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Chris Langham

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The Muppet Show guest star
episode 519
Chrislangham

Chris Langham (b. 1949) is a writer, comedian and actor who wrote for The Muppet Show, beginning in the third season. He was hired by Jim Henson on the recommendation of Muppet Show guest star John Cleese. Henson was looking to tap into the wacky, off-the-wall school of British humor that derived from The Goon Show and Monty Python, and comedian Langham shared that sensibility, having worked with not only the Pythons but also Goon Show creator Spike Milligan, another Muppet Show guest. During the hiring process he was asked to write scripts for three sketches - an At the Dance, a monologue for Fozzie, and a backstage plot - and he contributed to episode 220 before joining the writing staff full-time in season 3.[1]

As a Muppet Show writer, Langham received two awards from the American Writers' Guild. He was also featured as the guest star in episode 519.

Before The Muppet Show, Langham had been a writer/performer on the first season of the seminal British sketch show Not The Nine O'Clock News, known for being the first vehicle for Rowan Atkinson. In the second season, Langham was replaced, to his chagrin, by Griff Rhys Jones, and his parts were significantly cut from later video and DVD releases. To demonstrate there were no hard feelings, Langham later contributed to and appeared on sketch series Alas Smith and Jones, one of Rhys Jones' many projects with fellow Not alum Mel Smith.

As a comic performer, Langham had a taste for the bizarre -- performing, for example, a trapezeless trapeze-act which featured himself and a colleague running back and forth across the stage, grasping and releasing each other's hands. Another solo piece was a tongue-in-cheek lecture on "How to speak Japanese" in which he pointed out that the three key elements of the Japanese language were to be cold, constipated and forgetful. "Cold, Constipated and Forgetful, it's an old Cole Porter song."

Langham's inclusion on The Muppet Show writing staff resulted in some inspired bits of silliness, typified by Lewis Kazagger's description of the bagpipe as "one of the deadliest creatures known to man." Another concept attributed to Langham was the entire Muppet Theater shoving off to sea in episode 507.

Langham was given a one-in-a-million chance to shine when he became a Muppet Show guest as a last-minute replacement for Richard Pryor. On the show, he performed several pieces of his own devising, including a card trick in which the cards were replaced by raw sausages ("Now I will ask you to memorize that sausage"), as well as singing a Hawaiian war chant while trapped inside his dressing room wardrobe.

He also performed the self-devised Time Machine sketch, a frantic short monologue which he performed in a white lab coat with remarkably Muppet-like enthusiasm:

[Langham leaps onstage.] "Hello! This is what I'm working on at the moment. It's a time travel apparatus! [Evil laughter] Excuse me. If all my calculations are correct, all I have to do is pull this little lever here, and I go travelling backwards through time! [Pulls lever] Time through backwards travelling go I, and here lever little this pull, is do to, have I all, correct are calculations my all if. Me excuse. [Evil laughter] Apparatus travel time a it's! Moment the at on working I'm, what is this, hello!" [Leaps offstage.]

Other notable credits include his award-winning performance as Roy Mallard in breakthrough mockumentary series People Like Us, first on BBC radio and then on television. In 1979, Langham was Arthur Dent in the first professional stage adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the same year, he appeared in Monty Python's Life of Brian. He wrote the BBC sitcom Kiss Me Kate and directed the Richard E. Grant TV vehicle Posh Nosh. In 2005, Langham starred in the political sitcom In The Thick of It and as the psychiatrist in Help, a vehicle for Fast Show star Paul Whitehouse. As a West End actor, his credits in stage musicals include The Pirates Of Penzance (at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1982) and the original London cast of Crazy For You (at The Prince Edward Theatre in 1993).

Muppet credits

Trivia

  • In a recent interview, Langham named fellow Muppet Show writer Don Hinkley as one of his greatest influences.
  • Langham told actor Ken Campbell that all one needed to do to have an object named after them was to find something without a name and give their name to it. Some time later he announced to Campbell that he had named the stalk on top of berets the "langham," after himself.

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jim's Red Book - 8/7/1980 - Chris Langham (MS)
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