So I will forgive you if you don’t believe me, but this weekend the Silent Comedy Watch Party will webcast its 50th edition, a year to the day since the first show, back at a time when we were just getting our heads around this new word “lockdown”. That’s a whole year in which our Sundays have been blessed by silent comedy, live music and erudite introductions courtesy Ben Model, Steve Massa, and friends.

Silent London couldn’t let a milestone like that pass without a chat, and Ben and Steve were kind enough to take part in an interview with me, socially distanced at a range of around 3,500 miles.

Ben Model and Steve Massa

Congratulations on a year of webcasting live silent film and music shows from your homes. It’s an awesome achievement. My first question has to be: why did you start the Silent Comedy Watch Party?

Ben Model: I’d played a weekend of shows in Nebraska and came home – then two days later things started shutting down and all my gigs were cancelled. I thought of the people who’d have gone to them who were now at home and couldn’t. I’d had the concept for the show in my head for a few years but with all silent film showings cancelled, this seemed like the moment to give it a shot. The tech of it worked, thankfully, and even more overwhelming was the response we got on socials and in emails.

Steve Massa:  Since all our live shows were suddenly cancelled it seemed like the perfect way to stay in touch with the silent comedy universe. Ben told me he thought that we could technically do it and asked what I thought. Of course I was onboard immediately. Once we started we discovered how therapeutic laughter really is, and it became a mission to provide a little needed relief during the pandemic.

Did you ever think it was too much to take on? The work involved, all the technical challenges?

SM: This is really a question for Ben as he’s producer, technical director, film historian and accompanist. In addition to co-hosting, I gather the photos and information on the films, but he’s got the real burden of technically making the shows happen.

BM: Yes. Every week. But also, where was I going? Where was anybody going? The responses we got on socials and emails from day one were so moving, that’s what’s kept me going. No matter what the tech issues I’ve dealt with have been – and thi sis the thing my wife Mana keeps reminding me – there are hundreds of people out there who count on the show being there, for the laughs they need to get through all this.

 I’ve developed an even greater respect for projectionists – what I’m doing tech-wise is pretty much like what happens in a booth during a show. And I’m doing that while I’m also hosting and accompanying, plus the factor of functioning as the tech director of a small TV studio.

Continue reading “A friendly place to get some laughs and forget all the craziness”: A year of the Silent Comedy Watch Party

Reasons to be cheerful in 2021: Hippfest, Slapstick and more

You don’t need me to tell you that it’s a tough time right now. All I can say is that I hope you’re all taking care of yourselves out there, celebrating the small wins and staying connected.

Talking of connections, I have news of upcoming online delights for silent cinephiles. Viz, to wit, henceforth, etc etc.

  • Hippfest is back! Yes, the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival returns, online, this 17-21 March. The star attraction here is the  wonderful Marlene Dietrich silent The Woman Men Yearn For (1929), along with a new score from Frame Ensemble. But believe me there are more delights yet to be announced. I am sworn to secrecy, however, and shall remain silent until the full programme is announced on 16 February. Read more.
  • I trailed this event last year, but the full programme for Slapstick 2021 (1-17 March 2021) is a few steps closer to being announced – the full details will be revealed on Monday 25 January. Passes are on sale now, at a variety of price points, and individual tickets for each event will be on sale on Monday, too. Read more.
  • On 4 February Coram hosts an online roundtable celebrating the centenary of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, and its depiction of care, with Bryony Dixon and Kate Guyonvarch. Sounds fascinating. Book here.
  • The Silent Comedy Watch Party courtesy Ben Model and Steve Massa was a trailblazer in the online silent game during the early weeks of the pandemic, and has gone from strength to strength. Wouldn’t you know it, they will be celebrating their 50th edition a year to the day since they started, this March? Catch up with previous weeks and get set for future episodes (this Sunday we’re treated to Alice Howell, Martha Sleeper and Charley Chase) here.
  • Kennington Bioscope shows no sign of slowing down – the shows just seem to get better and better. The next episode, on Wednesday, promises a programme called “Daring Deeds”. I can’t wait for historian-host Michelle Facey to explain further. Set a reminder.
  • Today is the anniversary of the births of Yevgeni Bauer, DW Griffith, Conrad Veidt and Sergei Eisenstein. What special silent film powers are unleashed on 22 January?
  • Next week: I reveal the winners of the 2020 Silent London Poll! Iron your bowties and polish your stilettoes, ladies and gentlemen…

Stay safe, lovelies. I’ll be back in touch next week to open those golden envelopes.

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